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New Treasury Secretary looking for the next Robert Steel

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Bob Steel has attracted a lot of negative publicity recently, but many in the U.S. Treasury department still hold a favorable impression of his legacy.

Steel, chair of Duke's Board of Trustees and Trinity '73, served as Undersecretary of Domestic Finance in the U.S. Treasury Department from Oct. 2006 to July 2008. Obama's new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is currently vetting candidates to fill the role of Treasury Undersecretary. According to Deborah Solomon of the Wall Street Journal, Geithner would do well to find a candidate who measures up to Steel:

A robust staff is critical for any Treasury secretary, especially one who’ll be as busy as Mr. Geithner. Indeed, many blame some of former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s missteps on the fact that he lost a top advisor — Robert Steel – at the height of the financial crisis. Several former Treasury staff say Mr. Steel’s departure left Mr. Paulson without someone to advise him on the political perception of the bailout and robbed him of someone to oversee the department’s day to day functions. After Mr. Steel left, “there was no grown-up in the building,” quips one former Treasury staffer.

Steel was  criticized by Duke alumni for his role in the 2006 lacrosse case and its aftermath. More recently he has been in the news for his brief stint as chief executive officer of Wachovia Corp.—the failed bank that was ultimately bought out by Wells Fargo & Co. in October. As The Chronicle previously reported, Steel is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for comments he made leading up to the deal with Wells Fargo.

Updated 12:32 a.m., Feb. 3.

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