Geithner cashes in on Wall Street

Deutsche Bank, recipient of $8.5 billion bailout, coughs up $200,000 for a speech

The Financial Times reports that former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner—Wall Street’s (main) man in the Obama White House—is already cashing in on his service via super-lucrative speech fees.

Mr Geithner was also the main attraction at Blackstone’s annual meeting in April, and the following month appeared at Warburg Pincus’s annual meeting. He was paid no more than $100,000 by each of the private equity groups, according to people familiar with the matter.

Deutsche Bank was one of Geithner’s first stops, and it paid the former Treasury Secretary and New York Fed chief $200,000 for one speech in June. Two hundred thousand dollars.

But for the Germans, it’s the least they can do to thank Geithner for his service.

Back in 2008, when he was head of the New York Federal Reserve, Geithner gave AIG’s creditors a backdoor bailout by ensuring that they wouldn’t have to take losses on the credit-default swaps bets that had offloaded their CDO risk to the insurer.

Before Geithner got his hands on it, AIG had been negotiating haircuts with its Wall Street counterparties of as much as 40 percent. but when Geithner took over the once-AAA giant:

Part of a sentence in the document was crossed out. It contained a blank space that was intended to show the amount of the haircut the banks would take, according to people who saw the term sheet. After less than a week of private negotiations with the banks, the New York Fed instructed AIG to pay them par, or 100 cents on the dollar.

One of those banks was Deutsche Bank, which helped create the subprime CDO racket and was on the hook for up to $8.5 billion if AIG went under.

Thanks to Geithner, the Germans got all their money back via US taxpayers and Too Big to Fail went international. His office later tried to cover up the details of the bailout by forcing AIG not to disclose that it had paid 100 cents on the dollar to its CDS counterparties—a fact that the SEC asked the insurer to disclose.

Of course, Geithner’s value to the banks wasn’t always so direct. Here’s something I wrote in January amidst the nauseating exit hagiographies given Geithner by the press:

Geithner’s appalling housing policy, of a piece with his capture by Wall Street, has resulted in untold suffering for millions of homeowners who were supposed to be helped by the $700 billion TARP bailout. The Housing Affordable Mortage Program has been almost a complete failure, as ProPublica has documented. Just $4 billion of the measly $50 billion alloted to mortgage rescues has even been spent. In Geithner’s hands the housing rescue became an extend-and-pretend program for banks to pretend they were healthier than they really were, so they could “earn” their way out of insolvency.

With the economy mired in a depression, Geithner pushed Obama toward damaging austerity policies. He argue that stimulus—a policy that, before the Democrat Obama took office in a crisis, was accepted across the board as required in a depressed economy—was a “sugar” high and that the president needed to focus immediately on deficits. That’s according to… the Washington Post.

Geithner was also the key figure in retaining our absurd, potentially catastrophic system of too big to fail banks. And even while opposing breaking up the banks we just bailed out with trillions of dollars in cash and guarantees, Geithner also pushed back against the Volcker Rule aimed at preventing those banks from gambling for their own profit with taxpayers’ implicitly taking the downside, also according to the Washington Post.

He lobbied against Elizabeth Warren heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and reliably took the Wall Street side in the debate over what would become a weak financial reform bill. He fought, in the months before he became Treasury Secretary, to protect bankers from prosecution. Point is, Geithner is as responsible as anyone save Obama himself for preserving the status quo ante of too-powerful banks.

They call it soft corruption.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

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 Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,