First Traitor who wants out: Tim Geithner considers leaving U.S. Treasury

Bloomberg
June 30, 2011

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has signaled to White House officials that he’s considering leaving the administration after President Barack Obama reaches an agreement with Congress to raise the federal debt limit, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Geithner said speculation about his departure was being driven by his decision to commute to New York so his son can finish his final year of high school there.

“I live for this work,” he said at the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I believe in it. We have a lot of challenges as a country. I’m going to be doing it for the foreseeable future.”

Geithner hasn’t made a final decision and won’t do so until the debt-ceiling issue has been resolved, according to one of the people. All spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about private discussions.

The Treasury secretary has said the U.S. risks defaulting on its obligations if Congress doesn’t raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2. The administration and Republicans in Congress are at an impasse in negotiations to raise the limit, which is tied to efforts to cut the nation’s long-term deficit.

Moody’s Investors Service said on June 2 that it expects to place the U.S. government’s Aaa credit rating under review for a possible downgrade if there’s no progress on the debt limit by mid-July. Fitch Ratings said June 21 it would place the U.S. on a negative rating watch if no action is taken by Aug. 2.

Completing the Turnover

An exit by Geithner would complete the turnover in Obama’s original economic team, with Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee scheduled to leave in early August to return to the University of Chicago.

That would leave Obama with two key posts to fill as Republicans are seeking to turn the 2012 election into a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy and as the recovery is slowing. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent in May, according to the Labor Department, and the economy grew at a 1.9 percent pace in the first quarter, according to Commerce Department figures released June 24.

Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, declined to comment.

“Geithner leaving may raise the level of uncertainty for the direction of economic policy, and that is never a positive thing for the markets and the recovery,” said Christopher Sullivan, who oversees $1.7 billion as chief investment officer at the United Nations Federal Credit Union in New York.

‘Shock Value’

Still, he said, it wouldn’t have too much “shock value,” especially if Geithner remains at Treasury until the debt ceiling is settled, “which is the most pressing concern anyone would have.”

Treasuries fell for a fourth day as stocks rose and a measure of U.S. business activity improved. The yield on the 10- year note climbed five basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 3.16 percent at 5:14 p.m. in New York.

Investors may be more interested in who would come after Geithner.

“The question in cases like this is always who will be the replacement,” said Jay Mueller, who manages about $3 billion of bonds at Wells Fargo Capital Management in Milwaukee. “You can’t judge if this is good or bad for the market until you see who follows.”

The market was “comfortable” with Geithner because he was “a visible player in trying to blunt the crisis,” Mueller said.

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U.S. Treasury asks for $2 Trillion more for Debt Ceiling

Reuters
May 4, 2011

The Treasury has told lawmakers a roughly $2 trillion rise in the legal limit on federal debt would be needed to ensure the government can keep borrowing through the 2012 presidential election, sources with knowledge of the discussions said.

Obama administration officials have repeatedly said that it is up to Congress to decide by how much the $14.3 trillion debt limit should be raised.

But when lawmakers asked how much of an increase would be needed to meet the government’s obligations into early 2013, Treasury officials floated the $2 trillion working figure, Senate and administration sources told Reuters.

Former Treasury officials have said it is routine for Congress to ask the Treasury Department for guidance. Republican leaders have asked the White House to provide the size of any proposed increase before the two sides sit down on Thursday to discuss the debt limit face-to-face.

“We have not specified an amount or a time frame. We think that should be left up to Congress,” Mary Miller, Treasury’s assistant secretary for financial markets, told reporters on Wednesday.

She also said it would be better to raise the debt ceiling enough so that the government does not bump up against it so frequently.

“Obviously, a longer period of time between these activities would be beneficial in terms of the work that goes into preparing for a debt limit increase. But again, you know that’s not the Treasury’s call,” she said.

A Reuters analysis of Treasury’s borrowing needs forecast Congress would have to raise the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion to get through next year’s election without having to revisit the issue. According to the Treasury, the government borrows on average about $125 billion per month.

Derivatives Markets will continue to operate without oversight

3M and Cargill are on the list of corporations that asked to be exempted from recently passed laws.

AP

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has decided to let companies continue to trade certain contracts used to guard against swings in currency values outside regulators’ view.

New rules require that many such trades happen more transparently, on exchanges where regulators can see them. But Geithner is exempting certain contracts used by companies to hedge currency rates.

The new financial overhaul law authorized Geithner to carve out such an exemption to stricter regulation.

Business groups argue that tighter oversight of such contracts would be costly and unnecessary. But critics, including some regulators, counter that the whole market for financial contracts called over-the-counter derivatives should face stricter supervision.

The value of derivatives hinges on an underlying investment, such as currencies, stocks or mortgages. Speculators who used over-the-counter derivatives helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis.

Sen. Carl Levin, who pushed for tighter regulation after the crisis, said Geithner’s decision might open the door for lax oversight in the future.

Treasury’s top markets official said the contracts already include many of the safeguards the new rules impose. Investors can find information on the price for each contract, for example. Some of the contracts are traded on electronic platforms, which are less likely to freeze up after an unexpected financial shock.

Imposing new rules would mean “introducing an additional process into what is a very well-functioning market today, and you would be putting more steps into the settlement process,” said Mary Miller, assistant Treasury secretary for financial markets.

Miller argued that even with the exemption, the market will become more transparent. Companies will have to report the contracts in real time, after they make a trade. The information will go to central databanks that regulators can see.

Still, the contracts, called foreign-exchange swaps, wouldn’t be subject to other requirements that experts say would make them more transparent.

The contracts that Geithner carved out account for about $30 trillion of the $600 trillion global market for over-the-counter derivatives, Treasury said. The new, tougher rules will apply to currency swaps, options and other contracts used for similar purposes.

Multinational corporations such as Cargill and 3M argued for the exemption. They said the new rules would have raised their costs, thereby limiting their ability to grow and create jobs.

Advocates of tighter regulation say closer oversight is needed at each stage of the process — before, during and after a trade. They say the exemptions will make some types of trades harder to oversee.

Michael Greenberger, a former official with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is responsible for policing much of the derivatives market, disputed Treasury’s main defense of the exemption — that the contracts expire so fast that they don’t pose serious risks to the financial system.

“Within the next 60 months, there will be a systemic break in this market, said Greenberger, now a law professor at the University of Maryland.

The decision technically is a proposal. Treasury will accept public comments for 30 days before finalizing the exemption.