Often, Wall Street firms that buy assets from the RTC are simultaneously serving as financial advisers to the agency on other asset sales, blurring the relationships between those companies and the RTC, agency sources say.
Goldman Sachs, for instance, is the financial adviser to the RTC on the $2.2-billion auction at Great American. The firm also is buying $3 billion worth of assets in an unrelated transaction.
Sources say Goldman also will also act as the financial adviser on upcoming sales of properties from HomeFed, a large San Diego thrift. HomeFed has not yet been shut down by federal regulators, but the RTC has taken effective control of the financially troubled institution. Goldman will earn millions of dollars in fees as financial adviser in each case.
Many of these big buyers also have close ties to the Bush Administration and to congressional leaders who oversee the RTC. Robert Bass, for instance, is a member of "Team 100"--a group whose members contribute at least $100,000 each to the Bush reelection effort through the Republican National Party.
Three Goldman executives--Dan Cook III, Lewis Eisenberg, and Thomas Walker--also are Team 100 members. Since 1987, Goldman and its executives have contributed more than $2 million to congressional campaigns, including more than $375,000 to key congressional leaders on both the House and Senate banking committees that oversee the RTC.
There is no evidence to suggest that the campaign contributions have helped big investors get an edge in RTC deals. Yet the fact that large corporations and wealthy individuals are reaping windfalls from RTC asset sales has not met with any serious objections from the White House or Congress.
The RTC's Kelly argues that the agency is in a no-win position as it seeks to clean up the S&L mess.
"We're going to be criticized for selling too quick, for selling in bulk, for selling individually," he said. "Anytime we do something, we are going to be criticized."
Times researcher Murielle Gamache contributed to this report.