The Associated Press rakes a little muck onto Tim Geithner’s shoe this morning courtesy of his own phone records.
Who does the Treasury secretary like to talk to most? Well, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup. He talked to one of them once every two-and-a-half days over a seven-month stretch.
As the AP points out, it’s perhaps not surprising that Geithner is talking to these megaliths:
But size does not tell the whole story. Treasury has a huge financial stake in North Carolina-based Bank of America Corp., but CEO Ken Lewis appears on Geithner’s calendars only three times. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack also appears three times.
Geithner’s relationship with Goldman, JPMorgan, Citigroup and their executives dates to his tenure as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As one of Wall Street’s top regulators, Geithner worked closely with executives and built relationships he brought with him to his corner office at the Treasury Department.
Plaudits to the AP copy editor who wrote this headline: “Mr. Geithner, Wall Street is on Line 1 (again).”
And to reporters Daniel Wagner and Matt Apuzzo for this lede (and of course, for the reporting behind the story):
Even during his most frenzied days, when Congress is demanding answers or the president himself is calling, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner makes time to talk to a select group of powerful Wall Street bankers.
They are a small cadre of businessmen who have known and worked with Geithner for years, whose multibillion-dollar companies all survived the economic crisis with help from U.S. taxpayers.
When they call, Geithner answers. He has spoken with them immediately after hanging up with President Barack Obama and before heading up to Capitol Hill, between phone calls with senators and after talking with the Federal Reserve chairman, according to a review by The Associated Press of seven months of his appointment calendars.
And the AP is superb to quote MIT’s Simon Johnson taking this to another level on why it matters—bubble thinking:
“Your worldview in the middle of a crisis depends on whom you talk to and what their perspective is, and you need a broad cross-section of opinions to truly understand what’s happening,” Johnson said.
By seeking information from such a narrow group of contacts, Johnson said, Geithner risks limiting his exposure to the views of his trusted banker colleagues.
(h/t Tim O’Brien)Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.