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The Geithner Diaries

I didn't get around to reading the exhaustive New York Times treatment of Geithner's New York Fed tenure till last night, and I basically agree with Felix Salmon and Justin Fox: While reading it, I kept thinking that Geithner's various meetings with Wall Street big shots seem semi-lurid mostly because the Times got to examine a detailed record of them (via a FOIA request). It's hard to imagine a catalogue of any previous New York Fed president's meetings not creating a similar impression, given that a big part of the Fed president's job is to meet with Wall Street honchos. I've argued before that it's kind of a structural problem with the job--the New York Fed president has to be both chief schmoozer and chief regulator of the big commercial banks--but it's hard to blame Geithner for that.

In fairness, the Times says the problem wasn't so much Geithner's meetings as the fact that he met with several top executives one-on-one, rather than in the presence of multiple aides:

While the New York Fed’s rules do not prevent its president from holding such one-on-one meetings, that was not the general practice of Mr. Geithner’s recent predecessors, said Ernest T. Patrikis, a former general counsel and chief operating officer at the New York Fed.

“Typically, there would be senior staff there to protect against disputes in the future as to the nature of the conversations,” he said.

But is the difference that Geithner held these one-on-one meetings, or that he informed his staff of them? It's hard for me to believe his predecessors never met with Wall Street big shots on their own.

--Noam Scheiber