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Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 12. März 2015


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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 592 Seiten
  • Verlag: Random House Business (12. März 2015)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 1847941249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847941244
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.8 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (4 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 855.820 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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Produktbeschreibungen

Pressestimmen

"Sensational ... Tim's book will forever be the definitive work on what causes financial panics and what must be done to stem them when they occur." (Warren Buffett)

"Stress Test is an absolutely compelling account of the financial crisis, written in a clear, graceful style with striking honesty at every step along the way." (Doris Kearns Goodwin)

"This is a lucid, fascinating, and extremely important book . Geithner does something unusual: he engages in substance. With both insight and humility, plus a good dose of wry humor, he explains what really happened during the financial crisis. No matter your political persuasion, you will find this book educational, enlightening, and interesting." (Walter Isaacson)

"A fascinating memoir about life in the maelstrom of the financial crisis. Earlier books have described much of what happened that September, but Geithner was present for all the frantic meetings, the thousands of phone calls - and in the case of Lehman, the failure to find a buyer that could keep it alive. New problems cropped up almost weekly, if not daily. He explains each in easy-to-understand language and what the issues were that shaped the responses. There could be another crisis someday, of course, but what Geithner and his colleagues did has made one far less likely." (USA Today)

"He's written a really good book - we might as well get that out of the way, as so much else about Timothy F. Geithner remains unsettled. There's hardly a moment in Geithner's story when the reader feels he is being anything but straightforward - a near-superhuman feat for someone who spent so much time in public life defending himself from careless and dishonest personal attacks. The decisions he made are easier to criticize than they are to improve upon. I doubt many readers will put his book down and think the man did anything but his best. On his feet he might have stammered and wavered. That in itself was always a sign he was unusually brave." (Michael Lewis New York Times Book Review)

"An intimate take on the financial crisis. gripping. conveys in visceral terms just how precarious things were during the crisis, just how frightened many first responders were, and just what an achievement it was to avert a major depression. [Geithner] demonstrates that he can discuss economics in an accessible fashion, making the situation the country faced in 2008 and 2009 tactile, comprehensible-and harrowing-to the lay reader. Along the way, he also gives us a telling portrait of himself." (New York Times)

Werbetext

From the former Treasury Secretary, the definitive account of the unprecedented effort to save the U.S. economy from collapse in the wake of the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression

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The financial crisis 2007/2008 has raised the interest in books written by three different groups of authors:
journalists like Walter Bagehot - "Lombard Street, 1873, edition 2006" - and Andrew Ross Sorkin - "Too Big to Fail" -,
academics like Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Aliber - "Manias, Panics and Crashes, 6th edition" - and Carmen Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff - "This Time is Different, edition 2009" -, insiders like Thilo Sarrazin - Europa braucht den Euro nicht, 1. Auflage 2010 -, Henry M. Paulson, Jr. - "On the Brink, edition 2013" - and Timothy Geithner - "Stress Test, edition 2014" - and
experts with a mixed background like Nassim Nicholas Taleb - "The Black Swan, edition 2010" - and Wilfried Stadler - "Der Markt hat nicht immer Recht, edition 2011" - both insiders and academics.

All these books are recommendable, among them Timothy Geithner's book is of utmost importance; it is written by one of the three insiders in the eye of the hurricane who wrote a book about what has been done to get out of the crisis.

To understand the 2007/2008 crisis in relation to the Great Depression 1929 the following books are recommendable: "The Great Crash 1929, edition 1997" by John Kenneth Galbraith (academic) and "Lords of Finance - 1929, The Great Depression, and the bankers who broke the world, edition 2010" by Liaquat Ahamed, former professional investment banker for twenty-five years.

Below you find some parts of "Stress Test" which could motivate you to read the author's excellent book and keep in mind what he describes and explains:

"On the morning of January 27, 2009, my first full day as secretary of Treasury, I met with President Barack Obama ... The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression was still raging ...
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Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Timothy Geithner schreibt sehr ausführlich und akribisch über Finanzmarktkrisen im Allgemeinen, und später dann über die große Finanzmarktkrise von 2008. Er tut dies nüchtern, ohne viel Pathos und ohne den Leser zu langweilen. Ich kann dieses Buch nur Allen empfehlen die sich selbst ein Bild von der Größten Krise seit der Großen Depression der 30 er des vergangenen Jahrhunderts machen wollen. Gute Englischkenntnisse sind allerdings Voraussetzung, um den Inhalt gut zu verstehen. Andernfalls sollte man auf die Übersetzung dieses Großartigen Buches ins Deutsche warten.
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Wir konnten Ihre Stimmabgabe leider nicht speichern. Bitte erneut versuchen
Von Andrea Magliano am 20. Mai 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Abgesehen von dem technischen, spannungslosen Schreibstil des Authors (was auch verstaendlich ist), das Buch ist allein wegen die brisante Inhalte lesenswert; allein die Aussage Geithners (ich zitiere): 'a few European officials approached us with a scheme to try to force Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi out of power; they wanted us to refuse to support IMF loans to Italy until he was gone.' sorgt grad in Italien fuer Aufregung. Noch brisanter, wie diese Information in den Medien ausserhalb I regelmaessig, sorgfaeltig verschwiegen wird, aber das ist eine andere Geschichte...
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Ganz andere Perspektive auf diese spannende Zeit, gute systematik der Ereignisse und der Hintergründe für die getroffene Entscheidungen, ergänzt perfekt "europäische" Perspektive auf die Finanzkrise
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 348 Rezensionen
205 von 252 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
An honest account 14. Mai 2014
Von Brian L Peters - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I worked with Geithner at the NY Fed. I was a bit player present at many of the meetings and calls described.

I imagine most ratings will reflect their predisposition to the actions taken by the Fed and Treasury during the crisis. I did not come here to debate those.

I merely came to state that the book is an honest account of how Tim and the rest of us thought during the events described. This is what he believed, and what we believed. I cannot comment on the accounts from Treasury, though they correspond with what I annecdotally heard at the time.
53 von 71 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Beaten like a red haired stepchild 19. Mai 2014
Von Generic Guy - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions (What would have happened - and did - Depression 1.0 )

And, Geithner still seems shell shocked. He does a much better job framing the crisis in the book than in real time. But he still doesn't do an a sufficient job of conveying the crushing impact of market panic. It was the kind of fear that you can smell.

His major error is not emphasizing just how small the differences are between market based traditional bankruptcy, bailouts, and nationalization. With nationalization, the owners/shareholders are wiped out as well as some of the bondholders. In traditional bankruptcy, the owners/shareholders are wiped out and bondholders are usually wiped out or take a serious haircut. With partial nationalization (bailouts) including TARP and other guarantee programs, shareholders were either totally wiped out or lost 90% of their investment in the weakest banks. The shareholders of the stronger banks suffered dilution of their ownership through TARP fees, mandatory warrants, and Treasury imposed capital raises.

1/4 to 1/3 of the largest financial firms were effectively nationalized. The owners/shareholders were wiped out. The ONLY difference was the treatment of bond holders, who did better under the TARP and other backstop programs. And these bondholders weren't hedge funds or investment bankers. Hedge funds wouldn't touch low yield bank debt. It was owned by Pension Funds, bond mutual funds, ordinary people and institutions that look more like the president of your local branch bank then anyone on Wall Street.

Partial nationalization. If you don't believe it, ask Ralph Nader. "Nader has been arguing the government needs to recognize the rights of shareholders, instead of sending all the profits of the GSEs to the Treasury, aside from minimal capital buffers." Yes Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac were bailed out. But the owners/shareholders weren't bailed out. Nader complains that all the profits were sent to the taxpayer. Per Nader, "... they sensed that this would help keep the deficit down -- that this huge Niagara of profits would --and they were right on that." That 'huge Niagara went to the TAXPAYERS.

Geithner was beaten like a red haired stepchild. And he plays defense in this book.

The story he didn't spell out in 18 point type is:

1. TARP had a positive return of $billions. Which went to the taxpayer.
2. A huge portion of the financial system WAS effectively nationalized Bear Sterns, WaMu, Wachovia, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, 80% of Citi, 92% of AIG and small chunks of the institutions that were required to increase capital by Geithner's stress test.
3. When the Fed and Treasury acted, markets that had been worshiped since the breakup of the USSR -- failed. For a market system to work, markets need to be relatively efficient, liquid and deep. These characteristics, which were plausible prior to panic, were proven to be illusory.
4. The greed of the prior decade was reversed and replaced by the ice cold sweat of fear. Financial markets were frozen and our economy went into free fall.
5. Geithner won. The Fed, Treasury, and both Bush and Obama saved the country from Great Depression 2.0.

The misnamed bailout didn't bail out the owners of weak financial firms. It bailed out the rest of the country, including iconic American brands like Harley Davidson. Harley (ticker symbol HOG) is the only brand in history whose most loyal customers get tattooed with the brand name permanently and prominently. In early 2009, it was simply unable to finance sales to customers with good credit. It was choking on loans that couldn't be sold into frozen markets. Geithner's TALF broke that logjam and prevented businesses from disintegrating. Anyone that doesn't believe this should simply look it up.

Yes Geithner said it.

But he should have said it more like this. With conviction.
68 von 97 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Review: A crisis-like evaluation of "Stress Test" 12. Mai 2014
Von Reuters Breakingviews - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
By Breakingviews columnists

To judge the merits of Tim Geithner’s crises reflections in “Stress Test,” six Breakingviews columnists digested different pieces of the book in a short amount of time. Like the regulators who often lacked broader context, the assessments vary. Yet there’s also consensus it’s a useful tome for the financial library.

CHAPTERS 1-2

Whatever critics say, Tim Geithner can’t be accused of having a narrow outlook or partisan blinkers. He grew up in Africa, India and Thailand as well as back home in the United States. He enrolled at preppy Dartmouth and signed up to learn Chinese. His mother is a “bleeding-heart liberal,” his father a lifelong Republican, and Geithner himself now a registered independent. He describes his background as privileged, but not rich.

He accepts in self-deprecating fashion that he gained a reputation as a fan of financial bailouts, despite the “moral hazard” precedent they created. But Geithner’s interest in finance and economics came late, after a more geopolitical focus at graduate school and Henry Kissinger’s consulting firm. It was fired up partly by Larry Summers, whom Geithner met in 1992, four years into his first stint at the Treasury Department, working on trade. Summers, later treasury secretary, “had earned a reputation for brilliance, if not for concealing it.”

Exposure to the faltering Japanese economy, a crisis in Mexico and another in Asian financial markets also helped shape Geithner’s worldview. Even as the U.S. economy went from strength to strength in the later 1990s his main recollection, he says, is “how scary it was, how little we knew.” And that was before he went to work at crisis central, the International Monetary Fund.

CHAPTERS 3-4

There is a certain modesty within the pages of Geithner’s easy-to-read book that is at once endearing and sometimes infuriating. He acknowledges, seemingly unperturbed, that he wasn’t the first choice to run the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Stanley Fischer, John Taylor and others were ahead of him on the list) and is self-effacing about his own boyish looks, explaining how he was carded trying to buy beer the night before he started working for the regional central bank.

Geithner concedes that he fell back on a “lazy” argument about regulating derivatives, didn’t like public speaking and “wasn’t good at it,” and used “typically impenetrable prose” to warn of looming systemic troubles. At the same time, Geithner suggests he was prescient about such risks but that the Fed was limited by what it could do. “There was a widespread perception we had awesome powers to fight financial fires, but when I studied our actual firefighting equipment … I was not particularly impressed.”

He sees regulators at odds with each other, captured by the bankers they are meant to oversee, and a lack of accountability over the wider financial system. “We certainly could have been more prescient, more forceful, more imaginative,” Geithner says of the mortgage crisis. “But we were human.” The looming collapse of Countrywide seems mainly to provide yet another reminder of the limitations of watchdogs. The imminent collapse of Bear Stearns does the same, when Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson discovers “how little authority” he has “to try to avert a major financial crisis in the United States.”

CHAPTERS 5-6

Geithner thankfully avoids turning his coverage of the 2008 crisis into a magnum opus. Enough exist already. His account of Lehman Brothers’ failure, however, leaves questions unanswered. Geithner is at pains to point out that he wanted the New York Fed to “climb inside the investment banks” to understand their risks right after Bear was subsumed in March. And he informs us his analysts calculated as early as spring that Lehman could need, at worst, $84 billion of new capital to survive.

The regulator did very little with that information and started drawing up a Lehman liquidation plan only a week before the investment bank went under. A report from the firm’s bankruptcy trustee, meanwhile, provided a much less flattering account: the New York Fed and Securities and Exchange officials embedded there were as distracted by interagency rivalry as anything else.

Geithner comes clean about his peers, though. He effectively accuses Sheila Bair, who ran the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp at the time, of “moral hazard fundamentalism” for insisting on imposing losses on Washington Mutual bondholders and creating an incident in which “the U.S. government made things worse.” Her decision later to ditch Citigroup’s offer for Wachovia in favor of Wells Fargo’s prompts him to lambast her with: “We can’t act like a Banana Republic.”

Shareholders and bondholders of the various banks may debate the matter for years. But they probably share Geithner’s scorn for SEC Commissioner Christopher Cox.

CHAPTERS 7-8

The near-failure to launch the crowning achievement of Geithner’s tenure becomes newly apparent. The stress tests in spring of 2009 ultimately drew a line in the sand for the financial crisis in the United States and fostered a dramatic flow of private capital into the banking sector. Indeed, the reluctance, and institutional complications, around testing banks in Europe arguably extended the continent’s economic woes unnecessarily.

Geithner first expressed the idea while on a family vacation before Barack Obama would inhabit the White House. As a member of the transition team and as former head of the New York Fed, Geithner was already heavily involved in the new administration’s rescue plans. During a call, Geithner told Summers, his former mentor who would become Obama’s chief economic adviser, that he was thinking of a “valuation exercise” to create “transparency on opaque financial institutions and their opaque assets.” This, he reckoned, would reduce the uncertainty fueling the panic.

In hindsight, this proved absolutely correct. By the government’s forcing major financial institutions to submit to uniform and stringent scenario testing and to disclose the results, some $200 billion of private capital made its way to U.S. bank balance sheets. Getting there, however, was fraught, as Geithner makes clear.

Summers, who Geithner calls a “world-class hole-puncher,” proved a surprising obstacle. He believed the banking system was too distressed and feared that a more aggressive approach, even nationalization and forced breakups, would be necessary. That perspective, which Geithner calls the “hedge fund view,” reflected a discrepancy in the way the two valued bank assets, with Summers hewing more closely to a mark-to-market line.

There are other obstacles, too. Geithner liberally takes himself to task. He acknowledges mistakes in communicating and persuading others – within the administration, politicians and the public – of the Treasury’s plans and positions. Of his debut in early February, Geithner nails his performance: “My speech … sucked.”

History will judge kindly the Treasury’s decision to move with relative swiftness and open the books on the banking system five years ago. Geithner’s account shows how easily that outcome could have shifted in ways that would have been potentially disastrous for global financial markets.

CHAPTERS 9-10

The laudable stress tests eventually were emulated by other countries and became standard practice for regulators once the big American banks largely passed and U.S. financial markets calmed. The former treasury secretary comes off a little too earnest on the subject, though. Geithner could be forgiven for believing those first test results eased investors’ fears after regulators deemed big banks safe again. Yet it also leaves implicit the suggestion that the comfort is owed to the idea that the government would feel compelled to ride to the rescue again.

Geithner also manages to take credit for the financial reform bill that Congress eventually approved while lamenting its shortcomings. On one hand, he’s right: his Treasury led the charge with a proposal in mid-2009. On the other hand, his biggest criticism of the final version of the law, bizarrely enough, is that it didn’t leave regulators enough bailout authority. Rescues are precisely what good reform should aim to avoid.

His assessment that adding much-needed housing finance reform to the legislation would have doomed it politically sounds on the mark, too. In the years that followed, though, his Treasury failed to aggressively advance the cause. Now that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have begun to generate a profit again, and hedge funds gobbled up their cheap shares in the hopes of political weakness, the opportunity may have passed.

CHAPTER 11, EPILOGUE

Geithner’s post-crisis analysis reflects a deep Keynesianism, as he blames fiscal austerity for the sluggishness of economic recovery, rather than the continued diversion of massive resources into huge budget deficits. The lack of a significant bounce in U.S. GDP from the 2009 stimulus or the 2011 payroll tax cuts, or fiscal drag from the 2013 tax hikes and “sequester” spending cuts, are suggestive of his blind spot.

It’s also easy to sympathize with Geithner’s frustrations with the Republican Congress and Europe’s profligacy leading up to the Greek default. And his criticism is well targeted at the continent’s stress-free stress tests. Yet his criticism of the European Union’s “harsh” rhetoric is off point. The problem in Europe was that central authorities left too many loopholes and hadn’t enforced fiscal discipline harshly enough. Geithner’s overall assessment of the crisis aftershocks at the end of his book lacks the necessary distance to fully assess the faults of principle in the approach.

Geithner’s central takeaway is that his actions prevented a full-scale depression of a 1929-1933 order, while the weak subsequent recovery was inevitable. That’s of course unknowable, even if he deserves some credit for avoiding the policy disasters that emanated from the Hoover administration. The strength of the stock market recovery and the weakness of output and productivity growth do, however, suggest something flawed in the Geithner view. He at least has left behind a useful blueprint to study for when the next stress test comes along.

Read more [...]
78 von 113 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Geithner's persuasive case for TARP (Federal Bailouts); an equitable narrative (admissions & good deal of memorable stories) 13. Mai 2014
Von JPM - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Geithner's persuasive case for Federal Bailouts, 2 big admissions and a good deal of memorable stories of his interactions with who's who to save our Blue planet from sinking in a depression

Timothy F. Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary (2009-2013), former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and currently the President of Warburg Pincus, a global Private Equity investment institution), emphasises on the importance of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP or Federal Bailouts) of 2008 and his role in saving the world from the depths of Economic Depression.

In his first book titled "Stress Test," Geithner constructs a persuasive case of his role as the man most responsible for the TARP (Federal Bailouts) of 2008. Financial bailouts historically were only made available to the commercial banks and not extended to the Wall Street Investment houses, Geithner was the first Treasury Secretary to have made this possible.

He makes the case for TARP in saving the Financial Institutions. He extends the argument on the value of Financial Institutions gaining enormity when the country in question is the United States of America (USA), the largest economy on the planet. The importance of the Financial Institutions grows and reaches epic global proportions, when the same nation is facing a crisis, which finds its origins in the core of the same Financial Institutions. The TARP, which then amounted to approximately 700 Billion dollars (and have now reached ~ 8 trillion dollars: all funded by taxpayer money) was released to act as a safety net for the Financial Institutions who in turn are to protect the Tax Payer of the vicious cycle of recession, which if left uncontrolled would have led to Global Economic Depression).

Geithner makes two big admissions

1) He admits that he did not foresee the coming of the "Financial crisis" (especially showcased during a meeting held in March 2008 (the Bears Stearns rescue days), when he objected against the then Federal Governor Kevin Warsh's statement on the fact that financial institutions remained undercapitalized (i.e. the Institutions had too much leverage and hence had too much exposure to potential losses, which could lead to financial apocalypse).

2) His second biggest admission is that he did not grasp the grimness of the troubles, while they were occurring and even after they had occurred (from him being influenced by Citibank's Robert Rubin (who along with Larry Summers had recommended him for the position of President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, despite of him (in his own words) lacking the desired experience).

Geithner also takes jibes at and thrashes the "moral hazard fundamentalists" fellows who raise concerns that bailing out the financial institutions has encouraged even riskier behaviour. He says that the TARP and other rescue programs enacted in the crisis years were a success because the alternative(s), which no one can ever know would have been far worse.

There are some very good stories of his interactions with the heads of Wall Street banks, most notably with Citibank's Robert Rubin, Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein and with important personalities of the likes of the Oracle of Omaha Mr. Warren Buffet, Ben Bernanke, the then Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, his predecessor Hank Paulson, then and current President Mr. Barack Obama and ex-President Mr. Bill Clinton.

Overall a very good read (I heard it on Audible at 1.5x :)
10 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A Mixed Bag: Just LIke Geithner 5. Juni 2014
Von Stephen B. Selbst - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Aspects of Stress Test are very good: the narration of the thinking of the Fed and Treasury during the crisis, Geithner's thoughts on what works and what doesn't in financial crises, and the perspective of central bankers in those terrible times. And Geithner's recollections of the inside of the Obama administration and his relations with his colleagues are interesting. There's not a lot that's new here from a policy perspective, but Geithner's perspective is valuable because he was literally in the center of the storm.

But then there's a lot that's problematic, ranging from wrong on the issues to just plain cringe-worthy. One central complaint is that Geithner spends a huge portion of the book trying to defend himself and burnish his reputation, which was surely battered while he served. His central theme is that mistakes were made, but we were doing the best we could. Nobody could have seen what was coming. And by the way, bailing out Wall Street and the banks was a necessary step. The alternatives would have been worse.

At least as to nobody saw this coming, that’s complete nonsense. There was a small but significant number of people who warned that the subprime explosion of the mid 2000s was a disaster waiting to happen, and that it had the potential to bring down the whole economy. But because those voices were quite contrary to the consensus opinion at the time, they were shouted down as fear mongers.

Geithner is obviously bright and he was clearly ambitious. He climbed very far and very fast, in part by cultivating senior people who could help boost his career. Although he doesn’t describe himself this way, I have the sense that as a student and young exec, he was something of a teacher’s pet. And when you look at the list of his early mentors, Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan, Henry Kissinger, Bob Rubin, you can see he was clearly an establishment person, not somebody who would ever rock the boat or recommend an unorthodox strategy. But that caution, that aversion to risk, also made him a captive of conventional and received wisdom at all times. And through it all, his smugness, his certainty that he was always the smartest guy in the room, that his decisions were always the wisest, is gratingly offensive. You can certainly understand why he frequently rubbed people the wrong way.

Thus, Geithner’s problem is acute. On one level, the troika of Bernanke, Paulson and Geithner got one part of the macro problem right: largely through massive infusions of cash and credit, they kept the financial system from collapsing in the fall of 2008 and into 2009. They solved the problem of inadequate liquidity because that was a problem for which there was a conventional wisdom solution, namely, providing enough available credit to prevent a strong of domino-like financial institution failures.

But they got the second part of the problem entirely wrong; they failed to implement real reform of financial institutions and they failed to pursue claims against the people who led the financial system to the edge of collapse. Instead, they nibbled at the edges of problems. And on this score, Geithner deserves criticism. His book is a long-form apologia for why the reforms were insufficiently robust, despite having complained that regulators lacked effective tools at the onset of the crisis. But in the end, it’s clear that he was simply a captive regulator, far too sympathetic to the status quo.

To illustrate this point, there are some fascinating anecdotes. In 1996, a lawyer named Brooksley Born was appointed to run the Commodities Future Trading Commission. After Long Term Capital, a hedge fund, failed in the summer of 1998, in part due to its excessive use of derivatives, Born looked at the securities laws and concluded that derivatives were not adequately regulated, and proposed that the CFTC assert regulatory jurisdiction. She did so because many early generation derivatives covered physical commodities, and her belief was that one regulatory body should have jurisdiction over all derivative trading. Official Washington jumped all over her: there were complaints that she was invading the turf of Treasury, the SEC, the Fed, etc. Those were the traditional turf battles; on a more fundamental level, Fed chairman Alan Greenspan opposed on principle any attempt to regulate derivatives, relying on his infamous (and now vastly discredited) faith in the markets to regulate any abuses or problems. And of course Republicans in Congress were predictably opposed. After a public squabble, the proposal died and Born resigned shortly thereafter. In his book, Geithner acknowledges that Born was right, and that her critics and opponents, including himself, were wrong. But in his eyes the sin of her proposal was that it wasn’t polished or professional enough, which led to people not taking it seriously. What nonsense: polishing regulations is something bureaucrats do every day; the problem with the Born proposal is that it was expressly contrary to the received wisdom of the day, which was antithetical to enhanced regulation. And of course Geithner was on the wrong side of that debate.

Geithner also spends a lot of time arguing that as New York Fed chairman, he spent his pre-2007 years trying to strengthen the banks and other financial institutions against systemic risk. But when it comes to why he, Bernanke and others missed the warning signs that the economy was starting to sputter in significant ways by the middle of 2006, he falls back on another classic bureaucrat excuse: I had the staff look at this and they didn’t warn me that there was a problem. He claims that staff research papers showed that the major banks could withstand a reverse in the real estate markets, and that the problems of the subprime market would not affect the broader economy. Pardon me, but as New York Fed chairman, it’s your job to have an independent view on the macro forces affecting the economy. Blaming the staff for your errors is more than lame, even if you belatedly acknowledge you were dead wrong.

And it’s clear that, in retrospect, the government has done very little to curb systemic risk in the financial system. The banks act like none of their misdeeds were their fault, and they continue to fight tooth and nail every effort to rein them in, such as in the Dodd-Frank regulations. While a handful (and it was only just a handful) of senior bankers lost their jobs, the government essentially gave the banks a pass. After the government lost a badly botched trial involving some small and unimportant Bear Stearns hedge funds, it decided not to pursue criminal prosecutions relating to the mortgage mess against any of the major banks/investment banks. Instead, it has prosecuted small fry, individual borrowers and mortgage bankers, but let all the big boys (and they are almost all boys) have a pass. Conservatives like to expound about moral hazard, to which I say, failing to pursue claims against people who nearly destroyed our economy, where there is abundant evidence of wrongdoing is the worst kind of moral hazard. Geithner says over and over that he never worked on Wall Street and defends himself against the charge that he was soft on bankers. But if you look at the actions he took, the conclusion that he gave bad behavior a pass is undeniable. Of course he doesn't see it that way and offers innumerable justifications for his matador act, but the record of history is clear.

So here’s the problem for Geithner’s book: he knows that on a policy level, everything after the immediate bailouts of 2008-2009 was poorly planned and executed, and it happened on his watch at Treasury. So all he can do in hindsight is attempt to justify why the status quo was left intact. Even he can't really defend the Obama administration's disastrous housing policy, except to argue things could have been worse. Thus, a long, defensive book whose message is “I did the best I can” makes for dull reading. But if you think about what happened, and you compare it to what he says, there are some interesting insights. Maybe not enough to justify 540 pages, but you get the idea.
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