Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner discusses his book Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises during the Politico Playbook Lunch at The Hamilton May 19, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After Long Career Bailing Out Big Banks, Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner Now Runs Predatory Firm That Exploits the Poor for Profit

"Your economy, rigged to redistribute wealth to the top."

Jake Johnson

After a lengthy government career defined by his central role in bailing out predatory Wall Street banks as former President Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner appears to have found his true calling in the private sector, where he now heads a large financial institution that exploits the economic struggles of poor Americans for profit.

"This industry is a pipeline to transfer money from the poor to the ultra-rich. Your economy, rigged to redistribute wealth to the top."
—Ben Wikler, MoveOn.org
As president of Warburg Pincus—a major New York private equity firm—Geithner helps manage a lucrative predatory lending outfit called Mariner Finance, which mass-mails loan checks to low-income Americans, hides exorbitant interest rates in the fine print, and quickly sues those who fail to repay the loan and interest in time, according to a detailed Washington Post report published late Sunday.

"It's basically a way of monetizing poor people," John Lafferty, who worked as a manager trainee at a Mariner Finance branch in Nashville, told the Post. "Maybe at the beginning, people thought these loans could help people pay their electric bill. But it has become a cash cow."

Part of the burgeoning "consumer installment" industry—which consists of firms that offer slightly larger loans than payday lenders—Mariner Finance has hundreds of thousands of customers who, often in desparation, use the loans to cover soaring medical costs, home repairs, and other urgent expenses.

Given that in our "new gilded age" 40 percent of Americans can't afford a $400 emergency payment, the market for predatory lenders like Mariner Finance is vast and growing.

"This industry is a pipeline to transfer money from the poor to the ultra-rich," Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org, wrote in response to the Post's report on Sunday. "Obama's treasury secretary Tim Geithner is president of one of the private equity firms making a killing from it. Your economy, rigged to redistribute wealth to the top."

In one illustrative case detailed by the Post, Barbara Williams—a 72-year-old retired school custodian—cashed a $2,539 loan check from Mariner to pay for dental work and hospital bills that had mounted after "three mini-strokes and pneumonia."

"In a just world, Geithner would be shamed out of society and forced to beg for scraps after a story like this was published. Instead, he'll keep making millions."
—Libby Watson, Splinter

"Within a few months, Mariner suggested she borrow another $500, and she did," the Post reports. "She paid more than $350 for fees and insurance on the loan, according to the loan documents. The interest rate was 30 percent."

After Williams fell behind on her payments, Mariner sued and "won court judgment against her in April for $3,852, including $632 in fees for Mariner's attorney."

Reacting to the Post's reporting—which also revealed how Mariner harasses customers and their relatives with phone calls if they're late on payments—Splinter's Libby Watson wrote: "In a just world, Geithner would be shamed out of society and forced to beg for scraps after a story like this was published. Instead, he'll keep making millions—while people like Barbara Williams are forced to take out predatory loans to pay their hospital bills."

While Mariner refused to say how many loan checks it mails out to vulnerable Americans, the Post estimates that "the number is probably in the millions"—meaning there are likely countless others with stories similar to Williams'.

"Were there a few loans that actually helped people? Yes," concluded an anonymous former branch manager in an interview with the Post. "Were 80 percent of them predatory? Probably."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Fears of Escalation as Ukraine Answers Russian Missile Onslaught With Strike Deep Inside Invader's Territory

Ukrainian drones bombed two air bases more than 300 miles inside Russia, reportedly killing three soldiers, wounding four others, and damaging multiple warplanes.

Brett Wilkins ·


Patient Groups Push Congress to Combat Big Pharma Greed in Spending Bill

"As Congress works toward finalizing an end-of-year budget package, we urge the chambers to include bipartisan legislation to address abuse of the Food and Drug Administration's citizen petition process in order to reduce drug prices and save the government hundreds of millions of dollars."

Brett Wilkins ·


10,000+ Sign Open Letter Demanding Biden Order Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers

"No one, especially in the world's richest nation, should have to choose between forgoing pay or working through severe illness and family emergencies," says The Lever's letter.

Jessica Corbett ·


Right-Wing SCOTUS Majority Signals Support for Anti-LGBTQ+ Reactionaries

"It does not bode well for the future of civil rights law that Gorsuch believes a state imposes 'reeducation training' on employers when it reminds them how to comply with nondiscrimination rules," said one court observer.

Julia Conley ·


Report Reveals Corporate Capture of Global Biodiversity Efforts Ahead of SummitjessicaDec 5, 2022
red panda
"Their 'solutions' are carefully crafted in order to not undermine their business models; ultimately they do nothing for the environment," said one Friends of the Earth campaigner.
Common Dreams Logo