When Banks Call, Government Listens


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Who's running our government? If you answered Citigroup (Stock Quote: C), JPMorgan (Stock Quote: JPM) and Goldman Sachs (Stock Quote: GS), you may well be right.

Despite the tough talk on reigning in the power of the nation's biggest banks, President Obama's point man on financial regulation, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, appears to be at the beck and call of the heads of those three major banks.

When Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon and Citi's Richard Parsons and Vikram Pandit are on the line, Geithner picks up the phone, according to a review of phone records by the Associated Press.

Geithner's calendar shows at least 80 contacts with Blankfein, Dimon, Parsons and Pandit during his first seven months as treasury secretary, according to the AP.

What about Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC), you may ask? Not so much. The AP found only three mentions of BofA's Ken Lewis.

Morgan Stanley (Stock Quote: MS) doesn't appear to have much clout either, since John Mack's name only came up three times as well.

The outrage is not so much that the treasury secretary of the United States is in contact with major banking executives -- it would be a problem if he wasn't -- but when three banks are getting all the attention it does raise a few eyebrows.

Considering the government owns a big chunk of Citi, we could make allowances for a little extra attention on that front. But Goldman and JPMorgan repaid taxpayers for the Troubled Asset Relief Funds they received.

Do they still warrant more influence than Bank of America or Morgan Stanley or Wells Fargo (Stock Quote: WFC), etc, etc? Wells Fargo didn't even merit a mention.

This looks bad. Even if Geithner is just seeking counsel from the nation's top bankers, it creates the appearance of undue influence. Who determined that these are the top bankers anyway?

These revelations open the Obama Administration up to charges of pandering to special interests.

At best, we can conclude that it's back to business as usual in Washington.

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