We were all riveted last fall by the economic meltdown, which pulled down Lehman (now absorbed into Barclays ( BCS)) and Merrill (now part of Bank of America ( BAC) and forced many of us to consider the previously inconceivable outcome of a total collapse of the capital markets.

Through it all, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and then-head of the New York Fed Tiimothy Geithner, tried to orchestrate an acceptable soft landing for all market participants. Many of the most pivotal planning sessions during that dark time happened at the offices of the New York Fed.

Yet, who was watching over the New York Fed at the time? As it turns out, many of the market actors were central in the drama playing out, including Lehman head Dick Fuld, who was a New York Fed director then.

Did Dick Fuld really deserve to have a say on whether BofA should buy Merrill, or on the fates of AIG ( AIG), Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Goldman Sachs ( GS)?

The board of directors of the New York Fed was poorly composed then, and it remains highly problematic today. Changes need to be made.

The New York Fed is basically the on-the-ground interface between Wall Street's biggest banks and the Federal Reserve. It plays part policy adviser, part diplomat and part message-runner between the two sometimes very different worlds. The bank plays a critical role in how policy is set and implemented.

During several critical moments last year (with the downfall of Bear and Lehman, the shotgun marriage between Merrill and BofA and later the pressuring of BofA to follow through with the merger) and no doubt in the future, the New York Fed has and will play a critical role in real-time decisions that can have ramifications on our markets and the broader economy for years.

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