Sheila Bair’s new book Bull by the Horns is out and based on early reports, it looks like it skewers the bailouts in general and Tim Geithner in particular. But it also gets a lot into the weeds in what still needs to be fixed in bank-land, which is a part of these crisis post-mortems and retrospectives that too often get short shrift.
Rolfe Winkler at the Wall Street Journal has an informative chat with her about the book and her experience during the crisis. Despite her understated demeanor, she says some pretty eye-opening stuff, for instance, that Geithner was on the phone all the time during the worst of the crisis with Citigroup chief Pandit, with the aim of end running her. She similarly gets in an adept dig at Geithner’s lack of oversight while at the NY Fed and his relationship with his mentor Bob Rubin who was then on Citi’s board,
fiddling while the bank burned pulling down over $10 million a year during his time with the bank. As William Cohan noted:
After he stepped away from Treasury in 1999, Rubin moved to Citigroup, and until 2009 he served as chairman of the executive committee and, briefly, chairman of the board of directors. On his watch, the federal government was forced to inject $45 billion of taxpayer money into the company and guarantee some $300 billion of illiquid assets. Taxpayers ended up with a 27 percent stake in Citigroup, which was sold in 2010 at a cumulative profit of $12 billion. Rubin gave up a portion of his contracted compensation–and was still paid around $126 million in cash and stock during a tenure in which his serenity has come to look a lot more like paralysis. “Nobody on this planet represents more vividly the scam of the banking industry,” says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan. “He made $120 million from Citibank, which was technically insolvent. And now we, the taxpayers, are paying for it.”
She also says that Andrew Ross Sorkin didn’t speak to her at all in his research on his book Too Big to Fail, which tried to depict Bair as “not a team player” (a kiss of death in big government jobs) and a grandstander.
I don’t want to give more away. There is more strong stuff here. Watch the interview:
Oh, and her book has a nice shout out to NC readers! And this should also tell you that signing petitions can actually be productive (hat tip Moe Tkacik):
I wish I could turn to it now, I won’t be able to read Bair’s book until the weekend. But it looks like she is determined to do what she can to press onward with her unfinished business from her days at the FDIC. I wish more soi disant public servants had this sort of resolve.