Of course Tim Geithner is close with certain Wall Street CEOs. He got to know them when he was president of the New York Fed, and during the crisis of the past year, he bonded with them. Well, not with everyone, of course — after that incident with Morgan Stanley's John Mack, Tim only speaks to him on a need-to basis, and if he has something to say to Ken Lewis he just sics Bernanke on him. But truth be told, some special relationships were forged back in September. Being there together every day, saving the world from what Paulson called the financial industry's "9/11" — it was like being in a foxhole, Tim imagines. Albeit a very cushy, comfortable foxhole with delivery from the Palm.
In fact, though he has never told anyone this, a couple of times, back in September, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon cradled his head while he slept.
And so, of course, even though he's now the secretary of the Treasury, he keeps up with the guys by talking to them on the phone sometimes. Is that wrong? The AP has gotten hold of some of Geithner's phone records, which show that he speaks with the CEOs of Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs "sometimes several times a day," and they're acting like it is.
There is nothing inherently wrong with senior Treasury Department officials speaking regularly with industry executives, or even with the secretary keeping tabs on the market's biggest players, even though critics say Geithner risks succumbing too much to these bankers' self-interested worldview.
You see that? While they're specifically saying there isn't something wrong, they're saying it with a tone. Definitely a tone. And plus, they singled out this one day in particular, which was perfectly innocent but looks a little embarrassing on paper.
After one hectic week in May in which the U.S. faced the looming bankruptcy of General Motors and the prospect that the government would take over the automaker, Geithner wrapped up his night with a series of phone calls.
First he called Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and CEO at Goldman. Then he called Jamie Dimon, the boss at JPMorgan. Obama called next, and as soon as they hung up, Geithner was back on the phone with Dimon.
Of course, there is nothing inherently sinister about these facts. They weren't even talking about General Motors or the financial system at all. Lloyd just called to make a hilarious joke about Dijongate, and Obama had called right in the middle of his and Jamie's recap of Real Housewives. Wait. Does that sound better or worse?