Jo Becker and Gretchen Morgenson (she reported on the lack of mortgages behind mortgage-backed securities) did a long piece on Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner in the New York Times. They paint a stark picture of Secretary Geithner’s brand of “Collusive Capitalism”: lunch at the Four Seasons restaurant with execs from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley; private dinners at home with the head of JPMorgan Chase.
Most importantly, Becker and Morgenson raise the question of why – with all that frequent contact – Geithner never sounded the alarm about these banks? Indeed, as I’ve pointed out before, Geithner took no steps to prevent $2 trillion in US Treasury bond trades go unsettled for 7 months – until it was over, when he called a meeting of the same bankers that caused the problem to have them do a study, take a survey, make some suggestions, etc. The one action that needed to be taken – to enforce finality of settlement – was never on the table.
When the banks behaved recklessly in lending, trading, issuing derivatives and generally fueling the Bonfire of their Vanities, according to Becker and Morgenson, Geithner’s idea was to have the federal government “guarantee all the debt in the banking system.” As Martin Weiss asks in his ads for Money and Markets, “Has U.S. Treasury Chief Geithner LOST HIS MIND?”