March 01, 2010
Donald Kohn
Posted by David Zaring

I'll leave it to the Law Blog, the BLT, and Scotusblog to continue to do the excellent job they've been doing prepping you for the Skilling honest services case - you can see what Christine thinks here - and point you instead to Donald Kohn's retirement announcement.  Vice-chair of the Fed, Kohn was notable in my view for two things:

  • He, along with then NY Fed head Tim Geithner and rich kid Kevin Warsh, appear to have been the inner circle of Fed crisis-deciders, along with Ben Bernanke
  • He never spent a day of his career outside government service.

As for the first bullet, that's what those crisis tick-tocks are for.  But the second demonstrates, in my view, that financial regulation isn't wholly unlike the military (a better comparison may be the State Department, but this rarely happens at Justice), where career bureaucrats can reach the tippy top.  Why is this the case for some fancy DC jobs but not others?  One might consider whether there are private sector cognates for the public sector jobs - there aren't for the military, ditto for diplomats, though there is a long tradition of sending your bluest bloods that counteracts it.  But there are plenty of private sector lawyers who donate and would like to run DOJ or the SEC.

The impressive thing about Kohn's rise, in my view, is that there are plenty of bankers who would be similarly inclined vis a vis the Fed.

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