The news that Goldman and other banks got paid hundreds of millions of dollars to help Greece hide its huge debts from the EU overseers has now gone mainstream.
In 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means…
Instruments developed by Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and a wide range of other banks enabled politicians to mask additional borrowing in Greece, Italy and possibly elsewhere.
In dozens of deals across the Continent, banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books. Greece, for example, traded away the rights to airport fees and lottery proceeds in years to come.
[Greece paid Goldman] about $300 million in fees for arranging the 2001 transaction, according to several bankers familiar with the deal.
In other words, Greece was just like many American homeowners, who hit their home-equity ATMs every year to remodel their kitchens and buy SUVs they couldn’t afford. And Goldman, et al, were just like WaMu and Countrywide.
It was all perfectly legal, of course.