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Profile: Timothy Geithner

New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner in Congress, July 2008
Timothy Geithner is no stranger to the US Treasury

Young but with a wealth of experience in salvaging America's financial markets, Timothy Geithner was seen by many as the ideal candidate for the post of Barack Obama's Treasury secretary, in which he has now been confirmed.

As head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the 47-year-old was instrumental in shaping the Bush administration's response to the banking crisis.

He played a pivotal role in the intense negotiations which took place before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and also helped forge the deals involving AIG and JP Morgan.

A proponent of major reform in the financial system in order to avoid further turbulence, he is no stranger to the Treasury, where he served as under-secretary for international affairs towards the end of the Clinton administration.

Before joining the Federal Reserve of New York, he also worked for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

When his name surfaced as a real contender for the Treasury job on 21 November, the Dow Jones index rose by more than 6%.

But his Senate confirmation was delayed due to concerns Mr Geithner had failed to pay taxes on time some years ago.

He appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to apologise for what he called "careless mistakes" in failing to pay $34,000 (24,500) in taxes he owed until shortly before he was nominated.

The Senate finally approved his nomination, by 60 votes to 34, on 26 January.

The supervisor

Mr Geithner (his name is pronounced Gite-ner) joined the Treasury in 1988 and worked his way up to become under-secretary, serving under Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers.

You have to realise... we live for these kinds of crises
Timothy Geithner
talking to a friend in June about his work at the Fed

After spells at the Council on Foreign Relations and the IMF, he was named president of the New York Fed in November 2003.

In this post, he served as vice-chairman, and a permanent voting member, of the US central bank's policy-setting committee.

While he had already made an impression in Washington and on Wall Street, he boosted his standing still further this year as the Fed and the Treasury fought to stave off a full financial meltdown brought on by subprime mortgage-lending.

However, some have accused him of allowing Lehman Brothers to file for bankruptcy in September.

Mr Geithner has argued that the weaknesses exposed in America's financial system must be addressed swiftly, with the Federal Reserve taking the lead in supervising US financial institutions.

"You will not have good judgments made by this central bank, this Federal Reserve, in the future unless we have the direct knowledge that comes with supervision," he said in testimony to Congress in July.

Mould-breaker

Reuters news agency notes in a profile of Timothy Geithner that he breaks the mould for recent Treasury chiefs in some senses, since he has neither worked directly on Wall Street nor headed a corporation.

But this, it points out, may be in his favour as the Obama administration is expected to seek an overhaul of the financial regulatory architecture.

As well as his negotiating skills, he has a reputation for relishing tough challenges.

Justin Rudelson, a friend from student days at Dartmouth College, told the Associated Press news agency that when he asked Timothy Geithner in June whether he was getting enough sleep, he replied:

"Justin, you have to realise, we live for this. We live for these kinds of crises."

A native of New York, Mr Geithner has an undergraduate degree in government and Asian studies from Dartmouth, and a graduate degree in international economics from Johns Hopkins University.

He has studied Japanese and Chinese, and lived in East Africa, India, Thailand, China, and Japan.

Timothy Geithner is married with two children.

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