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Lew joined Citi on the recommendation of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who was then chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee. Rubin knew Lew from their time together in the Clinton administration.
Outside of Washington policy circles, Lew is little known. A number of financial officials in Asia and Europe drew a blank when asked by Reuters for their appraisal.
“People in the know should know a person who has served as OMB (Office of Management and Budget) chief. To me he is a total stranger,” said one official of a Group of 20 nation.
As Treasury secretary, Lew will not only have to represent the United States on the global stage, but he will have to deal with a host of tricky international economic problems from the challenges presented by China’s growing economic clout to Europe’s debt crisis.
One euro zone official involved in fighting the region’s debt problems said he was encouraged by Obama’s pick.
“The sign it sends is that (the United States) will be serious about the deficit and fiscal policy since (Lew) is an experienced fiscal policy specialist,” the official said.
If confirmed, Lew would come to the Treasury Department at a critical time for regulation. The Treasury secretary is essentially a regulator-in-chief who chairs the relatively new Financial Stability Oversight Council, a panel comprised of the country’s top banking and market regulators.
As chairman, he would have the authority to veto any FSOC initiative, even if all of the other members disagree.