Yesterday we broke the news of what is prima facie evidence, sourced by none other than the Federal Reserve’s official August 16, 2007 conference call transcript, that then-NY Fed president and FOMC Vice Chairman Tim Geithner leaked material, non-public, and very much market moving information (the “Geithner Leak”) to at least one banker, in this case then Bank of America CEO Ken Leiws, in advance of a formal Fed announcement – an act explicitly prohibited by virtually every capital markets law (and reading thereof).
It was refreshing to see that at least several other mainstream outlets, including Reuters, The Hill and the NYT, carried this story which is far more significant than Season 1 of Lance Armstrong’s produced theatrical confession and rating bonanza. It is notable that Richmond Fed’s Jeff Lacker who made the inadvertent (or very much advertent) disclosure has not backed down from his prior allegation and told the NYT yesterday that “My understanding was that President Geithner had discussed a reduction in the discount rate with these banks in connection with these initiatives.” What, however, the mainstream media has not touched upon, yet, is just how profound the market response to the Geithner Leak was, and by implication, how much money those who were aware of what the Fed was about to do made. Perhaps, it should because as we show below, the implications were staggering. But perhaps what is even more relevant, is why the Fed’s previously disclosed details of Mr. Geithner’s daily actions at the time, have exactly no mention of any of this.
Before we get into the prime of today’s narrative, a quick detour.
For those who may not remember, early August 2007 was a very tumultuous time in the markets. On one hand, it marked the all time highs of the S&P. On the other, August is when the cracks in the facade started to become apparent to all, even the Fed, following what is now known as the quant meltdown, in which quantitative strategies suddenly stopped working and led to a brief but notable market crash, one which caught the Fed’s attention.
The immediate result of this major market swoon was not one, but two ad hoc FOMC conference calls, the first on August 10, and the second on August 16. The first one was more of a brainstorming session held at 8:45 am on Friday, in advance of a 9:15 generic market supporting statement by the Fed (full text here), whose purpose was, in the words of Chairman Bernanke, that “we’re just saying that we are here, we are going to try to maintain the fed funds rate at 5¼ percent, we will provide adequate reserves, and we’re going to try to work against any remaining stigma associated with borrowing at the discount window.”