By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009
H. Rodgin Cohen, chairman of the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, has withdrawn his name from consideration for deputy Treasury secretary, becoming the fourth pick for a prominent Treasury Department post to pull out in recent weeks.
A prominent attorney who has advised many of the top Wall Street firms, Cohen dropped out after the White House found an issue during his vetting process, two sources familiar with the matter said. The sources declined to identify the reason. Cohen did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Though the Treasury is filling its lower-level positions, the thin ranks on the senior levels are taking a toll on the department's ability to deal with a financial crisis that continues to deepen in scope and complexity, government and industry officials say.
Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary for the British government, was quoted this week in British news reports saying it has been "unbelievably difficult" to talk to people at the U.S. Treasury: "There is nobody there."
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Wednesday during a briefing with reporters that he was "a little surprised" when told of the comments. He added that he has been working closely with British officials and had not heard of any communication problems.
Treasury officials say the staffing shortage has not hindered their ability to address the financial crisis. In just over a month, the department has announced a "stress test" to capitalize banks in case the economy worsens, a plan to aid homeowners and an initiative to restart the consumer lending markets. Treasury officials also played a key role on the federal budget announced last month and are working on a plan to tackle the toxic assets clogging the books of banks as well as a plan to overhaul financial regulation.
Others who removed themselves from consideration in recent weeks include Annette Nazareth, an attorney who was being considered for the deputy post; Lee Sachs, a former Treasury official in the Clinton administration, who was expected to be the under secretary for domestic finance; and International Monetary Fund official Caroline Atkinson, who was in line for under secretary for international affairs.
Lael Brainard, deputy national economic adviser under Clinton who was set to take a post at the State Department, instead is expected to be nominated as Treasury under secretary for international affairs, administration officials have said.