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Thursday, March 5, 2009

The American Scofflaw Roster of Stars

By Deborah Barrow

Here’s a question, fellow 401K-robbed victims of the meltdown: Exactly where did this toxic batch of bankers and businesspeople — who engineered the economy into the ditch, the stock market into free fall and frittered away the fortunes of our country and maybe even the world — learn their craft? Which MBA, economics and law programs produced the perpetrators of the calamities that have befallen the great Wall Street institutions and, now, Main Street Americans as well? Which schools are the Academies of the Apocalypse, and who and how many went to each?

Winner: Harvard

Second Runner-up: New York University’s Stern School of Business

Third Place: Cornell

It’s well-known by everyone except those with an MBA that the rest of the world hates the average overeducated-in-the-wrong-way whiz kid who emerges from an elite graduate school of business. These soulless, humorless, real-world-experience-starved scammers descend upon Wall Street and corporate America by the truckload every May, typically making life miserable for the professional peasants who work at the unfortunate firms to which they flock, for those who must stand mutely by as their new bosses proceed to make Every Mistake in the Book. The craftiest and most mendacious of each generation invariably finds their way to the corner office, where for years now they’ve been shipping jobs overseas, changing the focus of their firms from making products to managing money and getting richer than Marie Antoinette could have ever imagined.

Well, now these geniuses have failed even farther upwards and we have on our hands a full-fledged global economic meltdown.

Taking an inventory of CNN’s Ten Most Wanted: The Culprits of the Collapse, Time magazine’s 25 People to Blame For the Financial Crisis, plus a peek at the pontificators on CNBC (where the soaring level of screaming and finger-pointing makes for great daytime reality TV), we found ourselves wondering: From which schools did the stars of the meltdown emerge?

Harvard - 9 Stars

  • Stanley O’Neal, Harvard MBA: Ousted as Chairman, CEO of Merrill Lynch, after the firm posted its first $8 billion in losses due to the sub-prime crisis. Received a severance package valued at the time at $161 million in stock and options.
  • John Thain, Harvard MBA: Hired to succeed O’Neal at Merrill Lynch and eventually managed to sell it to Bank of America. Forced out when it was revealed that he spent $1.3 million to decorate his office, and, according to The Wall Street Journal, asked for a 2008 bonus of $5-10 million, prompting President Obama to complain about "the reports that we’ve seen over the last couple of days about companies that have received taxpayer assistance, then going out and renovating bathrooms or offices or in other ways not managing those dollars appropriately." In January ‘09, NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed Thain about the purported billions in executive bonuses paid out to Merrill employees.
  • Christopher Cox, Harvard MBA: Former Chairman of the SEC, the organization that missed Bernie Madoff’s massive Ponzi Scheme even though the agency investigated him numerous times is known for his lax enforcement of Wall Street.
  • Henry Paulson, Harvard MBA: Secretary of the Treasury under President Bush, spoke ardently against government regulation of Wall Street. The resulting financial meltdown forced Paulson to oversee the greatest infusion of American taxpayer money into the banking system of any Treasury Secretary in history, including the $750 billion unregulated TARP plan. His choice to let Lehman fail after bailing out Bear Stearns and AIG has also been faulted for dramatically worsening the financial crisis.
  • Andrew Hedley Hornby, Harvard MBA: Failed former CEO of what used to be one of the UK’s largest bank group, HBOS, which had to merge with Lloyds in the face of bad mortgage loans.
  • Lawrence Summers, Harvard PhD, Economics; Former President, Harvard University: Current head of President Obama’s National Economic Council, and former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton, where he helped prevent government employee Brooksley Born from imposing government oversight of derivatives, those toxic Wall Street investments now believed to be at the root of much of the current crisis.
  • Franklin Raines, Harvard Law: Former CEO of Fannie Mae, took "early retirement" amid an accounting investigation.
  • Daniel Mudd, MPA, Harvard JFK School of Government: Took over Fannie Mae from Raines, and increased the number of subprime mortgages it guaranteed until the government dismissed him in 2008, when the Feds had to put Fannie into conservatorship to keep it afloat.
  • George W. Bush, Harvard MBA: Rode herd over the most alarming financial meltdown since the Great Depression, as the tsunami of unregulated Wall Street derivatives collided with the bursting of the housing bubble.

New York University - 3 Stars

  • Alan Greenspan, MA, Economics, NYU: Former Federal Reserve Chairman and lifelong acolyte of Ayn Rand l’aissez-faire capitalist theories, kept Wall Street unregulated and the lending rate low, allowing the mortgage bubble to expand until it finally blew up, taking the economy with it.
  • Dick Fuld, NYU/Stern MBA: Former CEO of Lehman Brothers, the 158-year-old investment bank that, under his leadership, had to file for bankruptcy after it went deep into the subprime mortgage and CDO cesspool.
  • Kathleen Corbet, NYU/Stern MBA: Ran ratings agency Standard & Poor’s as they slapped Triple-A ratings on risky pools of loans, luring investors all over the world to invest in now-worthless CDOs.

Cornell University - 2 Stars

  • Sandy Weill, Cornell BA, Government: Former CEO of Citibank, created the banking behemoth that put commercial banking and investment banking under one roof for the first time since the 1930s, after successfully lobbying for the repeal of Depression-era regulations that kept those banking functions separate. The result is a Citibank that the government just recently took a 38% stake in to keep it afloat.
  • Richard Marin, Cornell MBA: Former CEO of Bear Stearns Asset Management, ran two highly leveraged hedge funds that blew up in the summer of 2007, kicking off the credit crisis cascade that eventually saw 85-year-old Bear Stearns dismantled and sold to JP Morgan Chase for parts.










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