... Jeremy Hobson: Now you don't paint a very pretty picture of the relationship between the various regulators -- in particular, your relationship with the New York Fed, which was at the time headed by Timothy Geithner. What was the issue there with you and Geithner?
Bair: Well, I think Tim and I just had profoundly different ways of viewing the world. He, I think, viewed the large financial institutions as entities that needed to be supported, because he viewed them as central to the functioning economy. And I realized their importance to the economy, but I wanted them to have accountability.
In 2009, when the system was stabled, I wanted to launch programs that would have forced banks to cleanse their balance sheet; to sell off a lot of these bad assets. He was not particularly supportive of that approach. So there was little accountability, and also, I think our economy continues to suffer today because we just never dealt with a bloated, inefficient financial sector. We propped it up the way the Japanese did; we didn't have them take their medicine.
Hobson: Well do you think that looking back, then, that we are going to look back at the crisis and the government's response to the crisis, as a bunch of people acting honorably and selflessly and in the interest of the country; or that we will look back and see a rather pathetic picture of people acting in their own interest, or in the interest of these Wall Street firms?
Bair: I think we will look back and see a regulatory response and a Congressional response that was unwilling to show independence to these large financial institutions and that at the end of the day -- not withstanding the rhetoric -- implemented policies that were highly friendly to these institutions.
I don't think that's nefarious; I think it's a skewed perspective. I think Tim Geithner is an honorable person, and he did what he thought was right. But what he thought was right was saving institutions like Citigroup. He identified saving them with saving the country, and they are two very, very different things. ...
In a tweet, Zachary Goldfarb says:
Sheila Bair: "I don’t think helping home owners was ever a priority for" Geithner and Summers.
To repeat a complaint I've made many times, we had a balance sheet recession. In response, one set of balance sheets -- those of financial institutions -- received plenty of attention and help. Not so for household balance sheets, and that is one of the reasons the recovery remains so lethargic.
Beyond their policy disputes, it's clear Geithner and Bair just hated each other. Much have had an impact on quality of outcome.