Has Wall Street regulation worked? As a landmark stock-research settlement--requiring brokerages to spend $460 million over five years on reforms--expired this week, the key man behind the deal, Eliot Spitzer, and two experts, former Citigroup (C) CFO Sallie Krawcheck and Fortune's Allan Sloan, convened at CNNMoney's studios to talk about the progress. I sat in on their conversation. You can view segments on CNNMoney by clicking the links at the end of this post or viewing the entire 27-minute video here.
The panelists agreed on one thing: The best evidence that the reforms actually aided individual investors is that we haven't heard much lately about dishonest stock analysts. (Bad research has mainly come out of rating agencies, which have conflicts of interest that need fixing.) That said, as often happens, the reformers did more than needed, ushering in disclosure rules and red tape that have confused consumers more than helped them with their investment choices.
In Krawcheck's view, at least. Spitzer, whose Dudley Do-Right reputation collapsed with the sex scandal that knocked him from the New York governor's post, pushed back. He likens investors who gripe about excessive regulation to patients who leave the hospital after a cure and say, "But you gave me three antibiotics that I didn't need!" Krawcheck liked the analogy. But over lunch yesterday, as she I recapped the roundtable, she said she wished she had replied to Spitzer: "Too many antibiotics make the patient immune."
Krawcheck, who oversaw Citi's global wealth management unit after her CFO stint, says that financial regulation everywhere has become so complex that consumers often don't understand what they're getting, whether they're buying a mortgage (as she did recently) or a mutual fund. "More is not always better. Better is better," she says. Wall Street firms, she contends, purposely create complex products that are practically impossible to understand because they want to confuse competitors--so as to prevent them from copying and gaining ground.
Where is Krawcheck, 44, going next? Since Citi announced her exit last September--following clashes with CEO Vikram Pandit--the banking world's onetime Most Powerful Woman (and Dell (DELL) board member) has been elusive and mostly silent. That's changing. She told me at lunch that she's come close to accepting a couple of jobs--all in financial services--only to decide that they didn't "hit the bulls-eye." Particularly in this treacherous environment, she says, "there's no use rushing."
My bet: Krawcheck will land somewhere--or maybe announce she's starting her own firm--later this year.
"The world's looking for a new business model."
-- Citigroup (C) CEO Vikram Pandit, defending his leadership, in an interview with CNN Tuesday. During the past week, news media outlets have reported that FDIC Chair Sheila Bair thinks Pandit lacks the retail banking experience to revive Citi and wants him out. Meanwhile, others speculate that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner believes that Pandit deserves a shot at the turnaround and that a MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Jun 9, 2009 5:38 PM ET
"Our stock price is not an indication of our financial strength."
-- Citigroup (C) CEO Vikram Pandit in a memo to employees sent Monday night. How ironic that Citigroup shares jumped 38% on Tuesday. Citi's stock is so low that it took a gain of just 40 cents to rise so much, percentage-wise, and close at $1.45. Citi's pop was part of a overall surge in the market that had the MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Mar 10, 2009 8:03 PM ET
Barack Obama's hair is turning gray. The New York Times reported the other day that a President typically ages two years for every year in the job. Thank goodness our new President is only 47 years old. The way things are going right now, I suspect he'll age twice as fast as other Presidents.
We learned this week that things are worse than we thought. General Electric (GE) CEO Jeff Immelt, MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 6, 2009 1:02 PM ET
"We will hold ourselves accountable for what we do, and that starts with me."
-- Citigroup (C) CEO Vikram Pandit testifying before Congress on Wednesday. The heads of eight of the nation's top banks, which have collectively received $165 billion in government rescue funds, appeared together before the House Financial Services Committee to explain what they've done with the money so far.
The CEOs—including Goldman Sach's (GS) Lloyd Blankfein, Wells Fargo's (WFC) MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Feb 11, 2009 7:06 PM ET
You think you lost a bundle in the market? The CEOs who lead the companies in the upper decks of the Fortune 500 have fared even worse: Their stock holdings in their own companies declined in value by $54 billion last year.
A just-released study by executive compensation consultancy Steven Hall & Partners sums up the damage. For CEOs who head 175 of the top 200 corporations in the Fortune 500, MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 22, 2009 2:06 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
This morning, I read about the potential merger of General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. Then I read about the benign rivalry of two divas of the blog world, Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown. Two stories that have nothing to do with each other? You would think. But actually, they do. They point to a new reality of the business world: Competition isn't what it used to be. Competition becomes coopetition. MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 27, 2008 5:14 PM ET
|Tesla repays federal loan nearly 10 years early|
|How police can find your deleted text messages|
|HP soars as Meg Whitman turnaround continues|
|Stocks slip as Fed sends mixed message|
|Insanely durable smartphone ... from Caterpillar?|