Among the revelations of last week’s market panic: We’re still not allowed to know anything about the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which springs into action during times of crisis. Don’t ask what its members do or how they do it—even if you’re Hillary Clinton. Tuesday morning, in a press conference about the “global economic crisis,” she asked that the president call in these Über–Masters of the Universe, if he hadn’t already. (The PWG doesn’t have a spokesperson, and it doesn’t keep minutes of its meetings.) Only the Journal bothered to print White House spokesman Tony Fratto’s brush-off: “We don’t announce meetings or conference calls of the PWG.”
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Fed chief Ben Bernanke, and the chairmen of the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are its only known members. It dates to an executive order after 1987’s Black Monday—to “consult, as appropriate, with representatives of the various exchanges, clearinghouses, self-regulatory bodies, and with major market participants to determine private-sector solutions wherever possible.” Thus its nickname: the Plunge Protection Team. Of course, the squishy “consult” language has long had conspiracy theorists speculating that it’s just a backroom market-rigging cabal for the Establishment. Or, you could think of it as the Wall Street Superfriends, equipped with X-ray vision to see deep into our financial malaise, and magic lassos to jury-rig the markets back together.
Either way, the White House would prefer that Clinton shut up about it. It “does not require ‘convening’ by the president,” Fratto sniffed, and he added that “everyone should understand that the members stay in regular communication and meet as needed.” Yes, yes—everyone understands.