Such wrath! Readers' comments on Friday's post about Bob Rubin were angrier than I ever expected. A half-dozen commenters suggested that the onetime U.S. Treasury Secretary, whose reputation collapsed along with the fortunes of Citigroup (C), should go to jail for bungling the job that he's now leaving. On the one hand, I'm tempted to say: Calm down! There's no evidence - not a whiff - that Rubin did anything criminal during his decade at Citi. At the same time, I'm fascinated by the visceral reaction. It speaks to the rage against just about everyone in power these days.
"Robert Rubin is worse than Bernard Madoff, and he belongs in jail along with Chuck Prince, Stan O'Neal, Dick Fulds(sic) and other Wall Street criminals. According to news stories, Madoff at least admitted to his sons that he was a liar and a crook and he made no excuses...," writes Michael Heizer of New York City.
A half-dozen readers compared Rubin to Madoff. "Rubin advise the Obama administration? Why not drop all charges against Bernie Madoff and give him a key advisory position in the White House?" says Eugene in San Jose, California. Eugene is referring to the fact that Rubin, after leaving Goldman Sachs (GS) and becoming President Clinton's Treasury Secretary, enhanced his reputation in Washington - and now, having advised President-elect Obama, Rubin says he intends to engage more in public policy.
The wrath extends to Washington. "Rubin is nothing compared to [Treasury Secretary Hank] Paulson. Rubin may have ripped off his Corporation and the stockholders, but Paulson ripped the American people off," writes Andy in Los Angeles. And from Brett in Irvine, California: "The people writing on this blog could do better running Washington then the current selfish crooks."
There's the random comment (so rare!) defending the powers that be (or powers that were). "Wow, don't we all want scapegoats in a time of crisis," writes a reader called "Let's get real" in Chicago. "I don't think it was Rubin's or anyone else's fault. Our economy was at a full sprint because we all asked it to be. We all wanted to make money on our mortgages and maximize return on our stock portfolios."
"Time to get up and get running again," as "Let's get real" says. As Citi gets a grip on risk and begins what may turn out to be a dismantling of the financial-services giant, management is reportedly nearing a deal to sell part of Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley (MS).
Indeed, power is shifting all around the industry. While Vikram Pandit hangs on to his Citi CEO post (the board supports him for now), Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack could emerge as more than a mere survivor of the maelstrom. Creating value from a good asset, Smith Barney, that Citi can't afford to keep would put Mack in the tiny club of bank bosses building a reputation these days. Bank of America's (BAC) Ken Lewis and JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) Jamie Dimon are in it. Though given the dire economic outlook, is this a club that you would want to be in?
"My great regret is that I and so many of us who have been involved in this industry for so long did not recognize the serious possibility of the extreme circumstances that the financial system faces today."
- Bob Rubin, explaining his decision to leave Citigroup (C), in a letter today to CEO Vikram Pandit. Rubin joined Citigroup in 1999, after serving as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton Adminsitration. As my MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 9, 2009 4:17 PM ET
'Tis the season for confessions. First comes denial -- every mortal's classic response in a crisis. But in times like these, any leader worth his or her lofty position and pay recognizes mistakes soon enough. True confession is the mark of a confident leader. So, what's your biggest mistake?
In the past week alone, we've noticed a positive trend: leaders fessing up. "GM has made mistakes in the past," General Motors MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 8, 2008 2:11 PM ET
The upshot of the government's bailout of Citigroup (C): millions of calmed investors, 350,000 relieved employees, and one CEO who is hanging on to his job at least for a while.
Vikram Pandit's apparent security at the helm of Citi may be a good thing. For all his faults - his failure to get a timely grip on the company's toxic assets, his unconvincing arguments last week that Citi is adequately MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 24, 2008 4:44 PM ET
That whopping reduction that Citigroup (C) announced Monday -- 50,000 jobs, representing 20% of its work force -- turns out to be the biggest cut by a corporation in 15 years. So say the job-trackers at Challenger Gray & Christmas. The largest reduction before Citi's: IBM (IBM), which set out to eliminate 60,000 jobs in 1993.
Vikram Pandit's shrinking of Citi -- part of "one of the greatest transformations in history," MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 17, 2008 6:27 PM ET
Barack Obama has been close to naming Larry Summers as the next Secretary of the Treasury, but the appointment is being held up by opposition to the brilliant but controversial economist. Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer said in his column Thursday that Summers, who headed Treasury under President Bill Clinton, is the lead candidate for the post in the new administration. Treasury officials have been led to believe that Summers MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 7, 2008 1:29 PM ET
Interesting to see Bob Rubin giving up his big title, chairman of the executive committee, at Citigroup (C). His new title: senior counselor. Citi contends that Rubin's day-to-day duties, which center on advising the company's board and executives, remain the same and that eliminating the executive committee is just an administrative change to simplify things. The committee's power, which was to act for the board between meetings, now transfers to MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 27, 2008 2:27 PM ET
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