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FINANCE MINISTER OF THE YEAR 1996 - Rubin: quietly getting things done

Robert Rubin, secretary of the US treasury, has faced tough situations and made tough decisions. In a remarkably short time, he dealt with the Mexico crisis and put the dollar back on course, demonstrating a rare grasp of both domestic politics and global markets. By Katharine Morton


When Robert Rubin became treasury secretary in January 1995 he faced his first real test immediately: the escalating Mexico crisis.

"It was a major thing to be confronted with, and it took a great deal of guts to react as quickly as he did under the gun," says a former colleague from Rubin's days on Wall Street. Rubin was at Goldman Sachs for 26 years before leaving in 1992 to become Bill Clinton's chief economic adviser, directing the National Economic Council.

As the localized risk of Mexico's defaulting snowballed into a potential global crisis for all emerging markets, Rubin played a leading role in arranging the $40 billion rescue plan, $12 billion of which came from the US.

But there had been many who had turned up their noses at the idea of having a Wall Street man in the treasury. The question on many lips was: would he look after his own kind?

"Unequivocally, the last thing he would do would be to bail out his former chums on Wall Street," comments the former colleague. "The criticisms levelled at him after the Mexico affair were unfair."

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