The Most Important Financial Journalist of Her Generation
On April 27, Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, sat down for a meeting at Goldman headquarters with Gretchen Morgenson, reporter, columnist and senior editor of the New York Times. The Wall Street titan and the Pulitzer Prize winner had never met, but this wasn't the usual polite getting-to- know-you session between reporter and source.
"I feel like I've been waterboarded," Blankfein told her, according to people familiar with the discussion. Blankfein was being dramatic, but he had reason to feel that way. It was Morgenson, after all, who had written the story this past fall that stripped the veil of secrecy from the most momentous closed-door deal in the annals of US finance: the government rescue of fallen insurance colossus American International Group. The September 28 story, "Behind Insurer's Crisis, a Blind Eye to a Web of Risk," was the first article published by a major news organization to reveal that the true beneficiaries of the bailout were the institutions to which AIG owed money, known as counterparties (mainly Wall Street investment banks). The 2,700-word piece said, among other things, that an AIG collapse "threatened to leave a hole of as much as $20 billion in Goldman's side" and that Blankfein attended a meeting at the Federal Reserve on September 15, the same day decisions were made to let Lehman Brothers fall and to save AIG.
Today this is common knowledge; until this story ran, though, it wasn't.