Titans of the Financial Crisis: Where Are They Now?
We knew their every move during the 2008-09 economic downturn. Here's what 15 stars of the crisis are doing now.
However, just like it does for the stars of reality TV, the 15 minutes of fame for these "fat cats," to quote President Obama, eventually ran out, and a new crop of stars -- like MF Global honcho Jon Corzine and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou -- emerged in the now-firmly established category of financial industry bunglers.
And what of the esteemed cast of the 2008 disaster? They're not doing too shabbily, it seems. We decided to take a look at some of the key movers and shakers to see how they've fared in the three years since the crisis, and here's what we've found.
Spector, teen bridge prodigy -- and one of several high-powered Wall Street bridge enthusiasts, including his ex-boss, former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne -- was early to the guillotine when the crisis started demanding heads. Lucky fellow. Forced to vest most of his stock options and restricted stock by the end of December 2007 as part of his resignation deal, Spector had already sold $382 million worth of stock in 2004, after Cayne put in place changes in the doomed company’s deferred compensation plan. As a result, he was relatively free and clear when Bear Stearns imploded, was sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), and saw its shares collapse in value. (Cayne’s 5% share of stock went from close to $1 billion dollars to a mere $12 million.)
Then: Chief Financial Officer, Lehman Brothers
Now: East Hampton resident
As arguably the highest-flying female figure brought down during the crisis, Callan attracted much commentary during her rise and fall. A driven, charismatic, and attractive tax lawyer whose career momentum had taken her to the top of Lehman by the age of 41, Callan became part of the story in a manner that more traditional CFO figures did not, appearing on TV as the reassuring voice of Lehman while CEO Dick Fuld receded into the background as much as possible.
Her time at the top didn’t last long though, and post-crisis, she has been mostly absent from financial circles, aside from her name appearing prominently in various Lehman-related lawsuits. A short-lived job at Credit Suisse (CS) heading up their global hedge fund sector ended after a few months. Today, she is apparently living quietly in a $3 million to $4 million East Hampton home with New York City firefighter Anthony Montella, a childhood friend turned partner.
Then: Chief Executive Officer, Citigroup
Now: Chief Executive Officer, Citigroup
Appointed CEO of Citigroup (C) just as that institution lurched into what many observers thought were its death throes, Pandit had an epically rough ride. In 2009, CNBC named him one of the “Worst CEOs of All Time,” claiming he was “the financial services equivalent of the Titanic’s Edward Smith -- a commander ill-equipped to save his ship.” 2009 was his annus horribilis, as the firm took $45 billion worth of taxpayers’ money to survive the storm, leading to much critique of the one-time wunderkind from Maharashtra, India – including a public rebuke from President Barack Obama over the purchase of a $50 million executive jet. That year, in an effort to show public humility and fiscal probity, he reduced his salary to $1 a year until Citibank clawed its way out of the red.
As 2011 draws to a close, Pandit has weathered the worst, still heading up Citibank, which just reported an above-expectation third-quarter profit of $3.8 billion. In May of this year, after five consecutive quarters in profit, Citibank gave Pandit a $23.2 million “retention package,” making him one of the country’s highest-compensated executives.
Then: Board of Directors, Citigroup
Now: Ubiquitous board member, including the Council on Foreign Relations and The Hamilton Project
Whether Rubin was -- with his Rubinomics, enthusiastic support of deregulation, and his fostering of overly cozy Wall Street/federal government relationships -- one of the architects of both the 2008 crisis and its costly taxpayer-funded repair is still a matter of much debate. But the former Goldman Sachs (GS) co-chair and Clinton-era Treasury secretary has seen his reputation take a huge hit from the days when he was considered one of the great, good, and wise behind ’90s prosperity. As chairman of Citibank’s executive committee during a key period, he helped steer that institution toward near-disaster and a $45 billion federal bailout.
Nevertheless, Rubin, who left Citibank as the crisis kicked into full speed, remains an influential if backgrounded figure among today’s policymakers, many of whom, including current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, are his proteges. Through his positions with The Hamilton Project and the Council on Foreign Relations, he is still central to Democratic policies.
Then: Bank of America CEO and President, Bank of America
Lewis is infamous for his disastrous attempts to drag Bank of America into the big-boy arena of investment banking. His mid-crisis acquisitions of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch are now seen as classic examples of corporate delusion, and the dangers of wanting to box above your weight. Overnight he saddled BoA with huge losses in risky credit schemes, subprime assets, and garbage mortgages, not to mention massive bonus obligations and 1,150 pizza restaurants, among other random elements. The bank demanded and received – in a classic “too big to fail” bit of extortion -- $20 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to rescue it when the true extent of Merrill Lynch’s losses was discovered.
Since Lewis retired in 2009 – with $135 million in retirement benefits on top of the $148.8 million he took home in pay and stock sales during his reign -- he has remained a member of several philanthropic boards and advisory committees, as well as dealing with ongoing fraud charges over the Merrill Lynch deal.
Then: CEO and President, JPMorgan Chase
Now: CEO and President, JPMorgan Chase
One of the bankers who made it through the worst of the crisis relatively unscathed, Dimon was helped by the more cautious atmosphere he’d fostered at JPMorgan, as well as by close ties to the incoming Obama administration. Since then, a mostly scandal-free pattern of steady acquisitions and expansions has left his firm No. 1 in the US in terms of managed domestic assets, market capitalization, and publicly traded stock value, and the CEO himself regularly pops up on various power broker/best CEO lists.
Dimon has clashed in recent years with his pals in the White House, spending millions on lobbying against proposed reforms such as a consumer protection agency for the financial sector and arguing vehemently against the demonization of the financial sector. When the next banking crisis happens, will he be painted as one of the good guys or the bad guys?
Then: CEO and Chairman, Goldman Sachs
Now: CEO and Chairman, Goldman Sachs
Blankfein, who took over as chief of Goldman Sachs in 2006, rode out the crisis while becoming a poster boy for the excesses of the financial sector, taking home a record $68.5 million in pay for 2007, though he’d clipped that back to a more discreet paycheck of $9.8 million by 2009. Gaffes such as his infamous “doing God’s work” quip did him no favors with the public. But as long as Goldman Sachs kept posting record profits under his watch, Blankfein seemed untouchable, despite claims the firm had exploited its customers by unloading subprime loan exposure onto unknowing clients.
Recent news has not been great for the CEO, though. This October, Goldman Sachs, suffering from the same global turmoil that has affected its peers, along with issues in its private equity portfolio, posted a quarterly loss of $428 million, only its second quarterly loss since the company began trading publicly in 1999. And ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and other agencies into Goldman Sachs’ role during the financial crisis continue to eat away at Blankfein’s position. News in August that he had hired a defense attorney sent Goldman Sachs’ shares into a decline, and though Blankfein himself faces no personal charges yet, the inquiries and court cases are not over.
John G. Stumpf|
Then: CEO, Wells Fargo & Co.
Now: CEO and Chairman, Wells Fargo & Co.
Another survivor, Stumpf got negative attention for his high-roller compensation (in 2010 he took home a total of, including cash bonuses and stock grants, $18,756,172) but kudos for his careful handling of Wells Fargo’s (WFC) 2008 acquisition of Wachovia, which doubled the bank’s assets.
Under Stumpf, the bank kept it simple as its competitors dove into the era’s risky new financial products, and as a result, its discipline has helped it overtake rivals such as Bank of America in the mortgage sector. One of every four mortgages in the US now originates with Wells Fargo, and the firm generated more than $89 billion worth of mortgages in the third quarter of 2011, more than the combined total posted by BoA and JP Morgan Chase. But bumpy road ahead: As banks face new restrictions on credit card fees, merchant charges, and overdraft policies, they're looking to replace revenues with added customer service fees, such as the increase in debit card charges Wells Fargo – along with several other leading banks – attempted to introduce this fall. A PR disaster, but that won’t stop Stumpf, whose bank posted its first disappointing quarterly results in two years this October, from looking for ways to squeeze more pennies out of customers’ dollars.
Then: CEO, Merrill Lynch
Now: CEO, CIT Group
Infamous for spending $1.2 million on office renovations as the crisis kicked off, Thain also took heat for pushing through accelerated payment of $4 billion in employee bonuses as Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America -- not to mention massive, unexpected losses (as high as $15 billion) in Merrill Lynch’s last quarter. Speculation remains heated to this day as to whether TARP funds were used to pay off those bonuses, and Thain was pushed out of BoA soon after the merger.
But some agreed with Thain’s own claim that he “saved” the company by selling it to BoA just as Lehman Brothers collapsed and the crisis peaked. Certainly the move saved Merrill stockholders some immediate pain. And when Thain took over as CEO of CIT Group (CIT), a $3.7 billion revenue bank holding company that provides loans, leasing, and myriad other financial services to midsize businesses, in February 2010, that recently bankrupted firm saw a 20% rise in its shares. The initial bounce has faded, though, and CIT faces many challenges ahead – not least falling revenues in the last four quarters (2010 revenues having been boosted by the sale of CIT’s Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand divisions) in an increasingly competitive field.
Then: President, Greenlight Capital
Now: President, Greenlight Capital
Hedge fund star Einhorn was a star long ago on Wall Street thanks to high net returns for partners and investors in his Greenlight Capital fund (25% average annual return), but became a big name on Main Street in 2008 when he famously and presciently attacked Lehman Brothers for its recklessness, calling on federal regulators to “guide Lehman toward a recapitalization and recognition of its losses -- hopefully before federal taxpayer assistance is required.”
Einhorn didn’t escape the subprime mess entirely – his involvement with subprime lender New Century led to his being one of the 13 former officers and directors of the firm who had to shell out $90 million to settle civil claims related to that firm’s bankruptcy in 2007 – and there are many who still view him as a rapacious short-seller rather than a moral leader. And his gadfly days are not over: He recently caused grief for both Microsoft (MSFT) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) with scathing attacks on current management.
Then: Chairman, Soros Fund Management
Now: Chairman, Soros Fund Management
Soros’ 2008 book The New Paradigm for Financial Markets was his third to predict a coming collapse of the financial “superbubble.” This time, he may have gotten it right. His argument – that markets need strong international governance to correct against their own “ideological excess” – was certainly played out during 2007 to 2009, and continues to echo in the eurozone these days.
The money guru’s most prominent public reaction to the crisis was his creation, with a $50 million grant, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a New York-based nonprofit think tank that features a roster of prominent economists and financial thinkers. For all his wealth and influence (and a multitude of tinfoil hat conspiracy theories), Soros still has a hard time convincing governments he’s got the right idea – but in the meantime, his acolytes continue to watch his every move – including his recent removal of gold ETFs from his portfolio.
Then: Co-President, Morgan Stanley
Now: President, Vorás Capital Management
After 25 years at Morgan Stanley (MS), Zoe Cruz had risen through the management ranks to become probably the most powerful woman on Wall Street. In late November 2007, the then 52-year-old high-flyer was second in command at the investment bank, answering only to CEO John Mack, who had been a strong advocate of Cruz all throughout her career. Cruz led the institutional-securities group, which invested heavily in mortgage-backed securities. When the market crashed in 2007, Morgan Stanley suffered a $3.7 billion subprime trading loss. The firm’s shareholders wanted heads to roll, and Cruz, having been publicly anointed as Mack’s eventual successor in a Nov. 9, 2007 New York Times article, became a convenient scapegoat and was asked to resign by Mack, a decision that stunned her.
After recovering from the shock of her firing, Cruz, who was nicknamed the “Cruz Missile” at Morgan Stanley, regrouped and started her own hedge fund, Vorás Capital Management, in late 2009. In the first nine months of operation, she had raised $200 million in capital, but the fund has since been stalled. According to a New York Post article in May this year, Vorás Capital Management has had to shut down its credit fund, one out of just two of its funds, and Cruz has faced difficulties in raising more money.
Then: Head of Wealth Management Unit, Citigroup
Now: Recently fired from position as Bank of America’s President of Global Wealth and Investment Management
The sky was the limit for Sallie Krawcheck when she was made Chief Financial Officer just two short years after joining Citi in 2002. But Krawcheck’s eventual demise at Citi began when she was demoted to become the head of the bank’s wealth management business. When Vikram Pandit arrived as CEO in 2007, Krawcheck frequently clashed with him, especially about whether or not Citi was obliged to reimburse clients for loss-making toxic hedge funds that the bank distributed. Krawcheck believed that the bank ought to have compensated investors, while Pandit thought that Citi had no legal obligation to do so. Finally, when Krawcheck learned in an email from Citi’s vice chairman Lewis B. Kaden that she had been stripped of her responsibilities, she decided to leave the bank in Sept. 2008.
Slightly less than a year later, Krawcheck made a high-profile return to the world of finance, joining Bank of America as the head of its global investment and wealth management unit. The Columbia Business School graduate led her unit to $3.1 billion in profits in her two years there. However, in September this year, Krawcheck was let go as part of CEO Brian Moynihan’s plan to cut costs and streamline operations at Bank of America. She is undoubtedly licking her wounds now, but her $6 million severance should be enough to tide her over while she plans her next move, which will likely be joining a money-management firm or private equity firm, according to industry insiders.
Then: Chairman and Chief Executive of Countrywide Financial
Once celebrated as an embodiment of the American Dream because of his humble beginnings, Angelo Mozilo became one of the most vilified figures of the financial crisis. After growing Countrywide to become the nation’s biggest mortgage lender, Mozilo made the decision to enter the subprime mortgage market to maintain his firm’s market share, pushing higher-cost mortgages to borrowers whose credentials were suspect. When the subprime market collapsed, so did Countrywide. Mozillo, famous for his perma-tan, was named one of Time magazine’s "25 people to blame for the financial crisis,” and was second in Portfolio’s “Worst American CEOs of All Time.” It did not help that the Italian American’s public perception when his “Friends of Angelo” program, in which influential politicians such as Senators Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad received favorable mortgage financing from Countrywide, was uncovered in June 2008.
After leaving Countrywide when it was acquired by Bank of America in July 2008, Mozila faced charges of insider trading and fraud by the SEC that he ultimately settled in Oct. 2010 by agreeing to pay $67.5 million in fines. Mozilo was also barred from serving as a director or officer of any public company for life.