Washington – The CEOs of several investment banking, insurance and financial services giants appeared before the House Financial Services Committee Thursday to testify about the state of their companies’ financial health. What the committee members heard were tales of desperation and hardship. Specifically, the CEOs testified that if things continued on their current course, they would have to “all but give up” the solicitation of prostitutes and the use of expensive drugs like cocaine. The executives requested government aid to enable the continuation of the practices.
The CEOs, among them Vikram S. Pandit of Citigroup, John J. Mack of Morgan Stanley and Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, laid out their case for why the government’s help is needed. “This company will not be able to continue to function in any conceivable way without these funds,” said Mr. Blankfein, as part of a prepared opening statement. “And by that I mean that it is inconceivable for this company to have a CEO who cannot order hookers and coke whenever he deems it necessary. I’m all for cutting back on expenses in difficult times, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.”
The House Committee appeared to be moved by the testimony, and Chairman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he hoped the committee would know whether it would go forward with a so-called Hooker and Blow Rescue Package by Tuesday of next week.
But some committee members were skeptical. Melvin Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, said, “How can I be sure that if we do vote to allocate this money, that you will in fact spend it on hookers and blow, and not on some unneeded expense that the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for?”
Following the hearings, Watt said he empathized with Americans who are angered by the amount of money being used to aid the companies at the center of the financial disaster. But, he said, the point is about the economy in general. “I don’t like giving these companies this money any more than the American people like us doing it,” Watt said. “But the point is that the way the economy works, in terms of being interconnected, means that if these guys can’t buy these things, it has a ripple effect on the rest of the economy. You have hookers going unpaid. You have drug dealers going unpaid. So it’s not just about Wall Street. It affects Main Street too. And the alley behind Main Street.”