Henry Paulson, the man who emptied out the treasury

Henry “Hank” Merritt Paulson, Jr. served as the 74th Secretary of the United States Treasury, during the George W. Bush presidency.

Paulson passed into the annals of history as the father of a $700 billion dollar package -the largest one in the country- intended to get Wall Street back from the brink.

During his time as the Secretary of the Treasury, between 2006 and 2009, Paulson was far from the CEO who once left Goldman Sachs -his previous job- to follow the orders of President George W. Bush. Back then, his face showed clearly that the glorious days were over for this man who left the biggest investment bank in the U.S. with more than a wad of bills in his pocket. In fact, to the more than 30 million dollars he earned annually, you could add another 500 million from the sale of his shares, all without having to pay taxes thanks to his position in the government.

But his face also became the best reflection of the delicate situation that the country’s markets were facing, which happened to spread like wildfire to the rest of the world. During his first two years as head of the U.S. economy, one of the worst crises in the history of Wall Street happened, with the aggravating circumstance that one of the causes of the financial turmoil was precisely the bank in which he was trained and that he led from 1998 to 2006.

An all-American man

Henry Merritt Paulson Jr., or “Hank” to his friends, is the perfect example of the all-American man. He was born in Palm Beach, Florida, son of a wealthy family that sold jewelry. Raised as a Christian, he grew up in Barrington Hills, Illinois, where he was part of the Boy Scouts of America and became an Eagle Scout, the highest range in the organization and a title you hold for life: “once an Eagle, always an Eagle”.

Since it couldn’t be any other way, “Hank” excelled in high school as a star athlete, champion of the wrestling team and a great football player until he graduated in 1964. He attended Dartmouth College where he belonged to brotherhood Phi Beta Kappa and received an “All American” mention for his role as a lineman in the university league. After college, Paulson completed his studies with an MBA from Harvard.

The beginnings of his professional career: the Nixon Administration

From a very young age, he always felt attracted to politics. In fact, his first professional steps were as Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. From there he jumped straight to the Richard Nixon administration, where he worked as an assistant to John Daniel Ehrlichman, one of the President’s closest men and a key figure in the Watergate case, for which he was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury.

After that experience, Paulson made the leap to private capital. He joined the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs in 1974 to then become a partner of the firm just eight years later. That was when he got to the front of the Midwestern unit and took the post of managing partner of the Chicago office. Finally he went from CFO to CEO of the bank when he replaced Jon Corzine. An outdoorsman, Paulson has stated on numerous occasions that he’s a faithful believer of human influence on global warming and has advocated immediate action to stop this situation.

Fortune Global Forum_patrick dwyer_american businessman_Henry M. Paulson
Image courtesy of Fortune Live Media at Flickr.com

His return to politics with President Bush

In 2006, Paulson received a call from George W. Bush to succeed John Snow as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, and in June he received the unanimous support of the Senate, although at first the Republican party itself crudely attacked his nomination for his previous ties to the Democratic party.

Married with two sons, Henry and Amanda, Paulson has become the man who designed the most controversial economic rescue plan in the history of the United States. A package of measures based on an injection of $700 billion dollars was approved to buy the intoxicated bank assets.

During the debate on the bailout of the financial markets, Sen. Jeff Sessions stated: “I think it is indeed breathtaking that this Senate would authorize basically one person with very little real oversight, a Wall Street maven himself, and allocate $700 billion in America’s wealth, which I would have to say would be the largest single authorization of expenditure in the history of the Republic.”

However, given Paulson’s career in front of the largest investment bank in the country, there were suspicions and detractors. Not surprisingly, the two major beneficiaries of the amount of money proposed to save the crisis were Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. In just a few years, Paulson managed to become a key figure in rescuing the US economy.

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