My TIME colleague Massimo Calabresi reports that:
Though Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congressional leaders Tuesday he only learned of the impending $160 million bonus payments to members of AIG’s troubled financial products unit March 10, sources tell TIME that the New York Federal Reserve informed Treasury staff that the payments were imminent on February 28. That is 10 days before Treasury staffers say they first learned “full details” of the bonus plan, and three days before the Administration launched a new $30 billion infusion of cash for AIG.
Massimo goes on to say that Treasury staffers seem to have failed to pass the news on to Geithner. But here’s what I don’t get. Bloomberg’s Hugh Son reported way back on January 27 that the bonuses were coming (I learned this yesterday from Michael Scherer). In other words, it was already public knowledge. Geithner apparently missed the news, perhaps understandable given that he’d just been confirmed the day before. But couldn’t somebody on Treasury staff or at the White House or on Capitol Hill have brought it to his attention? Rep. Elijah Cummings and Senator Dick Shelby both must have known about the Bloomberg story—they were quoted in it. Couldn’t they have started turning on the outrage a little earlier, back before the bonuses were paid?
My own thought: Geithner simply hasn’t seen stuff like the AIG bonuses as a priority. He figured his priority was fixing the banking system, and the bonuses were a side issue. This explains why the man would never be able to get elected to office. I don’t think it necessarily makes him a bad Treasury secretary. A lot of people in Washington disagree with me on that. But it’s not like any of them acted on the information available on the AIG bonuses in a timely fashion either.