Did Timothy Geithner Fire Economist Robert Shiller?

 
A couple of years ago I was reading Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner’s Wikipedia Bio.(1) I was surprised to read that Mr. Geithner served as a Treasury Department Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan during the early years of what has become known as “Japan’s Lost Decade” (A “Lost Decade” which is now approaching its second decade anniversary).(2)

It’s widely recognized that Japan’s “Lost Decade” was a consequence of the deflation of an asset bubble.* Since reading how Geithner was in a unique position to witness the formation and the consequences of a severe asset bubble, and because I believe he has no doubt followed the efforts of the Japanese Government to stimulate its way out of its economic doldrums, I’ve found Mr. Geithner’s policy positions a little strange.

For me, the strangeness of Treasury Secretary Geithner’s policies took on an even more strange dimension this morning.

This morning I was watching a video of a May 11, 2009 New Yorker Summit presentation of a conversation between Nassim Taleb, Robert Shiller(3) and Nick Paumgarten. At about 4.5 minutes into the video Robert Shiller describes how, after being on the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s “Academic Advisory Panel” for 14 years, Timothy Geithner ‘fired’ him (presumably for Shillers presentation to the panel on asset bubbles). Shiller’s ‘firing’ took place shortly after the first meeting of the "Academic Advisory Panel" after Geithner’s appointment as President of the New York Fed.

 * As much as most economists agree on anything, most economist’s attribute Japan’s “Lost Decade” to the [changed] wealth effect and loss of confidence which followed the late 80’s early ‘90’s bursting of the Japanese commercial real estate bubble, which had inflated excessively during the early-to-mid 1980’s.

I copied the portion of the longer video in which Professor Shiller describes what he interpreted as being fired by Timothy Geithner. If you are interested, you can see the video clip here:

The complete video of the May 11, 2009 New Yorker Summit discussion between Nassim Taleb, Robert Shiller and Nick Paumgarten can be found here:

Footnotes:
(1) Timothy Geithner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, at: http://www.bing.com/search?setmkt=en-US&q=Timothy+Geithner+Wikipedia
(2) Japan’s “Lost Decade” at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Decade_(Japan)
and Japan announces “new dimension” in quantitative easing wsws.org Saturday 6th April, 2013, at:
(3) Robert Shiller is an economics professor at Yale University. He is the author of a book Irrational Exuberance (published in 2000) which describes the role of excessive confidence in the development of economic bubbles. Professor Shiller expressed concern about the stock market bubble before that bubble burst bubble, and he was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, to warn us of the real estate bubble. He is co-developer of the S&P Case-Shiller Real Estate Price Indeces. [see, http://www.irrationalexuberance.com/definition.htm ]

Fraud at the GSE's?

I commented on an interesting article published September 14, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, How Greenspan Misread the Risks at Fannie and Freddie. It’s an article based upon an excerpt (written by James Hagerty) from his new book The Fateful History of Fannie Mae: New Deal Birth to Mortgage Crisis Fall By James R. Hagerty.

My Comment:

In December of 2011 the SEC filed lawsuits against several former executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the allegations in both of the two lawsuits is that former executives of Fannie and Freddie mis-categorized mortgage loans that were being bought by Fannie and Freddie and that they failed to inform investors and Fannie and Freddie’s regulator [The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight] of the true number (percentage and value) of Sub-Prime and Alt-A loans they purchased.

So, it’s not that shocking that most people who believed what Fannie and Freddie were telling them didn’t know of the significant default risk.

Only people like Michael Burry(2) Laurence Fink(3) John Paulson(4) and perhaps Stanford Kurland(5) who actually studied (or were aware of) the progressively diminishing mortgage qualification standards as the bubble formed, and who studied (or were aware of) the actual mortgage borrower income statistics, were prescient enough to become alarmed about Fannie and Freddie’s exposure to default risk.

Based upon what Fannie and Freddie were claiming as their mortgage loan quality, It should be no surprise that Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary, John Snow and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight [OFEO] were more concerned about the impact of credit rate risk and accounting fraud at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than they seem to have been about default risk.(6) 

Footnotes:

(1) Reference SEC Website SEC CHARGES FORMER FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC EXECUTIVES WITH SECURITIES FRAUD.  

(2) Reference, Betting on the Blind Side By Michael Lewis – pub. Vanity Fair Magazine | April 2010. 

(3) Reference, Inside the Trillionaires Club at BlackRock pub. Forbes Magazine August 17, 2009. From the article: 

LESSON 2: When investments get complex, do your homework: 

. . . In late 2006 the company developed a model that put a lower, more realistic number on the incomes subprime borrowers were claiming on their "no doc" loans. The projections were shocking: BlackRock figured that when the loans reset to their new, higher rates in a couple of years, most borrowers would be spending more than half their real incomes on mortgage payments. Foreseeing an avalanche of defaults, BlackRock dumped subprime bonds in early 2007 when the prices were still lofty.

(4) See, John Paulson, Trader Made Billions on Sub-Prime By Gregory Zuckerman pub. Wall Street Journal January 15, 2008. 

(5) See, Stanford Kurland - Former Countrywide No.2 Sees Opportunity in Troubled Mortgages By Matthew Padilla Orange County Register - June 10, 2008.   From the article:  

Q. How did this venture come about?

A. I was somewhat in a state of retirement. I left Countrywide in 2006 after 27 years. From the sidelines, I was watching the mortgage market meltdown and was in communication with associates of mine over what it was going to take to improve or revitalize the mortgage market. Wall Street firms were reaching out to me on whether I had an interest in participating with them. I got a call from the chairman of BlackRock, Laurence Fink, who asked if I would meet a group of executives who were talking about how to address issues in the mortgage market, and they were working with another company (Highfields Capital Management).
I was very receptive to talking to Larry Fink. We had grown up together and have been friends since grade school days.

Q. Where did you and Mr. Fink grow up?

A. We grew up in Van Nuys. That’s the valley. 

(6) See, YouTube video-clip, Timeline: George Bush, John McCain Warn Democrats of Housing Crisis, at: