Lack of Scrutiny for Geithner Aides

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Al-Jazeera-English

Lack of Scrutiny for Geithner Aides

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner smiles as he talks with attendees in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 9, 2009, before President Barack Obama spoke about the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, regulatory reform and the financial markets. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Aides
to the US treasury secretary who each earned large pay packets working
for some of the country's largest investment companies have been
advising the administration on its regulatory policy, despite never
having faced senate confirmation.

None of the aides to Timothy Geithner have faced the public scrutiny
given to senate-confirmed appointees, despite earning massive sums from
Wall Street firms, nor are they required to testify in US congress to
defend or explain the treasury's actions.

Geithner's
"kitchen cabinet" has helped oversee the nation's $700bn banking
rescue, as well as helping to draw up executive pay rules and revamp
financial regulations.

According to financial disclosure forms obtained by the Bloomberg
news agency, advisers including Lee Sachs, from Mariner Investment
Group, and Gene Sperling, from Goldman Sachs, earned hundreds of
thousands of dollars last year.

Barack
Obama, the US president, has been extremely critical of Wall Street,
blaming its high-risk, high-earning ethos for helping to bring about
the global financial crisis.

But many treasury officials have been recruited from the financial world because of their expertise.

'Big mistakes '

James Gardner, a journalist and senior fellow at Demos, a public
policy research group, warned the high number of former Wall Street
employees working in the administration was affecting policy making.

"Goldman Sachs alone is almost the training ground for the treasury department and the federal reserve," he told Al Jazeera.

"One of the big mistakes that the Obama administration has made was
in its choice of economic advisers - in relying so heavily on the big
banks and Wall Street alumni.

"It's impossible for those folks to look at policies that effect
their old companies with any detachment. Meanwhile, those same
companies have tremendous political influence through campaign
contributions."

Transparency concerns

Robin Amlot, managing editor of the Banker Middle East
magazine, said: "I think the issue that is biting people is that they
[Geithner's aides] have not gone through scrutiny by congress.

"They're in a position where they don't need to present themselves
to be gone under a microscope by the House of Representatives, by the
senate, and 'cleared' as it were," he said, speaking to Al Jazeera from
Dubai.

"But what they have done, and I think we should stress this point,
is that they have all promised ... to have no contact with their firms
for at least a year.

"It is rather unfortunate ... that the claims of the Obama
presidency towards a new dawn and a new transparency have run up
against what appears to go on in the real world.

"It is something of a problem."

The disclosure comes as the latest revenue estimates by the Wall Street Journal newspaper
suggested that some of the biggest US banks and securities firms are on
course to pay their employees about $140bn in bonuses this year.

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