Wall Street CEOs: Putting Shareholders Before Taxpayers

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


During Wednesday’s hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Citigroup chief executive Vikram Pandit offered a curious mea culpa in response to criticism triggered by his firm’s plan to buy a new corporate jet after receiving $45 billion in bailout money:

We did not adjust quickly enough to this new world, and I take personal responsibility for that mistake. In the end, I canceled delivery. We need to do a better job of acknowledging and embracing the new realities.

So Pandit says Wall Street needs to get real, but the seven other Wall Street CEOs who joined Pandit in testifying on the Hill showed little indication they knew how to get in touch with that new Wall Street reality. When Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked the executives if they would continue to own or lease corporate jets, all but one—Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs—said they would.

Next Sherman asked the CEOs if they would institute a policy to withhold dividends from shareholders until the $125 billion they received in bailout funds from taxpayers is repaid.

Only Pandit, Ken Lewis of Bank of America, and Ronald Logue of State Street Corporation said they would pay taxpayers before shareholders. 

The new reality on Wall Street is that taxpayer money is keeping the firms afloat, though some firms, such as Goldman, arguably could have weathered the crisis without TARP funds. CEOs like Pandit say they’re aware they have to change their priorities. But don’t the taxpayers deserve more than empty words? Like, maybe, our $125 billion back?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest