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The day that Wall Street dreaded is nigh: Robert Rubin, for six years the point man of Bill Clinton's record-setting economy, is quitting as treasury secretary. The tremors were immediate; the Dow dropped 200 points on the pre-announcement -- the White House made it official this afternoon -- but TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl says any lasting damage will be more from the leadership vacuum in Russia than that in Washington. This transition will be seamless.
"Rubin has certainly had the confidence of Wall Street for shepherding this expansion," Baumohl says. "But his successor, Larry Summers, is highly respected, a brilliant economist, and as Rubin's right-hand man over the last year or two, he's also become very savvy in the ways of Washington." So had Rubin, more than he ever wanted; he's been trying to step down for years. But with impeachment roiling his administration and the Asian currency crisis roiling the rest of the globe, "Clinton asked him to stay until things settled down," says Baumohl. Now all's quiet on the contagion front, the Dow's over 11,000 (or was until the news broke -- it recovered quickly), and the former Goldman Sachs whiz kid will head back to the private sector in July, laurels in tow. No word yet on his plans -- but Russia could sure use a prime minister who can balance his checkbook.