Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner accursed top regulators analytical of the administration’s financial-overhaul plan, the Journal reported. It’s not the aboriginal time Geithner has absolute his top with regulators, abnormally FDIC Administrator Sheila Bair. In this extract from his new book “In Fed We Trust,” Journal economics editor David Wessel recounts the ball surrounding the unwinding of Wachovia:
The Fed advised but ultimately alone authoritative an “unusual and exigent” loan. Wachovia was a bank, and the law provided a alley map for arresting with the collapse of a big bank. The alone rub was that it meant ambidextrous with [FDIC Chairman] Sheila Bair. They absitively to do it anyhow.
Bair capital to do to Wachovia what she’d done to WaMu — booty it over, advertise the pieces, and clean out stockholders and bondholders. Afterwards all, any losses that the FDIC had to absorb to accomplishment Wachovia would accept to be adjourned beyond the absolute cyberbanking arrangement in college premiums on FDIC drop insurance.
“I don’t anticipate that the baby banks should accept to pay for the sins of the big banks,” she said.
[Then New York Fed President] Geithner blew up. Wachovia has to accessible on Monday, he argued. It charge be awash this weekend, the client needs government assistance, and the debt holders charge to be protected. “It has to be this way,” he said. “We aloof went to Congress for $700 billion. The action of the U.S. government is that there will be no added WaMu’s.”
Don Kohn, the calm, beeline ballista who was the Fed’s carnality chairman, mediated. Eventually, Bair acquiesced; and the Fed, the Treasury, and the FDIC declared Wachovia to be “systemically important,” the aboriginal such acknowledgment aback Congress allowable the angle in 1991. Wachovia was, afterwards all, the fourth-largest coffer in the country, and if that didn’t accomplish it systemically important, again what did? The admiral agreed to accommodate “open coffer assistance” — subsidizing the takeover of a coffer afore it formally bootless — for the aboriginal time aback 1992. Bair alleged Wachovia’s [CEO Bob] Steel to acquaint him that the FDIC would be auctioning off his aggregation that night.
[But the bargain action wasn’t a bland one. Citigroup and Wells Fargo were both suitors. Bair initially chose Citigroup, and a accord was announced. But one day later, Wells Fargo came aback with a counteroffer. The new angle got the FDIC off the hook, and Bair accustomed it. A new accord amid Wells Fargo and Wachovia was unveiled, aloof four canicule afterwards the Citigroup-Wachovia announcement.]
Geithner was ballistic over the about-face. This was bad for Citigroup, a big and afflicted coffer that was badly important to the system. Admitting his detractors saw attention Citi as his capital concern, Geithner argued that the about-face to Wells Fargo would abort the government’s believability in acid Sunday-night deals to advertise declining institutions. “You cannot run a government in a banking crisis like this,” said Geithner. “You can’t let bodies rebid every time the apple changes.”
Bair, though, ashore with Wells Fargo, and added Fed admiral were afraid — accepting angry Wachovia over to her — to try to booty it back. Citi admiral were understandably livid. [Citigroup CEO Vikram] Pandit alleged Geithner, who got Warsh on the phone; a brace of Pandit’s top lieutenants aing the call. Not alone had they absent Wachovia, but they additionally now looked like coffer admiral who couldn’t accommodate an closed alliance agreement.
David Wessel will be answering questions from readers aing anniversary on the Fed, the banking crisis and “In Fed We Trust.” Submit questions in the animadversion area or accelerate an email to [email protected]
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