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Top Clinton Aides Blew a Chance to Avert the Financial Crisis

Notes of a fateful meeting show how Clinton officials blew a chance to avert the 2008 financial crisis

(From top) Photographs by Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Ray Lustig/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. economy and the stock market were booming on April 21, 1998, when the heaviest hitters of the Clinton administration met to discuss a controversial topic: whether the government should regulate a profitable but risky corner of the financial markets. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the former Goldman Sachs co-chairman, attended. So did his deputy, Larry Summers, and Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve. The meeting’s odd woman out was Brooksley Born, the little-known chairwoman of a little-known agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), who exhorted her colleagues to consider regulating privately traded derivatives such as swaps contracts.