Re: Northern Trust and Congress

February 24, 2009

It seems a bit of an overreaction on the part of Congress to take Northern Trust to task for entertaining clients during the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open last week at Riviera Country Club.

Northern Trust is contractually obligated to sponsor the golf tournament and signed an agreement to do so prior to the recession. There is a cost of doing business, too. It's not unlike lobbyists entertaining a government official with a "golf junket," to borrow the words the New York Times used in a headline regarding the Northern Trust issue.

The gist of Congress' complaint is that Northern Trust accepted TARP money. Northern Trust, noting that it is a healthy bank, said in a statement issued to the entertainment news website TMZ that it "did not seek the government's investment," that it "agreed to the government's goal of gaining the participation of all major banks in the United States." We'll leave it to others to determine whether it has sufficiently explained itself.

This, however, is worth noting: Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said regarding Northern Trust, "I'm sick and tired of picking up the newspaper and reading about another idiotic abuse of taxpayer money while our country is on the brink."

The news here, it seems, is that a politician actually copped to being offended at "the idiotic abuse of taxpayer money."

-- John Strege