James Lambright, the man who gets final say over where a lot of the federal bailout money goes, is known at the Treasury, and to an ever-widening circle of executives at America’s biggest companies, as a hard-nosed bargainer, the Wall Street Journal reports. Lambright's self-professed aim is “navigating the two beacons—righting the financial system and ensuring taxpayers get the best deal for their TARP dollars.
Lambright, 38, traded a luxurious office atop the Export-Import Bank for a tiny one overlooking an air-conditioning unit. But his post as TARP’s chief investment officer made him one of the most powerful men in the financial system. Every TARP deal goes through a board he chairs—much to applicants’ chagrin. “He’s unbelievably tough,” says Henry Paulson, “and sometimes needs to be reminded that the job is to save the financial system.”