Timothy Franz Geithner
Family and education
Geithner was born in Manhattan
, New York
, to Peter Franz Geithner and Deborah Moore.
His father, a German American
, was the director of the Ford Foundation
's Asia program in New York during the 1990s, after working for the United States Agency for International Development
During the early 1980s, Geithner's father oversaw the Ford Foundation's microfinance
programs in Indonesia being developed by Ann Dunham Soetoro
, Barack Obama's mother, and they met at least once in Jakarta
Geithner's paternal grandfather, Paul Herman Geithner (1902–1972), immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1908 from Zeulenroda
Geithner's mother, a Mayflower
descendant, belongs to a New England
Her father, Charles Frederick Moore, Jr., served as vice-president of public relations for the Ford Motor Company
from 1952 to 1964, and advised President Dwight D. Eisenhower
, as well as Nelson Rockefeller
and George W. Romney
, on their respective presidential campaigns. His uncle, Jonathan Moore
, served in the departments of Defense
, as well as in the United Nations
Geithner married Carole Marie Sonnenfeld, his classmate at Dartmouth, on June 8, 1985, at his parents' summer home in Orleans, Massachusetts
She is a licensed clinical social worker and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine, where she teaches listening skills to medical students.
She is the author of a coming-of-age children's novel about grief.
Her father, Albert Sonnenfeld, was a professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton University and a food critic;
her mother, Portia, died when Carole was 25, shortly after she was married.
Geithner worked for Kissinger Associates
in Washington, D.C.
, from 1985 to 1988, when he joined the International Affairs division of the U.S. Treasury Department
He served as an attaché
at the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo
, then as deputy assistant secretary for international monetary
and financial policy
(1995–1996), senior deputy assistant secretary for international affairs (1996–1997), and assistant secretary for international affairs (1997–1998).
He was Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs
(1998–2001) under Secretaries Robert Rubin
and Lawrence Summers
who are widely considered to have been his mentors.
While at the Treasury Department, he helped manage financial crises in Brazil
, South Korea
, and Thailand
Treasury Secretary designee Geithner meets then-Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus
on November 25, 2008
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
In 2005, Geithner expressed concern over Wall Street trading in financial derivatives
, which would ultimately contribute to the spread of the late 2000s financial crisis
, though he did not pursue major reforms.
In 2004, Geithner called on banks to "build a sufficient cushion against adversity", though in May 2007, he expressed support for the Basel II
accord, which critics, including Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
chairperson Sheila Bair
, argued would reduce the amount of capital banks would be required to hold to guard against losses.
That month, in a speech at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
, Geithner stated, "Financial innovation has improved the capacity to measure and manage risk," but also cautioned that "financial innovation and global financial integration do not offer the prospect of eliminating the risk of asset price and credit cycles
, of manias and panics, or of shocks that could have systemic consequences."
In mid-March 2008, together with then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
, Geithner arranged the rescue and fire sale
of Bear Stearns
, which was at risk of bankruptcy, to JPMorgan Chase
for $2 per share (later raised to $10 per share
The Fed agreed to provide financing for the deal and support up to $30 billion of Bear Stearns's "less-liquid assets", despite some internal protests.
In doing so, the New York Fed allowed Bear Stearns itself to calculate the value of assets acquired by the government and exposed itself to losses should those assets have declined in value, though JPMorgan agreed to absorb the first $1 billion in losses.
The New York Fed stored these assets in the Maiden Lane limited liability company
and awarded no-bid contracts
to the Wall Street asset manager BlackRock
for management of the assets, with the intent of ridding itself of the assets within 10 years.
In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee
, countering concerns that the rescue would invite moral hazard
problems, Geithner argued that "a sudden, disorderly failure of Bear would have brought with it unpredictable but severe consequences for the functioning of the broader financial system and the broader economy."
Under questioning from Senator Chris Dodd
, Geithner denied involvement in setting the share price of JPMorgan's purchase of Bear Stearns.
Bear Stearns and JPMorgan chief executives Alan Schwartz
and Jamie Dimon
testified that Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
were aware of the amount being discussed and encouraged negotiators to keep the price low to avoid rewarding investors.
In the late summer of 2008, troubles at the financial services firm Lehman Brothers
were accelerating. In late August, the company announced that 1,500 employees (6% of its workforce) would be laid off
, following 6,000 layoffs since June 2007.
On September 9, Lehman's share price plunged 45% on fears that the company was facing billions of dollars in losses, and on news that a potential investment in the company by Korea Development Bank
had fallen through.
Three days later, Geithner convened a meeting of Wall Street executives, Secretary Paulson, and Securities and Exchange Commission
Chairman Christopher Cox
to review exposure to Lehman's fortunes and discuss a possible liquidation of Lehman. Geithner indicated that the government would not save Lehman and urged the executives to cooperate on an industry solution, warning that the crisis could spread to their own firms should a deal not be reached. Government officials believed Lehman's collapse would be less dangerous than that of Bear Stearns,
though Geithner sought to avoid that contingency nonetheless, citing the increase in market fragility by the time of Lehman's crisis.
Nevertheless, no industry rescue materialized. Bank of America
, which had been in talks to purchase Lehman, pulled out after the government indicated it would not take on Lehman's risky real-estate assets, as it had with Bear Stearns.
On September 15, Lehman announced that it would file for bankruptcy
, making it the largest investment bank failure since Drexel Burnham Lambert
Geithner, Paulson, and Bernanke later argued that Lehman's financial situation was too dire for the government to have legally rescued it.
A team from Goldman Sachs
and Credit Suisse
had estimated prior to Lehman's bankruptcy filing that Lehman's liabilities exceeded its assets by tens of billions of dollars (i.e., a negative net worth
Geithner was instrumental in government dealings with the American International Group
(AIG) insurance company. Over the summer of 2008, as credit rating agencies
downgraded mortgage-backed securities
, AIG faced mounting demands to provide increased collateral to buyers of its credit default swaps
. Consequently, by the time of Lehman's failure in September, AIG was facing a rapidly increasing multibillion-dollar capital shortfall. On September 13, AIG chief Robert B. Willumstad
informed Geithner that the company would need to raise $40 billion and asked for government assistance in doing so. Geithner rejected the request for government funds and pressed AIG to find a private-sector solution to the company's liquidity crisis
. On the morning of September, Geithner reiterated this decision at a meeting of Wall Street executives and requested that Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan organize an industry-based solution. By that evening, private-sector appetite for an AIG rescue has dissipated. Later that night, a consensus emerged at the New York Fed that AIG, with $500 billion in troubled credit-swap obligations, could not be allowed to fail. At a meeting of the Federal Reserve in Washington the next day, Geithner and Paulson proposed lending $85 billion to AIG, with all of AIG's assets held as collateral, in exchange for a 79.9% equity
stake in AIG and veto rights over dividend payments. Upon delivering this offer to AIG, Geithner informed Willumstad that there would be "no negotiation".
As a result of Lehman Brothers's failure, money market funds
with exposure to Lehman securities found themselves in distress on the day of Lehman's bankruptcy filing. One such fund was the Reserve Primary Fund
. Due to the highly stable net asset value
(NAV) of money market funds ($1.00 per share), money market funds were extensively relied on by companies for regular cash demands (e.g., payroll). Following Lehman's bankruptcy filing, due to a slowdown in credit markets, the Primary Fund was unable to sell once liquid assets
to meet rapidly mounting demands for the redemption of investments. Geithner's New York Fed had been informed of the worsening situation at 7:50 that morning, and the next day rebuffed a request from the Primary Fund to assist it in making payments.
Unable to sell Lehman's securities held by the fund, the board of the Primary Fund announced that it would freeze redemptions for seven days and reduce its NAV to $0.97 per share, meaning a money market fund would break the buck
for only the second time in the industry's history.
Geithner believed, along with Paulson, that the Treasury needed new authority to respond to the financial crisis.
Paulson described Geithner as a "very unusually talented young man...[who] understands government and understands markets".
Secretary of the Treasury
Nomination and confirmation
Geithner was sworn in as Treasury Secretary on January 26, 2009
During his confirmation, it was disclosed that Geithner had not paid $35,000 in Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes
from 2001 through 2004 while working for the International Monetary Fund
The IMF, as an international agency, did not withhold payroll taxes, but instead reimbursed the usual employer responsibility of these taxes to employees. Geithner received the reimbursements and paid the amounts received to the government, but had not paid the remaining half which would normally have been withheld from his pay. The issue, as well as other errors relating to past deductions and expenses, were noted during a 2006 audit by the Internal Revenue Service
Geithner subsequently paid the additional taxes owed.
In a statement to the Senate Finance Committee
, Geithner called the tax issues "careless", "avoidable", and "unintentional" errors.
Geithner testified that he used the software TurboTax
to prepare his 2001 and 2002 returns, but that the tax errors were his own responsibility.
The Troubled Asset Relief Program
(TARP) and takeover
of Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac
amounted a combined outflow of $620.3 billion in Treasury funds in the form of spending, investments, and loans. As of July 2016, $689 billion has been returned to the Treasury, primarily in the form of refunds provided by bailed-out companies and revenue from dividends. This has earned the government a profit of $68.6 billion.
Although President Obama expressed strong support for Geithner, outrage over hundreds of millions of dollars in bonus payments
(or employee "retention"
payments) by the American International Group
, which had received more than $170 billion in federal bailout aid, undermined public support in early 2009. In March 2009, AIG paid $165 million in bonuses to its financial products division, the unit responsible for the company's near collapse
the year prior, following $55 million paid to the same division in December 2008 and $121 million in bonus payments to senior executives.
In early November 2008, a joint committee of the Federal Reserve
, Ernst & Young
, and AIG concluded that the bonus payments, which were in contracts predating the government takeover, could not be legally stopped.
During his time at the New York Fed and early in his tenure as Treasury Secretary, Geithner's aides had closely dealt with AIG on compensation issues, though Geithner indicated he was not aware of AIG's plans for bonus payments until March 10, 2009. On March 11, 2009, Geithner called Ed Liddy
, the AIG chief, to protest the bonus payouts and request that the contracting containing the bonuses be renegotiated.
Later in March, Liddy requested that employees who received bonuses of more than $100,000 return half of the payment.
At Geithner's urging, Liddy cut $9.6 million in payments to company's top 50 executives in half and tied the remainder to performance.
AIG payments to banks
In November 2009, Neil Barofsky
, the Treasury Department Inspector General responsible for oversight of TARP funds, issued a report critical of the use of $62.1 billion of government funds to redeem derivative contracts held by several large banks which AIG had insured against losses. The banks received face value for the contracts although their market value at the time was much lower. In the report, Barofsky said the payments "provided [the banks] with tens of billions of dollars they likely would have not otherwise received". Terms for use of the funds had been negotiated with the New York Federal Reserve Bank
while Geithner was president.
Geithner and his predecessor, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
, both appeared before the Committee on January 27. Geithner defended the bailout of AIG and the payments to the banks, while reiterating previous denials of any involvement in efforts to withhold details of the transactions. His testimony was met with skepticism and angry disagreement by House members of both parties.
Making Home Affordable
In his book Bailout: How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street
, Neil Barofsky
argues that Geithner never had the intention to utilize the Home Affordable Modification Program
as intended by Congress. Instead of providing relief for homeowners to avoid foreclosures, it was Geithner's plan that the bank should proceed with these foreclosures. Geithner said that he "estimates" that the banks "can handle ten million foreclosures, over time", and that HAMP "will help foam the runway for them" by “keeping the full flush of foreclosures from hitting the financial system all at the same time."
As such, "banks participating in the program have rejected four million borrowers’ requests for help, or 72 percent of their applications, since the process began".Citimortgage
and JPMorgan Chase
were among the banks that refused the most HAMP claims. As such, the program only helped 887,001 people out of the over 4 Million people that were originally estimated to be able to benefit from the program.
Geithner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
at the opening session of the first U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue on July 27, 2009
In written comments to the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearings, Geithner stated that the new administration believed China
was "manipulating" its currency
and that the Obama administration would act "aggressively" using "all the diplomatic avenues" to change China's currency practices.
The Obama administration would pressure China diplomatically to change this practice more strongly than the George W. Bush Administration
The United States maintained that China's actions hurt American businesses and contributed to the financial crisis.
Shortly after assuming his role as Secretary of the Treasury, Geithner met in Washington with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
. He told Yang that the U.S. attached great importance to its relations with China
and that U.S.–China cooperation was essential in order for the world economy to fully recover.
On June 1, 2009, during a question-and-answer session following a speech at Peking University
, Geithner was asked by a student whether Chinese investments in U.S. Treasury debt were safe. His reply that they were "very safe" drew laughter from the audience.
In September 2011, Geithner told a forum that China had "made possible systematic stealing of intellectual property of American companies and have not been very aggressive to put in place the basic protections for property rights that every serious economy needs over time", a rebuke of longstanding policy on the part of China to demand patents and other intellectual property from companies that sought to produce their products in China. He furthered that China was acting "very, very aggressive in a strategy they started several decades ago", which he defined as the ultimatum of transferring technology or being unable to produce products in China.
Opposing extension of tax cuts
In summer 2010, The New York Times
said Geithner "is President Obama's point man in opposing the extension of the Bush tax cuts
for the wealthy after their Dec. 31 expiration. ... [Geithner] has cited the projected $700 billion, 10-year cost of the tax cuts, and nonpartisan analyses that they do not stimulate the economy because the wealthy tend to save the additional money rather than spend it. 'I believe there is no credible argument to be made that the purpose of government is to borrow from future generations of Americans to finance an extension of tax cuts for the top 2 percent,' [he] said in a recent speech."
Fiscal cliff and debt limit negotiations
Geithner was Obama's lead negotiator about the fiscal cliff
and the increase in the 2013 debt limit
For example, on December 5, 2012, Geithner confirmed leaks from the White House,
Treasury Secretary Geithner told CNBC that the Obama Administration is "absolutely" willing to go over the fiscal cliff if Republicans refused to back off from their opposition to raising rates on wealthier Americans.
Geithner weathered criticism early in the Obama presidency, when Congressman Connie Mack
(R-FL) suggested he should resign over the AIG bonus scandal, and Alabama Senator Richard Shelby
said that Geithner was "out of the loop". Democrats largely joined Obama in supporting Geithner, and there was no serious talk of him losing his job.
In November 2009, Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio
, speaking for himself and some fellow members of the Progressive Caucus, suggested that both Geithner and Lawrence Summers
, the director of the National Economic Council
, should be fired in order to curtail unemployment
and signal a new direction for the Obama administration's fiscal policy.
When Geithner appeared in front of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee
that month, the ranking House Republican, Kevin Brady
of Texas, said to the secretary, "Conservatives agree that, as point person, you've failed. Liberals are growing in that consensus as well. Poll after poll shows the public has lost confidence in this president's ability to handle the economy. For the sake of our jobs, will you step down from your post?" Geithner defended his record, suggesting Brady was misrepresenting the situation and overestimating popular disapproval of his job performance.
In June 2011, The New Republic
criticized Geithner from the left, arguing that he was and is overly concerned with the deficit at a time when, following the Great Recession
, the government should be pursuing stimulus; and as a result, it is possible that the stimulus
was smaller than it could have been.
Geithner left the Obama administration on January 25, 2013,
and joined the Council on Foreign Relations
as a Distinguished Fellow.
In March 2014, he became the president and managing director of Warburg Pincus
, a private equity
In February 2016, it was announced that JPMorgan Chase would provide a line of credit to help Warburg Pincus executives invest in a new multibillion-dollar fund at the firm.
In July 2018, The Washington Post
revealed that Mariner Finance, a company owned by the private equity firm of which Geithner is President, engaged in predatory lending behavior; capturing the sentiments of many former employees of Mariner Finance interviewed by The Post
, a former manager trainee at a Mariner Finance branch in Nashville characterized the company's business model as "a way of monetizing poor people".
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Last edited on 15 May 2021, at 03:37
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