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More On Geithner's Heated Meeting With Regulators

Just a bit more on that Journal scoop from earlier today about Geithner's tense meeting with regulators Friday. A few hours ago I spoke to a Treasury official knowledgeable about the meeting who told me Geithner had intended to send a "stern message" to the group, and that the idea of doing so had been planned in advance. The official acknowledged the expletives, but emphasized that Geithner didn't lose it--he wasn't screaming or anything like that. The point was just to make clear that the sniping and hyper-turf-consciousness needed to stop (though the official said there was actually more agreement in the room than you'd assume from the Journal account).  

Based on what I know at this point, I'm inclined to stick with my initial guess that the leak came from one of the regulators. Now that we know this was just a more emphatic version of the head-knocking you'd expect at these meetings, not some dramatic pyrotechnic display, I'm not sure why Treasury would be so keen to leak it. As I noted earlier, Geithner was issuing similar warnings behind closed doors back in January and February--when the disagreements were about the financial rescue plan--and no one at Treasury was running to leak his comments to the press. On the other hand, according to people I've spoken to at Treasury, a lot of the regulators were leaking details of the rescue plan itself back then. My guess is that, back in February, the grumblers thought leaking details was the best way to advance their agenda, while today they think leaking Geithner's F-bombs is the way to do it.

The counter-argument is that, if Treasury really intended to send a message, as the official conceded, why not send it all the way to the press? And, as Felix Salmon suggested, the motivation could be to paint stubborn regulators as anti-reform at a time when the regulatory agenda has lost some steam. Still, it feels to me like a somewhat out of the ordinary meeting that got hyped up, rather than a really out of the ordinary meeting that was choreographed for public consumption.

--Noam Scheiber