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Henry Paulson: ‘Major decisions were right’

A book coming this fall will offer one of the ultimate inside takes on the economic meltdown — from former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A book coming this fall will offer one of the ultimate inside takes on the economic crisis — from former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

"I didn't come to Washington thinking I was going to leave and write a book, but this period was so significant and there are so many insights and so many lessons learned that I think an understanding of this extraordinary period is important," Paulson told The Associated Press during a telephone interview Wednesday from his office at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington.

The book, currently untitled, will be released in October by Business Plus, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing and the Hachette Book Group (USA). Paulson, a former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, is not writing for money. He is taking no advance and will donate all profits to the nonprofit Homeownership Preservation Foundation, which helps families in danger of foreclosure.

"This is a great organization and I work extensively with them, and I worked extensively with them when I was in Treasury," says Paulson, who served in the Bush administration from 2006-09.

Next in line
The deal was negotiated by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, whose many clients include President Obama and former President George W. Bush. As Barnett did when working on Bush's memoir, to be released in 2010 by the Crown Publishing Group, he did not solicit competing bids for Paulson's book, but worked exclusively with Grand Central.

"We wanted to move quickly and with a minimum of fanfare," says Barnett, who added that he had been impressed with Business Plus, which has published such best sellers as Jack Welch's "Jack: Straight From the Gut" and "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter.

According to a statement issued Wednesday by Business Plus, the book will "include Paulson's personal recollections of key moments and decisions" and "will also include his insights on what has happened since he left office."

Not about the dough
Jamie Raab, executive vice president and publisher of Grand Central, said she was immediately impressed by Paulson and by his description of the book. Noting that the project "is not about making money for him," she added, with a laugh, "I can't say that for us."

Paulson, who turns 63 on Saturday, said he presented Business Plus with a five-to-six-page proposal and said that "as much as I like to write, I have never written a book before, so I'm going to get a collaborator to help pull all this together."

Few treasury secretaries have such a story to tell; Paulson led the government's efforts to confront the economic collapse last fall. Among his initiatives — some highly criticized — were the $700 billion bailout plan for financial institutions and the government takeover of the country's two biggest mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and its biggest insurance company, American International Group Inc.

No second-guessing
Another historic decision: not to rescue the nation's fourth-largest investment bank, Lehman Brothers, which last fall declared bankruptcy, an event many believe helped cause the financial meltdown.

Raab said she did not "get the sense at all" that Paulson would second-guess any of his own choices. Paulson said that while he believes "very strongly" that "the major decisions were right," he also feels there is "no doubt that some things could have been done better."

"I hope some of the lessons I've learned will help others," he said.

Paulson said that he has read books by former Federal Reserve Board chair Alan Greenspan and by Robert Rubin, treasury secretary under President Clinton. But he says his book will be different, if only because his time in Washington was so different.

"I will clearly want to have something to say about where I see markets developing and where I think policies should go, so I may have some things to say about what's happened since I left office," he said. "But my focus is my recollection of the events that I was at the center of."