Wall Street CEOs vs Geithner

The single most important job on Tim Geithner’s impressive resume, in terms of qualifying him to be Treasury, secretary, is the job he holds now: president of the New York Fed. As such, he’s the Fed’s chief liaison to Wall Street, and he works closely on a daily basis with the heads of America’s largest banks.

If you want to ask the people who know Geithner best, then, whether he has the right stuff for his new job, among the people you’d be most interested in hearing from would be Wall Street’s CEOs. Andrew Ross Sorkin talked to some of those CEOs, and came back with a surprising report:

Mr. Geithner’s involvement in several ultimately ill-fated efforts to buttress the American financial system is the very reason some Wall Street C.E.O.’s — a number of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of piquing the man who regulates them — question whether he’s up to the challenge.

I’m not a fan of the way this information is being presented by the New York Times. The NYT business section has a much blurrier line between reporters and columnists than the rest of the paper, and this story is pegged as a column rather than as a news report. As such, it can be read as Sorkin’s own opinion — this is what I think of Geithner, after talking to Wall Street CEOs — rather than as a more objective and frankly more interesting story about what Wall Street CEOs think of Geithner.

I also fail to see the point of the unnecessarily coy "number of whom". Why does Sorkin feel unable to tell us how many CEOs he talked to for this column? Even if it’s only two, that’s still two more CEOs than most reporters have talked to since Geithner’s appointment was announced — it’s hardly a figure to be ashamed of.

That said, read in context, the column is very interesting. Sorkin often uses his column as a platform for Wall Street CEOs to get opinions off their chests, and in this case they seem to be sending a message that they haven’t been particularly impressed by Geithner’s tenure at the New York Fed. Who might they be sending that message to? Obama and Summers, is my guess: this is a way of giving Summers the upper hand when it comes to setting policy decisions. Why the CEOs would want Summers in charge rather than Geithner, however, I couldn’t say.

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