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David Lipton, Economic Diplomat, Will Step Down From Treasury

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

Mr. Lipton, one in all Ms. Yellen’s closest aides, is departing at a critical moment for the worldwide economy. He has turn out to be a key negotiator in a few of Ms. Yellen’s biggest policy issues. He was deeply involved in international discussions about a world minimum tax last 12 months and has been at the middle of the talks among the many Group of seven nations to impose a cap on the value of Russian oil.

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

Last 12 months, Ms. Yellen recruited Mr. Lipton to return to the federal government to assist steer the Treasury Department’s international portfolio while President Biden’s nominees to guide the international affairs division were awaiting Senate confirmation.

In an announcement, Ms. Yellen described Mr. Lipton as one in all her closest advisers and lauded his profession.

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“He might 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 point, David has helped shape our international agenda across a large 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 function Treasury secretary throughout the Clinton administration, was also in the category, 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 under secretary for international affairs under Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and deputy Treasury secretary under Robert E. Rubin. He initially focused on Eastern Europe and the previous 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 on the hedge fund Moore Capital Management. He joined the Obama administration as an economic adviser. In 2011, Christine Lagarde named him her top deputy on the I.M.F. when the fund was spending billions of dollars to prop up Greece’s economy and because the economic tension between the US and China was intensifying.

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

A longtime proponent of the advantages of a world economy and multilateralism, Ms. Yellen persuaded Mr. Lipton to affix her team because the Biden administration sought to fix international relationships that had been frayed throughout the Trump era.

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

Mr. Lipton, who grew up in Wayland, Mass., was a star wrestler in highschool, serving as a co-captain for 2 years. At Harvard, he and Mr. Summers bonded over squash and economics.

During remarks introducing Mr. Lipton on 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 primary day of faculty he initially had his doubts.

“After talking to Larry for about quarter-hour, my response was, ‘In the event that they’re all like that, I’m really in trouble,’” Mr. Lipton joked.

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