Soros Calls for Government Control of Markets, Even If It Means ‘Wiping Out the Shareholders’

Billionaire investor George Soros called for more government monitoring and involvement in markets in an interview on CNBC January 23.

"Now we really have to reconsider the whole policy, which has been in my opinion misplaced, of relying on the markets to police themselves," Soros told Maria Bartiromo in Davos, Switzerland, "to recognize the risks. And there are risks which it is the job of the authorities to control, and the authorities have abdicated their responsibilities. So did the rating agencies."

Soros slammed the government for "not taking the right steps in dealing with" what he called upset financial markets. "[T]he authorities ought to move into the market makers, look at the books and make sure that the bad risks are recognized and reassure the markets that the main actors, the banks that are too big to fail, will not fail, that they will in fact be bailed out the same way as Northern Rock was bailed out even if that means wiping out the shareholders or greatly reducing their benefits."

Soros was referring to the September 2007 Bank of England bailout of Northern Rock, England's biggest mortgage lender. The government issued a £25-billion loan to Northern Rock and recently announced it would convert the loan into bonds and sell to private investors.

Soros's comments prompted shock from Bartiromo who said, "Wow, that bailout sounds aggressive."