Tags: Geithner | bank | crisis | Congress

ProPublica: Geithner Passes Out Plenty of Blame for Financial Meltdown

By    |   Friday, 31 October 2014 11:13 AM

Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, architect of the Obama White House's program to rescue the U.S. financial system, confesses flawed attempts to police big banks and mortgage operators in documents obtained by ProPublica.

He also minces no words in railing against a corrupt environment of Washington, D.C.

While Geithner in public is a loyal defender of the program and of the Obama administration, the 500-plus pages of previously unreleased papers show a different side.

ProPublica said the documents were mostly unused or were later watered down for Geithner's recent memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises.

In one memo, Geithner acknowledged enforcement was botched in some respects, and claimed "the illegal stuff was very hard to prove."

"We sought a very powerful enforcement response by competent authorities. This didn't turn out as we'd hoped, in part because we didn't give it enough attention," he wrote.

"We changed part of the leadership of the financial oversight system, but not in a way that signaled a new team of sheriffs. The bank supervisors got tougher, but we had no high-profile firings."

In the documents, Geithner criticized a Justice Department mortgage fraud task force as a "good idea, [that] delivered little," ProPublica reported.

"We put in place innovative and quite expensive programs to help homeowners refinance and restructure mortgages and to support small business lending," he stated. "Here, too, the programs seemed small, and limited, and late relative to the magnitude of the damage done by the crisis."

Geithner saved some of his harshest judgment for the political culture of the nation's capital.

The business community had its "share of extortion or protection rackets like the Chamber of Commerce," Geithner wrote, and "it was often hard to tell who was corrupting whom. The politicians did all sorts of things to raise money, some of them extortion-like."

He even confessed to being naive.

"I really had no idea of the limits of executive and president power on economic issues," Geithner wrote in a 2013 memo.

"I had no idea how little leverage we had over individual members of Congress." Geithner said he made a "very good prop" at Congressional hearings because "I attracted so much attention. No questions were really ever asked with the purpose of being answered."

"Nothing with Congress was on the up and up," he wrote. "Only the slimmest pretense of seriousness."

The Huffington Post's verdict on the documents was that Geithner lashed out at just about every possible player in the nation's financial crisis, but perhaps was self-righteous in defending his own good intentions.

"Wrongheaded 'populists,' confused labor unions, ineffective bank regulators, disingenuous congressional Republicans, hostile reporters and gullible business leaders all are subjected to Geithner's disdain, accompanied by a full-throated — if at times inconsistent — defense of the bank bailouts," The Post said.

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Finance
Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, architect of the Obama White House's program to rescue the U.S. financial system, confesses flawed attempts to police big banks and mortgage operators in documents obtained by ProPublica.
Geithner, bank, crisis, Congress
464
2014-13-31
Friday, 31 October 2014 11:13 AM
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