When I heard that Timothy Geithner was putting out his memoir Stress Test, I couldn’t help but to think back to the first time I interacted with him. It happened on the 14th floor basketball court of the Federal Reserve’s New York branch (the “New York Fed”). Back in 2003, I was a relatively green Fed lawyer—two years out after completing a J.D./M.B.A. at Columbia University.
Mr. Geithner was a relatively green CEO—only several months into his first major executive role as New York Fed President. In our pick-up games, Geithner proved to be a fantastic player, routinely flashing the best shooting touch. Despite this prowess, however, Geithner invariably shied away from taking the big shots. At the moment of truth, his gaze often became curiously unsteady, his hands seemingly shaky.
Little could I have realized then that the inherent risk aversion I was witnessing would come to shape the course of U.S. history.
I worked for a total of nine years at the New York Fed over two separate stints. In the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ 2008 collapse, I returned there to manage the centerpiece program of the experimental stimulus program known as “Quantitative Easing” or "QE." Several months ago, I apologized publicly for my role in QE, suggesting that it had become the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time. But I've never spoken openly about why I left the Fed in the first place: It was mainly because of Mr. Geithner.