A $250B Offer They Couldn't Refuse
In brief meeting, Paulson gave banks a 'take it or take it' deal
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2008 7:47 AM CDT
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson walks from the podium as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke approaches during a press conference at the Treasury Department in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008.    (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – When the CEOs of America's 9 largest banks arrived at the Treasury at 3pm Monday afternoon, they each received a draft one-page statement promising to sell shares to the government. By 6:30 they'd all signed them. The New York Times reconstructs the meeting, during which Henry Paulson wore down bankers' fears and convinced them that the recapitalization wasn't just a good move, it was inevitable.

The treasury secretary played hardball, with one banker calling it "a take it or take it offer." At first some bankers, especially the head of the relatively stable Wells Fargo, bridled at government intervention and the limits on executive pay. But as they discovered the attractive terms—far more generous than what Warren Buffett offered Goldman—the deal was largely done; the head of Bank of America said that if they were to reject it on the compensation issues, "we are out of our minds."