Felix Salmon

Why Geithner’s outburst bodes ill for regulatory reform

By Felix Salmon
August 4, 2009

The news that Tim Geithner “blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday” is certainly noteworthy, but I must admit to a lingering suspicion that Geithner exploded in such a manner only because he wanted the news to be leaked.

I can imagine the assembled regulators sitting at Treasury, sharing puzzled glances as Geithner went on his tirade, and then thinking “oh, now I get it” when they saw this morning’s WSJ. Geithner has been losing control of the regulatory-reform news agenda of late, and now he’s sent a clear and public message that any regulator standing in public opposition to his plan will be viewed as being in opposition to regulatory reform more generally. It’s a pretty effective way of quashing public debate, during a time when public debate is, at the margin, only going to delay or weaken any eventual reform.

The risk, of course, is that if regulators aren’t allowed to oppose Geithner’s plan in public, then they might just quietly start siding, emotionally, with the financial-services industry which generally opposes any new regulation at all. And if new regulation does come in, then already the regulators will have been largely captured by the banks they’re supposed to be regulating.

There are enough different regulators in the Geithner plan that they will all be more than happy to blame one of the other ones if something goes wrong. This is a recipe for failure, especially if the regulators are dragged reluctantly into the new scheme, rather than being genuinely in favor.

10 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Sadly, it seems typical of this administration that the anger goes to regulatory agencies rather than the financial industry.

Posted by lark | Report as abusive

Actually the problem is that from the beginning the administration should have had Mr. Geithner beign the face of the regulatory overhaul. He should have made the announcement and everything.

I can see where the outburst would pose a threat to passing regulation, but I do not think it will. I do not like the outburst but understand why it occured and will forgive him for it.

He has been dealing quietly with the criticisms for a while and wants to get something done because this was his main priority while being Treasury Secretary.

Posted by Judy | Report as abusive

Don’t forget lark that the regulatory agencies are as much to blame for this mess as anyone. Where were they when the storm was gathering?

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

As many issues as I may have with the course that Treasury is pursuing, I still prefer Geithner over Sheila Bair (still trying to set policy while claiming that the FDIC has funds to backstop depositors) or the SEC (who is clearly on the leash of Wall Street already)

Posted by PM | Report as abusive

Felix, I think you may be right and I hadn’t thought of the possibility that he wanted it leaked. He has butted heads with these people before.

I do find this disturbing because I think it’s continued evidence of the bullying tactics this administration is willing to employ. Other evidence of that to me is the President’s interaction over the college professor and police officer incident. I am wonder about more of his appointees to Czar positions as well and their previous ties to community organizations who employed the bullying tactic. We shall see. But it’s becoming more and more clear to me that this administration is trying to force its desires upon every aspect of the nation, whether the citizens want it or not. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as fed up with the Republican side of the isle who continue to shirk their duty to the people.


Geithner is a little Goldman Sachs punk who is out of his league.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

\The risk, of course, is that if regulators aren’t allowed to oppose Geithner’s plan in public, then they might just quietly start siding, emotionally, with the financial-services industry\

This is, of course, a speculation without any foundation in science or facts. The risk could, of course, be that all the regulators committed suicide or descided to have apple pie for dessert, or anything you feel like adding after \of course\. Not one of your best.

Posted by Gaute Solheim | Report as abusive

Regarding number of proposed regulators: Divide and conquer remains a valid tactic used in war – financial and otherwise.

Posted by sharon marrs | Report as abusive

I once had a boss who threw a hissy at me and a few fellow workers because the rest of our team was late for a meeting. When I later asked him in private why he had cussed out the people who had arrived on time, he said it was because he knew we would tell the others. He also said HE HAD BEEN TAUGHT the trick in a management class.

Perhaps Geithner attended the same class?


Whatever the respondent “Eric” thinks, Geithner has never worked at Goldman Sachs.

Posted by Philip Coggan | Report as abusive

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