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Hank Paulson had a little chat last night at the 92Y with GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. This must’ve been a tad on the uncomfortable side, since just last week, the two had a spat about the passage in Hank’s book mentioning the September 2008 convo regarding GE’s commercial paper woes they may or may not have had. (Paulson chalked it up to having a bad memory, stress, bird-deprivation, etc).
Anyway, no matter, because the ice was broken by starting with a less controversial topic Hank’s unaccomplished desire to be a forest ranger. “I never wanted to be a forest ranger more than during the crisis,” the former Treasury Secretary said wistfully.
Hank also apologized for the “The British screwed us” comment he made in front of a room full of Treasury colleagues during the Lehman debacle and blamed it on “frustration.”
“But I don’t know if the situation had been reversed and I was the British, I don’t know how I would have acted. You can’t walk in another person’s shoes, so I shouldn’t criticise them. I did, but I shouldn’t have.”
Hank also noted that when he received the phone call from Britain to inform him that Barclays would not be able to buy Lehman, he just hoped the big guy in the sky would help him get through it, telling the audience, “I went out of the office with my cell phone and called [my wife] Wendy and asked her to pray for me.”