The Short, Happy Life of Timothy Geithner

This morning's New York Times has 5,000 words and 658 calendar pages that contain a bunch of new details about Timothy Geithner's time as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. On detail seems to be that Geithner played a fair amount of tennis and basketball, and attended a downright gluttonous number of dinners. But the big detail from the Times piece -- besides the bailout anecdote in the piece's lede -- seems to be that Geithner was approached about becoming CEO of Citigroup. I'm not sure that's quite the same as saying, per Clusterstock, that he was offered the top job, but it nonetheless suggested a new level of coziness:

Mr. Geithner was particularly close to executives of Citigroup, the largest bank under his supervision. Robert E. Rubin, a senior Citi executive and a former Treasury secretary, was Mr. Geithner's mentor from his years in the Clinton administration, and the two kept in close touch in New York.

Mr. Geithner met frequently with Sanford I. Weill, one of Citi's largest individual shareholders and its former chairman, serving on the board of a charity Mr. Weill led. As the bank was entering a financial tailspin, Mr. Weill approached Mr. Geithner about taking over as Citi's chief executive.

 But for all his ties to Citi, Mr. Geithner repeatedly missed or overlooked signs that the bank -- along with the rest of the financial system -- was falling apart. When he did spot trouble, analysts say, his responses were too measured, or too late.

Read the whole thing. I think it's fair to say that it's a generally damning account of Geithner's time at the NY Fed and his relationship with Wall Street. And it represents a more or less complete reversal of Geithner's fortunes: after all, when he was nominated for the Treastury job, an "insider" knowledge of Wall Street was considered his greatest asset!

There were always questions about Geithner's relationship to the original TARP plan. But when the NYT ran its New Team series a couple of months ago, the first reason listed for why Geithner was getting the job was his "deep understanding of Wall Street" -- an understanding that restuled from personal realationships with some of its biggest players. And you had people like Don Reigle, former chair of the Senate Banking Committee, saying things like: "He has also seen this financial system meltdown from the inside ... he can offer highly skilled and pragmatic advice to Obama." Fewer people are saying that by the day.

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Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

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