By Pam Martens: August 13, 2012
To see what Sandy Weill was really up to on July 25 of this year when he went on CNBC to recommend that we separate insured deposit banks from investment banking, I went to CNBC.com and reviewed the video.
As it turns out, Weill was asked to be a guest host for two hours on Squawk Box, a program co-hosted by Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times and Rebecca (Becky) Quick. Sorkin is the author who has written, in an article that the New York Times refuses to correct, that Glass-Steagall wouldn’t have prevented the 2008 crash because Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG had nothing to do with insured deposit banking – except for the fact that Sorkin missed that they actually owned insured deposit banks only because of the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Quick is best summed up as Warren Buffet’s personal interviewer.
Being a guest host on a business channel purporting to be unbiased financial reporting would arguably not include bringing along an entourage of people who are beholding to you to go on air and say nice things about you. But that’s precisely what CNBC allowed Weill to do, giving the distinct feeling of either comments at a funeral or an infomercial to rebuild Sandy Weill’s image as the philanthropist and visionary and not that man who crashed the U.S. economy with the hair brain idea of financial supermarkets.
My skepticism arises from having a front row seat in June 1998 when hundreds of people turned out to say something nice about Weill during the Federal Reserve hearings about the merger that would end Glass-Steagall: Weill’s brainchild of merging Travelers Group with Citicorp. Almost without exception, those individuals had received corporate donations from a Weill-run business. (What’s the good of giving away shareholders’ money if you can’t turn the recipients into your pawns.)
Particularly credible as a guest on CNBC was Sandy Weill’s own daughter, Jessica Bibliowicz, who said nice things about her Dad and also rendered her professional opinion that “equities are cheap here.” Bibliowicz should know: the stock of the publicly traded firm she heads, National Financial Partners, is down 68 percent since August of 2007, a decline that is actually less steep than the firm built by her father: Citigroup has declined 93.81 percent in five years.
Other guests looked uncomfortable saying nice things about Sandy Weill but got the job done: there was Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, where Weill reigns as Chairman of the Board – in other words, Gillinson’s boss. Gillinson made the out of context remark that Weill “always leads by example…”
Then there was JD Hoye, President of the National Academy Foundation. On cue, Becky Quick tosses out that the charity was founded by Weill in the 1980s. And rounding out the stature of those with whom Weill rubs elbows was Dr. Laurie Glimcher, Dean at the Weill Cornell Medical Center. That facility has been the recipient of the bulk of Weill’s philanthropy, money which ultimately came from the pockets of Citigroup shareholders and employees. In just one year, 2000, Weill cashed in $196.2 million in stock options and received a bonus of $18.4 million. His total take in a five year period: $785 million.
Videos of guests on the Sandy Weill segment on CNBC: