Financial Times Person of the Year – Lloyd Blankfein, Fannie and Freddie

The Financial Times names Lloyd Blankfein Person of the Year for how he handled his firm through the financial crisis. This bold nomination will most certainly be met with mixed feelings, but if you were to judge this CEO buy how his firm did for it’s shareholders over the course of the year, you would have to say he did well. If you did not see this brilliantly written article by Bethany McClean in Vanity Fair about GS, read it now. I, like Bethany, tend to hold GS to a higher standard and I truly hope that they take on a greater role and responsibility for helping our economy return to solid ground. “To those to whom much has been given, much is expected.”

If you are looking for a reason to get upset, and I encourage you not to, then read more about the goings on at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. For the past two years I have been writing about the problems at these two government sponsored entities, and the craziness continues. The government just uncapped the level of support they will recieve, and the losses that they will suffer will be so high that even thinking about the number makes be want to gag. In addition, the big pay packages to top executives was just revealed. Yes there are reasons to be upset about Goldman and other financial institutions, but most of them actually paid back the government for their support, and with hefty dividends. Not so for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I am truly not in to the blame game, but if you really must point fingers, then point them in the direction of Washington. I trace many of the problems we have had in the mortgage market to the growth of these two companies and the crowding out effect they created by growing their massive portfolios. One might ask if Fannie and Freddie did not leverage their cheap debt to invest in hundreds of billions of conventional mortgage product would wall street have created all the junk they did to generate higher yielding investments for their institutional buyers? We will never know.
I truly hope for a much better 2010. Though the equity markets have recovered greatly, deep problems in our economy, and around the world, remain. We are in such a deep fiscal mess and I doubt that the political will exists to make some very tough decisions that will lead us to longer term strong economic growth. Again, so many to blame, so many would a could a should a’s, but I want to close that book and stop looking back and increasingly look forward.
I hope that 2010 will be the year of strong leadership, creative solutions, and thoughtful public engagement. Further I hope that 2010 will be a year that when we look back a decade from now, we will see that diversity of thought and action really took hold. We will see that 2010 was the year that we questioned old leadership and engagement models, and fresh perspectives found their voice because it was broadly recognized that was what was missing. I hope it will be a year that women’s leadership takes a giant step forward, instead of a step back.

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