February 14, 2010
Wall St. Helped Greece to Mask Debt Fueling Europe’s Crisis
By LOUISE STORY, LANDON THOMAS Jr. and NELSON D. SCHWARTZ
Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts.AA
As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.
Even as the crisis was nearing the flashpoint, banks were searching for ways to help Greece forestall the day of reckoning. In early November — three months before Athens became the epicenter of global financial anxiety — a team from Goldman Sachs arrived in the ancient city with a very modern proposition for a government struggling to pay its bills, according to two people who were briefed on the meeting.
The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.