What Paulson’s got wrong

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I know why US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson wants to pump $700 billion into the US banks. I suspect he's right: there is no alternative and the cost of this option is lower than the alternative of letting them go bust.

But I'm still not convinced he's got this right. Ar least, it's not what I'd do with $700 billion. The reason is I'm not sure he's leveraging the cash to get the returns required.

Let's be clear: I'm not talking financial leverage as such here. I'm demanding return in the form of a cleaned up act and a guarantee (as far as is possible) of non-repetition. To get that I'd be putting my cash in as preferred equity. That equity would have a vote. A big vote. That gives me direct influence.

That equity would have a preferred right to all returns. Existing shareholders would be blocked from any reward until I was paid out.

Debt would not be good enough. It does not buy that degree of control. Not majority control, but serious influence.

I'd be demanding a seat on the board. Or more than one.

I'd be demanding the chairmanship of the remuneration and audit committees.

I'd be requiring a change in remuneration and incentive policies.

I'd be refusing to take the toxic stuff off the balance sheets: these bankers need the incentive to help sort this stuff out whilst knowing they won't go bust. But in case they thought they'd got an easy option I'd be demanding a ratchet in my equity. If they fouled up the clean up I'd be getting a bigger stake for my money if the piled on the losses.

I'd be demanding changes in the reporting.

I'd be demanding everything be on the record.

I'd be expecting profits to be remitted from overseas to help pay the cost of the bail out.

I'd be closing down the tax haven / secrecy jurisdiction operations for just that reason.

I'd be imposing tough conditions on the foreign owned banks who might seek to exploit this for their advantage.

I'd be saying 'no way' to negotiation on the terms: this is a buyers market.

Paulson is acting like a banker befriending banks with terms that look far too easy for me to be happy with. He needs to get tough. I'm not sure he is. That worries me. I think he's short changing the US taxpayer. We'll all end up paying for that.

That's why I want a plan with an upside in it, as above. His only appears to have a downside. That's not my sort of deal.