|July 17, 2012
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has so far escaped responsibility for the spreading Libor fixing scandal by releasing documents showing that when he became aware of the problem in 2008, as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he made recommendations to address it.
"The New York Fed analysis culminated in a set of recommendations to reform LIBOR, which was finalized in late May. On June 1, 2008, Mr. Geithner emailed Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, a report, entitled 'Recommendations for Enhancing the Credibility of LIBOR,'" a Fed statement released Friday reads. "As is clear from the work culminating in the report to Mr. King of the Bank of England, the New York Fed helped to identify problems related to LIBOR and press the relevant authorities in the UK to reform this London-based rate."
With that, Geithner earned a rash of headlines focused on his foresight, as well as criticism for the cozy relationship between regulators and bankers that had led to the controversy.
But the Fed, along with its statement, also released the staff work that led to the recommendations. Those documents reveal that the recommendations Geithner sent to London did not come from staff, but rather were proposed by major banks and more or less forwarded on verbatim.
The policy recommendations Geithner forwarded in an attachment on June 1 first appear in a staff memo dated May 20 that reads: "A variety of changes aimed at enhancing LIBOR's credibility has been proposed by market participants, and seem to be under consideration by the BBA. These proposed changes include, but are not limited to..."A comparison between Geithner's recommendations and those put forward by "market participants" -- shorthand for banks -- makes it clear that Fed staff asked banks how to fix the problem, then presented those answers as their own.