Robert Rubin United States Secretary of the Treasury

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Robert Rubin
Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations
In office
June 30, 2007 – July 1, 2017
Serving with Carla Hills
PresidentRichard Haass
Preceded byPeter George Peterson
Succeeded byDavid Rubenstein
70th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
January 11, 1995 – July 2, 1999
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byLloyd Bentsen
Succeeded byLarry Summers
1st Director of the National Economic Council
In office
January 25, 1993 – January 11, 1995
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byLaura Tyson
Personal details
Robert Edward Rubin

(1938-08-29) August 29, 1938 (age 82)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Judith Oxenberg

Robert Edward Rubin (born August 29, 1938) is an American retired banking executive, lawyer, and former U.S. presidential cabinet member. He served as the 70th United States Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration. Before his government service, he spent 26 years at Goldman Sachs, eventually serving as a member of the board and co-chairman from 1990 to 1992.

During the Clinton administration, Rubin oversaw the loosening of financial industry underwriting guidelines which had been in place since the 1930s.[1] His post-government role includes serving as director and senior counselor of Citigroup, where he performed advisory and representational roles for the firm.[2] From November to December 2007, he served temporarily as chairman of Citigroup[3][4] and resigned from the company on January 9, 2009. He received more than $126 million in cash and stock during his tenure at Citigroup,[5] up through and including Citigroup's bailout by the U.S. Treasury.

As of today, he is active in several organizations and is a senior counselor at an investment banking advisory firm.

Family, education, and early career

Rubin was born on August 29, 1938, in New York City[6] to Jewish parents Sylvia (née Seiderman) and Alexander Rubin.[7][8] He moved to Miami Beach, Florida, at an early age and graduated from Miami Beach High School.[9][10] In 1960, Rubin graduated with an A.B. summa cum laude in economics from Harvard College.[11] He then attended Harvard Law School for three days before leaving to see the world.[12] He later attended the London School of Economics and received an LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1964.[11]

Rubin was an attorney at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York City from 1964-1966[11] before joined Goldman Sachs in 1966 as an associate in the risk arbitrage department. He later ran their stock and bond trading departments and became co-chairman in 1990.[12]

In the Center for Arts and Culture's 2007 board of directors profile page, the profile of Judith O. Rubin read she is married to Robert Rubin and they have two grown sons together, James and Philip.[13] The Rubins were long time members of Temple Beth Sholom on Miami Beach.[14]

Clinton administration

From January 25, 1993, to January 10, 1995, Rubin served in the White House as Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. In that capacity, he directed the National Economic Council, which Bill Clinton created after winning the presidency.[15] The National Economic Council, or NEC, enabled the White House to coordinate closely the workings of the Cabinet departments and agencies on policies ranging from budget and tax to international trade and alleviating poverty. The NEC coordinated policy recommendations going into the President's office, and monitored implementation of the decisions that came out.[4] Robert S. Strauss credited Rubin with making the system work. "He's surely the only man or woman in America that I know who could make the NEC succeed," Strauss said in 1994. "Anyone else would have been a disruptive force, and the council wouldn't have worked."[16]

1993 Deficit Reduction Act

Rubin encouraged Clinton to focus on deficit reduction[17] and he was "one of the chief architects" of Clinton's 1993 Deficit Reduction Act plan.[18] Supporters said the Act helped create the late 1990s budget surplus and strong economic growth, while opponents noted it raised taxes.[18][19] As officials deliberated the deficit reduction plan, Rubin advocated for tax increases on those in the upper-income tax bracket.[20] The Baltimore Sun said that the budget deal "was critical" and "convinced nervous bond traders that the new Democratic president was serious about the deficit, lowering long-term interest rates, spurring economic growth and, ultimately, helping to balance the budget."[17]

Secretary of the Treasury

Clinton nominated Rubin as Treasury secretary in December 1994. On January 10, 1995, Rubin was sworn in as the 70th United States Secretary of the Treasury after the U.S. Senate confirmed him in a 99-0 vote.[21][22] Rubin's tenure with the Clinton administration, especially as the head of Treasury, was marked by economic prosperity in the U.S. Rubin is credited as one of the main individuals behind U.S. economic growth, creating near full-employment and bullish stock markets while avoiding inflation.[12] From the time he joined the White House until he announced his resignation from Treasury in 1999, U.S. unemployment fell from 6.9 percent to 4.3 percent; the U.S. budget went from a $255 billion deficit to a $70 billion surplus, and inflation fell.[17][23] Rubin was succeeded in early July 1999 as Treasury secretary by his deputy, Lawrence Summers.[24]

According to CNN Money, Rubin was "one of the architects of the Clinton administration's economic policy, and is often credited—along with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan—for the booming eight-year economic expansion, the second-longest in U.S. history". [25]

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called Rubin "an ideal public servant who put policy before politics."[26] At the time of Rubin's resignation, Clinton called Rubin the "greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton."[27]

1990s international crises

Upon being sworn into office as Treasury secretary in January 1995, Rubin was confronted with the Mexican peso crisis, which threatened to result in Mexico defaulting on its foreign obligations.[28] President Bill Clinton, with the advice of Rubin and Greenspan, provided $20 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to the Mexican government through the Exchange Stabilization Fund.[19][28][29] Mexico recovered and the U.S. Treasury made a $580 million profit as a result of the loan agreement.[29][30]

In 1997 and 1998, Rubin, Greenspan, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Summers worked with the International Monetary Fund and others to promote U.S. policy in response to financial crises in Russian, Asian, and Latin American financial markets. On the cover of its February 15, 1999 edition, Time Magazine dubbed the three policymakers "The Committee to Save the World".[19]

Balanced budget agreement

Early in the Clinton administration, Rubin touted a balanced budget and a strong dollar as a way for the Fed to lower interest rates.[31] He also argued that a balanced federal budget's broad benefits to society outweighed concerns that one group could benefit more than others.[32] Rubin was the Clinton administration's chief negotiator with a Republican-controlled Congress on the balanced-budget deal.[17][33] The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 has been referred to as the "capstone" of Rubin's tenure as Treasury secretary.[34]

Economic record and the 2008 global financial crisis

Upon Rubin's retirement, Clinton called him the "greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton". On April 18, 2010, in an interview on ABC's This Week program, Clinton said Rubin was wrong in the advice he gave him not to regulate derivatives.[35] Following the interview, Clinton's assistant Doug Band reaffirmed those statements saying Clinton still wished he had pursued legislation to regulate derivatives while confirming that he still believed he had received excellent advice on the economy and the financial system from Rubin and others during his presidency.[36]

"During his tenure as Treasury Secretary", Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said, "Bob was an ideal public servant who put policy before politics."[37]

In 1997, Rubin and Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan strongly opposed giving the Commodity Futures Trading Commission oversight of over-the-counter credit derivatives when this was proposed by Brooksley Born, the head of the CFTC. Rubin's role was highlighted in a Public Broadcasting Service Frontline report, "The Warning".[38] Over-the-counter credit derivatives were eventually excluded from regulation by the CFTC by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. According to the Frontline documentary, they played a key role in the 2008 financial crisis.

Arthur Levitt Jr., a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has said in explaining Rubin's strong opposition to the regulations proposed by Born that Greenspan and Rubin were "...joined at the hip on this. They were certainly very fiercely opposed to this and persuaded me that this would cause chaos."[39] However, in Rubin's autobiography, he notes that he believed derivatives could pose significant problems and that many people who used derivatives did not fully understand the risks they were taking.[40]

Rubin and his deputy Lawrence Summers also steered through the 1999 repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act (1933), which had separated investment banking from the retail side. It allowed the banks to develop and sell the mortgage-backed instruments that became a principal factor in the financial collapse. In September 2011, the UK Independent Commission on Banking released a report in which it recommended a separation of investment and retail banking to prevent a repeat of the 2008 crisis.[41]

In a December 2009 Newsweek article, Rubin described the extraordinary combination of circumstances that led to the global financial crisis, including market and credit excesses, low interest rates, massive increase in the use of complex derivatives, misguided AAA ratings, stagnant median real wages, abusive mortgage practices, and the over-leveraging of financial institutions, among many other factors. In the article, Rubin advocates for the reform of the financial system in order to better protect against systemic risk and devastating crises in the future. Rubin says "the market-based model must be combined with strong and effective government, nationally and transnationally, to deal with critical challenges that markets won't adequately address."[42]

On January 9, 2009, Citigroup announced that Rubin had resigned as a senior adviser and would not seek re-election as a director of the corporation.[43] Press reports noted that Rubin had drawn criticism for his role in the bank's recent problems that drove it to seek U.S. Government assistance after he received significant personal compensation.[44]

Post-government career

Upon leaving the Clinton administration, Rubin joined the board of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation's leading community development support organization, as chairman. Reflecting on his decision to join an institution devoted to bringing economic activity to neglected areas of the country, the Chicago Tribune said the following in an editorial: "Even before he became Bill Clinton's treasury secretary, during his days as a high-powered Wall Street executive, Rubin was passionate about fostering business investment as the way to fight poverty in depressed city and rural areas. That made him somewhat unusual among Democrats, who generally emphasized government anti-poverty programs."[45]

In 1999, affirming his career-long interest in markets, Rubin joined Citigroup as a board member and as a participant "in strategic managerial and operational matters of the Company, but [...] no line responsibilities".[46] The Wall Street Journal called this mix of oversight and management responsibilities "murky".[46] In an interview with the Journal, Rubin said: "I think I've been a very constructive part of the Citigroup environment."[46] Separately, the Journal noted that Citigroup shareholders have suffered losses of more than 70 percent since Rubin joined the firm and that he encouraged changes that led the firm to the brink of collapse.[46] In December 2008, investors filed a lawsuit contending that Citigroup executives, including Rubin, sold shares at inflated prices while concealing the firm's risks. A Citigroup spokesman said the lawsuit was without merit.[47] Earlier, Rubin had also come in for some criticism for his actions on Citigroup's behalf during the 2001 collapse of energy giant Enron Corp., a major client of the bank. With the troubled Enron facing a credit ratings downgrade - a potentially disastrous development for the energy company's investors, the company itself and ultimately, its lenders - Rubin called a ranking Treasury Department official, unsuccessfully seeking the Bush Administration's help in forestalling the downgrade. Rubin later maintained that he had acted both as a Citigroup executive protecting his company's position and as a former Treasury official concerned about the impact that Enron's failure might have on the larger economy, brushing off the notion of any possible conflict of interest, and said that if faced with the same choice, he would do it again.[48]

Rubin received over $17 million in compensation from Citigroup and a further $33 million in stock options as of 2008[49] and total compensation of $126 million from Citigroup between 1999 and 2009.[50]

In 2001, Rubin received an honorary doctoral degree from Harvard University, and on July 1, 2002, he became a member of Harvard Corporation, the executive governing board of Harvard University.[51] He served as a member of the Harvard Corporation board until June 2014 and continues to serve on its finance committee.[52][53][27]

Rubin has written a memoir, In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington (ISBN 978-0-375-50585-0), co-written by Jacob Weisberg. It was a New York Times bestseller as well as one of Business Week's ten best business books of 2003.[4]

Rubin had been suggested as a possible appointee to a cabinet post for President Barack Obama. Rubin, alongside Austan Goolsbee and Paul Volcker, was one of Obama's economic advisers.[54]

In January 2014, Secretary Rubin joined former Senator Olympia Snowe, former Education Secretary Donna Shalala, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Henry Cisneros, Gregory Page the Chair of Cargill, and Al Sommer, the Dean Emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health as members of the U.S. Climate Risk Committee. They oversaw the development of an analysis of the economic risks of climate change in the United States that was published on June 24, 2014.[55]

In an address at the Climate Leadership Conference[56] on March 4, 2015, Mr. Rubin spoke about the economic effects of climate change and the costs of inaction. Calling climate change "the existential threat of our age," he called for the adoption of three proposals – revising estimates of the Gross Domestic Product to reflect climate change externalities, disclosure to investors by companies of the costs of carbon they emit that they might be required to absorb, and including in the U.S. government's fiscal projections the future costs of dealing with climate change – to help catalyze a more active response to climate change risks. He first outlined the proposals in a Washington Post op-ed column titled "How Ignoring Climate Change Could Sink the U.S. Economy."[57]

In April 2016, he was one of eight former Treasury secretaries who called on the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union ahead of the June 2016 Referendum.[58]

As of 2020, Rubin is actively engaged as a founder of The Hamilton Project, an economic policy think tank that produces research and proposals on how to create a growing economy that benefits more Americans.[4] He is co-chairman emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. Rubin also serves as chairman of the board of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a community development support organization. He serves as a trustee of Mount Sinai Health System.[53][27] Additionally, Rubin serves as a senior counselor at Centerview Partners, an investment banking advisory firm based in New York City.[27]


As Clinton's two-term Secretary of the Treasury, Rubin sharply opposed any regulation of collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and other so-called "derivative" financial instruments which—despite having already created havoc for companies such as Procter & Gamble and Gibson Greetings, and disastrous consequences in 1994 for Orange County, California with its $1.5 billion default and subsequent bankruptcy—were nevertheless becoming the chief engine of profitability for Rubin's former employer Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms.[59] When Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, circulated a letter urging increased regulation of derivatives in line with a 1994 General Accounting Office report, Rubin took the unusual step (for a Secretary of the Treasury) of going public in June 1998 to denounce Born and her proposal, eventually urging that the CFTC be stripped of its regulatory authority.[59]

Rubin sparked controversy in 2001 when he contacted an acquaintance at the U.S. Treasury Department and asked if the department could convince bond-rating agencies not to downgrade the corporate debt of Enron, a debtor of Citigroup. The Treasury official refused. A subsequent congressional staff investigation cleared Rubin of having done anything illegal.[60]

Writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb noted that Rubin "collected more than $120 million in compensation from Citibank in the decade preceding the banking crash of 2008. When the bank, literally insolvent, was rescued by the taxpayer, he didn't write any check—he invoked uncertainty as an excuse."[61]

See also


  1. ^ "'Since the Depression, there were strict underwriting guidelines that Wall Street adhered to when taking a company public,' says one prominent hedge-fund manager. 'The company had to be in business a minimum of five years, and it had to show profitability for three consecutive years. But Wall Street took these guidelines and threw them in the trash.' Goldman completed the snow job by pumping up the sham stocks. 'Their analysts were out there saying is worth $100 a share.' The problem was, nobody had told investors that the rules had changed. 'Everyone on the inside knew,' the manager said. 'Bob Rubin sure as hell knew what the underwriting standards were. They had been intact since the 1930s.'" Taibbi, Matt. The Great American Bubble Machine, Rolling Stone, July 9–23, 2009; posted online April 5, 2010; accessed December 25, 2013.
  2. ^ "Citigroup Proxy Statement". Citigroup SEC filing.
  3. ^ "Citigroup chief executive resigns". BBC. November 5, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d "Citigroup Corporate Governance - Robert E. Rubin". Citigroup. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved February 20, 2008.
  5. ^ Dash, Eric; Story, Louise (January 9, 2009). "Rubin Leaving Citigroup; Smith Barney for Sale". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Reuters Staff (January 9, 2009). "TIMELINE: Rubin's career at Citigroup". Reuters. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Paid Notice - Deaths RUBIN, SYLVIA SEIDERMAN - Paid Death Notice - New York Times (2007-01-15). Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  8. ^ Who's who in Finance and Industry - Google Books. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  9. ^ "The Larger-Than-Life Life of Robert Rubin". Fortune. December 8, 2003. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  10. ^ Zerivitz, Marcia Jo (January 6, 2020). Jews of Florida: Centuries of Stories. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4671-4253-3.
  11. ^ a b c "Washington Post Live Robert Rubin". July 2, 2012.
  12. ^ a b c "Robert Rubin, the man Wall Street trusts". BBC News. May 12, 1999. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  13. ^ "Board of Directors - Mrs. Judith O. Rubin". Center for Arts and Culture. Archived from the original on August 18, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2008.
  14. ^ Lee, John. "Schedule | Jewish Museum of Florida - FIU". Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  15. ^ Jackie Calmes (September 13, 2013). "Ex-White House Aide to Be Economic Adviser". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Rubin's Rules", Owen Ullmann, The Washingtonian, June 1994.
  17. ^ a b c d Weisman, Jonathan (May 13, 1999). "Rubin resigns post at Treasury". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  18. ^ a b Dodge, Robert (May 13, 1999). "Rubin resigns". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  19. ^ a b c Cooper Ramo, Joshua (February 15, 1999). "The Three Marketeers". TIME. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  20. ^ Thorndike, Joseph J. (December 1, 2014). "Robert Rubin: Stealth Liberal or Wall Street's Stalking Horse?". Tax Notes.
  21. ^ "Robert E. Rubin: Treasury Secretary". The Washington Post. 1998. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  22. ^ Chandler, Clay (January 11, 1995). "Rubin Wins Senate's Approval". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  23. ^ Weisman, Jonathan. "Rubin resigns post at Treasury; Wall Street wizard has helped guide the surging U.S. economy; Deputy picked as successor". Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  24. ^ "Treasury Secretary Rubin resigns". CNN. May 12, 1999. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  25. ^ Slud, Martha; McMillan, Alex (May 12, 1999). "Treasury's Rubin resigns". CNN Money. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  26. ^ "Former Treasury Secretary Rubin to Receive Eisenhower Institute Public Service Award". Gettysburg College. April 26, 2000.
  27. ^ a b c d Demos, Telis (June 8, 2018). "Robert Rubin's Legacy Up for Debate 10 Years After Citigroup Bailout". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  28. ^ a b Lustig, Nora (January 1, 1997). "Mexico in Crisis, the U.S. to the Rescue. The Financial Assistance Packages of 1982 and 1995". Brookings. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  29. ^ a b Sanger, David. "Mexico Repays Bailout by U.S. Ahead of Time". The New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  30. ^ Broder, John M.; Sanger, David E. (May 13, 1999). "Rubin Resigning as Treasury Secretary". The New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  31. ^ Goozner, Merrill (May 13, 1999). "Rubin Turns Over The Reins". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  32. ^ Pearlstein, Steven; Chandler, Clay (May 4, 1997). "Winners and Losers In a Balanced Budget". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  33. ^ Crutsinger, Martin (May 13, 1999). "Treasury Secretary Rubin Plans To Step Down In July". The Associated Press. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  34. ^ "Robert Rubin". CNN. 1997. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  35. ^ Zumbrun, Joshua (April 19, 2010). "Clinton Calls Advice He Got on Derivatives 'Wrong' (Update1)". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on April 16, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  36. ^ Harris, Evan (April 17, 2010). "Clinton: I Was Wrong to Listen to Wrong Advice Against Regulating Derivatives*". ABC News. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  37. ^ "Former Treasury Secretary Rubin to Receive Eisenhower Institute Public Service Award". Gettysburg College. April 26, 2000.
  38. ^ "The Warning". Frontline. WGBH Educational Foundation. October 20, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
  39. ^ Goodman, Peter S. (October 8, 2008). "Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy". The New York Times.
  40. ^ Rubin, Robert (2003). In An Uncertain World. pp. 287–288. Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-50585-0.
  41. ^ "Banks face major reorganisation". BBC News. December 12, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  42. ^ "Getting the Economy Back On Track". Newsweek. December 28, 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2009.
  43. ^ "Citigroup Statement on Rubin's Departure; Rubin's Letter". The Wall Street Journal. January 9, 2009.
  44. ^ "Citigroup Director Robert Rubin Resigns As Adviser". New York Post. Associated Press. January 9, 2009.
  45. ^ "Rubin's Next Big Challenge". Chicago Tribune, September 20, 1999.
  46. ^ a b c d "No line responsibilities". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. December 3, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  47. ^ Graybow, Martha (December 3, 2008). "Investors accuse Citi execs of 'suspicious' trades". Reuters. Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008. The Financial Crises Inquiry Commission investigated Rubin's role at Citigroup and referred the case to the DOJ for possible indictment.[see Forbes magazine article supporting this fact.]
  48. ^ "Rethinking Robert Rubin". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  49. ^ Forbes, Retrieved November 25, 2008,
  50. ^ "Rethinking Bob Rubin From Goldman Sachs Star to Crisis Scapegoat" Bloomberg News
  51. ^ "Rubin '60 is newest Corporation member". Harvard Gazette. April 11, 2002. Retrieved February 2, 2008.
  52. ^ "Reischauer, Rubin leave Harvard Corporation, Rhodes Scholars, Nobelists". Harvard Magazine. January 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  53. ^ a b "Robert Rubin". The Washington Post. July 2, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  54. ^ Dodge, Catherine; Chen, Edwin (September 16, 2008). "Obama Turns to Rubin, McCain Taps Feldstein for Crisis Response". Bloomberg L.P.
  55. ^ [1]. Climate Prospectus. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  56. ^ [2]. Risky Business Blog. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  57. ^ "How Ignoring Climate Change Could Sink the U.S. Economy". The Washington Post. July 24, 2014. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  58. ^ "Staying in EU 'best hope' for UK's future say ex-US Treasury secretaries". BBC News. April 20, 2016.
  59. ^ a b Taibbi, Matt. The Great American Bubble Machine, Rolling Stone, July 9–23, 2009; posted online April 5, 2010; accessed December 28, 2013.
  60. ^ C-SPAN Q&A with Janet Tavakoli. Air date: April 19, 2009,
  61. ^ Williams, Zoe (February 22, 2018). "Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb review – how risk should be shared". The Guardian. Retrieved July 14, 2019.


Further reading

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
John Weinberg
Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs
Succeeded by
Steve Friedman
Preceded by
Charles Prince
Chair of Citigroup

Succeeded by
Win Bischoff
Political offices
New office Director of the National Economic Council
Succeeded by
Laura Tyson
Preceded by
Lloyd Bentsen
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Succeeded by
Larry Summers
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