H. Rodgin Cohen is one of the most active and influential bank merger attorneys in the world, offering the Sullivan & Cromwell partner a unique view of the wreckage the credit crisis has reaped across the sector and economy. Last year alone, Cohen worked on several multibillion dollar deals involving Goldman Sachs ( GS), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), AIG ( AIG), Barclays ( BCS), Morgan Stanley ( MS), Wells Fargo ( WFC) and PNC Financial Services Group ( PNC) among other large institutions. He was considered a candidate to serve as one of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's deputies, but eventually dropped out, according to several reports last month. Cohen spoke with TheStreet.com last week. He declined to discuss his candidacy for the Treasury position and several matters affecting current clients. TheStreet.com: What do you think of the Obama administration's handling of the crisis so far? Cohen: When you consider the depth and breadth of the crisis, I think the administration has moved with both alacrity and comprehensiveness to deal with the issues. Inevitably in a situation like this not every decision will be the right decision, but the way they have attacked the problem I think is exactly what the problem requires.
H. Rodgin Cohen
There are so many different government programs -- trillions of dollars being aimed at the crisis. Which are most important? These are all integrally related. They all complement each other. The danger here is not in overshooting. That you can deal with. You should try and get it right, clearly, but the danger is not in overshooting. It is in undershooting. That is the lesson of every financial crisis. They become deeper and less controllable when you undershoot. Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times has expressed concern over the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insuring more $1 trillion in obligations as part of the plan to encourage private investors to buy toxic assets from banks. He says the FDIC is violating its charter. Mission creep, he calls it. Do you agree? In terms of mission creep, very much to the contrary. I think it is essential that the FDIC be part of the solution and they have broad powers and I think it is definitely a positive if they use them. Nobody would advocate violating the law. I think being progressive at a time of crisis is a positive, not a negative.