WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday as frustration grows over the Obama administration's faltering plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation, according to people familiar with the meeting.
The proposed regulatory revamp is one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities. But since it was unveiled in June, the plan has been criticized by the financial-services industry, as well as by financial regulators wary of encroachment on their turf.
Mr. Geithner told the regulators Friday that "enough is enough," said one person familiar with the meeting. Mr. Geithner said regulators had been given a chance to air their concerns, but that it was time to stop, this person said.
Among those gathered in the Treasury conference room were Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair.
Friday's roughly hour-long meeting was described as unusual, not only because of Mr. Geithner's repeated use of obscenities, but because of the aggressive posture he took with officials from federal agencies generally considered independent of the White House. Mr. Geithner reminded attendees that the administration and Congress set policy, not the regulatory agencies.
Mr. Geithner, without singling out officials, raised concerns about regulators who questioned the wisdom of giving the Federal Reserve more power to oversee the financial system. Ms. Schapiro and Ms. Bair, among others, have argued that more authority should be shared among a council of regulators.
"You are talking about tremendous regulatory power being invested in whatever this entity is going to be," Ms. Bair told the Senate Banking Committee last month. "And I think, in terms of checks and balances, it's also helpful to have multiple views being expressed and coming to a consensus."
Bair testified yesterday in front of the Senate committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and she probably caused Geithner's blood pressure to shoot through the roof. Oh well! I'm a big fan of hers and I appreciate her consistent support of workers and small business.