I swear I’m trying to write about topics other than the massive national bailout of the financial industry, but there always seems to be something interesting to say. Yesterday, it was Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and chairman of HDNet who offered interesting insight. He suggested that the United States Treasury Department list every asset they buy within the $700 billion bailout plan and the price they intend to offer.
When the government sells the assets, perhaps for a profit, it should also list the price received.
In addition, by posting the assets in an eBay like auction/sales environment, it would enable independent buyers to come in and buy the assets using private money rather than government money… By adding liquidity to the process, the government could be responsible for less and sellers could get more. This is the only way I can think of to get true transparency. Without it, I promise you that it will be impossible to account for how much money was spent on the assets and how much cash was generated from the sales process and what the net cost or benefit to taxpayers is.
Without transparency, we wont have any idea how this all played out. None. Which creates the real problem of allowing it to happen again, but with the government needing the bailout.
This suggestion sounds excellent to me. Transparency might stop the Treasury Department from playing favorites, offering more to buy assets than what they are worth or playing favorites.
Mark also mentioned that CEOs of the companies being bailed out should be required to forfeit their severance pay and bonuses that they might otherwise receive. I also agree with this point. It is egregious for the individuals who require help from the government — that is, from the taxpayers — to save their company and industry to be shown the door with parting gifts. There could be a case for any company having the possibility of being worse off if the outgoing CEO had not been there, but that would be a tough case to prove.
$700 Billion Bailout? eBay It!, Blog Maverick, September 22, 2008
Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published September 23, 2008.