David Lipton, Economic Diplomat, Will Step Down From Treasury

WASHINGTON — David A. Lipton, a longtime figure in the field of international economics, is stepping down on Wednesday from his job as international affairs counselor to Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, according to two Treasury Department officials familiar with his plans.

Mr. Lipton, one of Ms. Yellen’s closest aides, is departing at a critical moment for the global economy. He has become a key negotiator in some of Ms. Yellen’s biggest policy issues. He was deeply involved in international discussions about a global minimum tax last year and has been at the center of the talks among the Group of 7 nations to impose a cap on the price of Russian oil.

An economist by training with a doctoral degree from Harvard, Mr. Lipton, 69, has held senior economic policymaking positions in the Clinton, Obama and Biden administrations. He was also a top official at the International Monetary Fund, where he served as the deputy managing director.

Last year, Ms. Yellen recruited Mr. Lipton to return to the federal government to help steer the Treasury Department’s international portfolio while President Biden’s nominees to lead the international affairs division were awaiting Senate confirmation.

In a statement, Ms. Yellen described Mr. Lipton as one of her closest advisers and lauded his career.

“He will be irreplaceable for the department, but I feel incredibly fortunate to have had his counsel in my first two years,” Ms. Yellen said. “During that time, David has helped shape our international agenda across a wide set of challenges — from the recovery from the pandemic to our response to Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

Mr. Lipton first met Ms. Yellen while a graduate student at Harvard, where he took her introductory course in macroeconomics. Lawrence H. Summers, who would serve as Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, was also in the class, and he and Mr. Lipton became friends.

After graduating from Harvard with a Ph.D. in economics in 1982, Mr. Lipton joined the I.M.F., where he worked for eight years on assignments that involved stabilizing the economies of poor countries.

In 1993, after a stint working with the economist Jeffrey D. Sachs advising Russia, Poland and Slovenia on their transitions to capitalism, Mr. Lipton joined the Clinton administration’s Treasury Department. He was recruited by Mr. Summers, who was then the deputy Treasury secretary under Robert E. Rubin. He initially focused on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union before turning his attention to easing turmoil stemming from the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

While President George W. Bush was in office, Mr. Lipton worked at Citigroup and at the hedge fund Moore Capital Management. He joined the Obama administration as an economic adviser. In 2011, Christine Lagarde named him her top deputy at the I.M.F. when the fund was spending billions of dollars to prop up Greece’s economy and as the economic tension between the United States and China was intensifying.

Mr. Lipton’s second term at the monetary fund was cut short in 2020 when Kristalina Georgieva reshuffled its senior leadership. His position at the fund, which is usually decided by the United States, was filled by Geoffrey Okamoto, a former Trump administration official.

A longtime proponent of the benefits of a global economy and multilateralism, Ms. Yellen persuaded Mr. Lipton to join her team as the Biden administration sought to mend international relationships that had been frayed during the Trump era.

“David Lipton has been an insufficiently sung hero of the international financial system for the last 30 years,” Mr. Summers said in a text message. “His quiet strength and wisdom both prevented and resolved numerous crises.”

Mr. Lipton, who grew up in Wayland, Mass., was a star wrestler in high school, serving as a co-captain for two years. At Harvard, he and Mr. Summers bonded over squash and economics.

During remarks introducing Mr. Lipton at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in 2016, Mr. Summers described his former classmate as an economic “fireman in chief” who maintained a “keep hope alive” attitude when economic diplomacy got tough.

Known for a dry wit that belies his earnest demeanor, Mr. Lipton expressed appreciation for the high praise but recalled that when he met Mr. Summers on the first day of school he initially had his doubts.

“After talking to Larry for about 15 minutes, my reaction was, ‘If they’re all like that, I’m really in trouble,’” Mr. Lipton joked.

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