Monday, April 6, 2009

Geithner's Promises: Populist Rhetoric or Implemented Policy?

Treasury Chief Tim Geithner denied the Obama administration wanted to work around executive compensation limits imposed by Congress for firms participating in public-private partnerships. WaPo reported the plan involved intermediary structures. Compensation limits would apply to the middleman firm and not impact big money investors, those who meet the $10 billion "like assets" requirement.

Tim's other promise involved rolling heads, bank senior management and board members. FT reported:

Tim Geithner warned on Sunday that the US government would consider ousting board members at American banks as a condition for giving the institutions “exceptional” assistance in the future.

The Treasury secretary said the Obama administration would be prepared to force out senior management to protect US taxpayers, and ensure accountability, as a condition for providing money to help banks restructure. “If, in the future, banks need exceptional assistance in order to get through this, then we’ll make sure that assistance comes with conditions,” Mr Geithner told CBS television.

How much exceptional assistance have they gotten to date? What percent of the $13 trillion in financial interventions ended up in bank coffers? One might expect those billions to come with conditions.

It remains to be seen if Mr. Geithner's words are toothless populist rhetoric or something more substantial. His record of deferring to the financial masters of the universe points to rhetoric, but I'll reserve judgement.