Ana Marie Cox Comes Full Circle at ‘Radar’The founding Wonkette editor signs on to do irreverent political coverage for Maer’s magazine, another Charles Kushner associate goes down, and Andrew Cuomo noses around Dick Grasso’s package, in our daily roundup of news from the worlds of media, real estate, law, and finance.
Angelo Mozilo Just Wants to Help PeopleLAW
• After testifying in front of the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform last week about the gargantuan pay package he picked up while his company hemorrhaged money, Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo made Congress a nice little offer: “Mr. Mozilo said he had left a card in each Congressional office with a help line for constituents having problems with their loans. He added that if the number didn’t work, “call me— I take this very seriously.’” [NYT]
• Since the federal death-penalty statute was revived in 1998, New York federal juries have been reluctant to impose the death sentence. [NYT]
• You know those ads for legal firms in the Metro? Yeah, they’re really not all that effective. [Legal Blog Watch]
white men with money
CEOs Fry at Congressional Hearing!Oh, not really. We’re just exaggerating. That’s what the media does, according to former Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince, Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, and former Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal,all of whom who have all offered up the line that the media has “grossly exaggerated” the amounts of their compensation in their testimony in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today. “The reality is that I received no severance package,” said O’Neal. This is technically true: but he did recieve $161.5 million in cash, stock and stock options upon his “retirement” in October. Over at Portfolio, Elizabeth Olson is live-blogging the hearing, and she has reported that, among other things, Countrywide Financial CEO Mozilo looks “tan and confident,” but everyone looks totes unhappy. The day started out with a bang: Chair Henry Waxman, who called for the hearing, wondered aloud whether the “hundreds of millions of dollars [the CEOs] were given represent a complete disconnect from reality,” but Republican representative Tom Davis killed his joy by saying that they “should not degenerate into a sanctimonious search for scapegoats.… Punishing individual corporate executives with public floggings like this may be a politically satisfying ritual — like an island tribe sacrificing a virgin to a grumbling volcano.” Indeed. Also, who knew Davis was so creative?
Credit C.E.O. Comp Under Fire, IV [Daily Brief/Portfolio]
white men with money
Angelo Mozilo Earned That Money, and No Commie Quack Is Going to Take It Away From HimAs you may know, Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, recently deposed Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal, and recently deposed Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince are scheduled to testify in front of the House and Government Reform Committee tomorrow, having been called by Representative Henry Waxman of California to defend the gigantic paychecks they received precisely as their companies were hemorrhaging billions of dollars in subprime investments. Muckraked got hold of a memo Waxman wrote summarizing the issue for his colleagues, and it is kind of awesome. “During the five-year period from January 2002 through December 2006, the stock of Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup appreciated, and the three CEOs collectively received more than $460 million in compensation,” he wrote. Then, “Any alignment between the compensation of the CEOs and their shareholders’ interests appears to break down in 2007, however.” But the best part is an e-mail from October 2006, wherein Mozilo smacks down shareholders who suggest his $120 million compensation might be a little much.
Quoth the e-mail:
I appreciate your input but at this stage in my life at Countrywide this process is no longer about money but more about respect and acknowledgement of my accomplishments.… Boards have been placed under enormous pressure by the left wing business press and the envious leaders of unions and other so called ‘CEO Comp Watchers’ and therefore Boards are being forced to protect themselves irrespective of the potential negative long term impact on public companies. I strongly believe that a decade from now there will be a recognition that entrepreneurship has been driven out of the public sector resulting in underperforming companies and a willingness on the part of Boards to pay for performance.
That’s right, Angelo. You’ve got to fight those liberal bastards or else they’ll take away everything that is right and good in the world. Now go tell it on the mountain, friend.
[Muckraked via Salon]
white men with money
O’Neal, Mozilo, Prince, the Principal Would Like to See You NowNot so fast there, boys. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Henry Waxman isn’t going to let fired Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal and fired Citigroup CEO Charles Prince III waste away in Margaritaville just yet. He’s organizing a little field trip down to Washington February 7, where he’s holding a hearing as part of an “ongoing investigation into executive pay” related to subprime. The executives will be expected to answer questions about the massive pay and severance packages they received after making a mess of their companies and why they thought they could get away with armfuls of money while leaving the rest of America holding the bag. Yeah. Who do they think they are, anyway? “You collected tens of millions of dollars in payments and other compensation upon your departure from Citigroup,” Waxman wrote in a letter to Prince, according to the Financial News. “You should plan to address how it aligns with the interests of Citigroup’s shareholders and whether this level of compensation is justified in light of your company’s recent performance and its role in the national mortgage crisis.” Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo has also been invited along for the ride, since Bank of America announced they would acquire that ailing beast for $4 billion on Friday, and if Mozilo, thought he was going to go sailing into the sunset scot-free, well, we guess he’s got another think coming.
Congress Panel Wants to Grill Subprime CEOs on Pay [Reuters]
white men with money
Merrill Lynch CEO Asks Jeff Kronthal to Bring It Oh no he didn’t! In what looks like a fuck-you to his predecessor, new Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has announced he is hiring back Jeff Kronthal, one of six top trading executives former CEO Stan O’Neal fired back in the summer of 2006, reportedly after they resisted his directive to increase risk-taking by underwriting mortgage-backed securities. O’Neal, of course, was fired himself this past November for precisely that — his enthusiasm for the subprime poison apple left Merrill with record losses. Awesomely, Kronthal’s new role at Merrill will be fixing the mess his old boss made; he’s been hired, according to Merrill co-pres Gregory Fleming, to “advise on the firm’s fixed-income business and risk management.” The job is temporary — Kronthal has his own hedge fund launching in mid-2008 — but the gesture is still meaningful, as many have said that had Kronthal and the other sacked fixed-income veterans not left, the bank might not be in the shape it is today. According to the Journal, Kronthal received a standing ovation when he appeared on a Merrill trading floor yesterday. Basically, it’s kind of like the second half of that seminal film Bring It On, after high-school cheerleading squad the Rancho Carne Toros are embarrassed by their spirit-fingers performance, and Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) takes control back from Courtney and Whitney and leads the squad to victory with an original routine. Go Merrill!
Kronthal to Return As Merrill Advisor [WSJ]
Judith Regan: At What Price, America?MEDIA
• Jeff Bercovici wants to know: “What’s Regan’s price for selling out her country?” After all, if Regan’s info on Giuliani is that damaging, shouldn’t she divulge it in any case, no matter how much Uncle Murdoch is willing to offer? [Mixed Media/Portfolio]
• Dan Rather’s lawyers are getting fed up with CBS nondisclosure agreements. “Who do these guys think they are? The National Security Agency?” [NYO]
• Intrepid Observer reporter spends 45 minutes staring through a window just to see who showed up to a lame Times party. Now that’s journalism! [Media Mob/NYO]
Stan O’Neal Disinvited to the Literal and Figurative PartyFINANCE
• Stan O’Neal wasn’t invited to a big Merrill Lynch reunion party thrown by Evelyn Juan, the son of a Merrill founder. Guess Stan will just have to drink himself to sleep in his board-provided office. [DealBreaker]
• Goldman’s unbelievable success is forcing all the other top banks to dig deep into the honey pot and pay out a record-setting $38 billion in bonuses, despite losing $74 billion in market value. Goldman, of course, accounts for almost half of the bonus pool. Let’s just say it’s good to be Goldman. [Deal Journal/WSJ, Bloomberg]
• Steve Schwarzman spared no expense for his son’s wedding and the tab ran to $150,000, including a $20,000 BBQ supper, $7,000 for drinks, and $50,000 to rent an entire hotel and keep the riffraff out. Still pales in comparison to Schwarzman’s $3 million birthday bash. [NYP]
Al Gore: Cashing In on His Big YearFINANCE
• Al Gore, venture capitalist? The Nobel laureate and Apple board member is taking a hands-on role at Kleiner Perkins, the leading Silicon Valley venture firm. His goal: Save the world. And annoy GE’s Jeff Immelt as much as possible. [Fortune]
• Harvard picked Robert S. Kaplan, a former Goldman Sachs vice-chairman, as the new steward for the $35 billion endowment. Something tells us his kids won’t have any trouble getting in. [Reuters via NYT]
• A few management consultants with nothing better to do gave the Times its newest buzzword: CEO version 3.0. With the departures of Stan O’Neal, Chuck Prince, and Richard Parsons, it’s now time for leaders “who can assemble a team that functions as smoothly as a jazz sextet.” Because, as James Cayne showed, the old CEOs were way too bebop. [NYT]
Kate Middleton Quits Fashion — Soon to Be Engaged?FASHION
• Princely girlfriend Kate Middleton quit her job at fashion chain Jigsaw, sparking rumors of an imminent engagement! [British Vogue]
• Daria Werbowy is doing a line of makeup for Lancôme that benefits a Brazilian children’s charity. Hot and philanthropic? Sigh. [Fashionista]
• Surprise, surprise: This holiday shopping season is gonna suck for retailers. [NYT]
Wall Street’s Golden Idols All Have Feet of ClayFINANCE
• The struggle to find a successor at Merrill and Citi demonstrates another big flaw in the current culture of Wall Street: Do-or-die standards, and growing demands on public executives, have left firms with no succession plan and few capable of stepping in to take over. Both firms have been forced to turn outside for help: Laurence Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, has been approached about O’Neal’s old job, while Robert Willumstad and John Thain are in the lead to take Prince’s place. [WSJ]
• Why did Chuck Prince and Stan O’Neal fail? They took Gordon Gecko’s favorite maxim—”I create nothing, I own”—a little too seriously, and forgot the other part of banking is to sell, sell, sell. [NYT]
• Andrew Ross Sorkin dons his Miss Manners cap to explain the rules of corporate courting—and why Stan O’Neal’s worrywart parents, the Merrill Lynch board, were only looking for an excuse when they grounded him for asking Wachovia to “merge.” [NYT]
white men with money
Goodbye, CharlieWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Chuck Prince has been on our—and everyone’s—about-to-get-axed list for about three years. Look, there he is right there, in this week’s magazine, with a little axe hovering over him! It’s been especially bad the past month or so, after Citigroup announced a $6.5 billion write-down, and everyone started openly talking about how Prince sucked and should leave, even though Rick Rubin and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal defended him. It sort of reminded us of when Lacey was on Rock of Love: Even when everyone in the house was hating Prince, when it seemed like there was just no way he was going to win, the board still had the hots for that crazy bitch and refused to kick him off the show. Of course, as with Lacey and Rock of Love, all things come to pass, and this past Saturday, the Citigroup tour ended for Prince. But we have to ask, why now, as opposed to back then? Did Stan O’Neal inspire Prince? Are the fourth quarter numbers just too heinous for him to stick around? Was he fed up, as the Wall Street Journal this morning suggests, with rassling with the mammoth bureaucracy that is Citigroup? Or: Was Prince merely afraid that if he stayed on a moment longer someone at the Journal would uncover his stash? In any case: Now that the floodgates have been opened, we’re looking at you, Cayne.
Citigroup Statement on CEO Prince [WSJ]
Related:Big Swinging Ax
Did Aaron Charney Only Get 100K From Sullivan?LAW
• Will Aaron Charney ever have to work again? More than likely — he may not have gotten more than $100,000 in his sexual-harassment settlement with Sullivan & Cromwell. [PrawfsBlawg via Above the Law]
• Should law schools be more like business schools? One law prof thinks so, and he looks a little like Justin Timberlake, so he must be right. [Law Blog/WSJ]
• Do Cravath’s two rounds of bonuses signal Big Law strength and more money for associates, or is the firm just hedging so they aren’t locked in to paying the same amount next year? [NYT]
in other news
This morning we learned that Merrill’s Lynch’s soon-to-be-deposed CEO Stan O’Neal had a serious stick up his butt when it came to Goldman Sachs, and that whenever Goldman reported profits O’Neal would “grill his executives” “to the point where you didn’t want to be in the office,” on Goldman earnings days, one former Merrill executive told the Wall Street Journal. Now on DealBook, Andrew Sorkin has done a thoughtful analysis of why Goldman has soared of late while Merrill has tanked, and includes a telling little nugget of info.
The new high illustrates how Goldman and Merrill — whose chief executives own apartments in the same Park Avenue co-op in New York — have been on opposite trajectories of late. Shares of Goldman are up—
Wait a second. Hold up. Stan O’Neal and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein live in the same building? Google: Yes! 941 Park Avenue, the plush-but-not-too-plush building at 81st Street that was also home to Tom Brokaw and Claude Arpels. No wonder the dude was all salty about Goldman. Blankfein is clearly the Newman to O’Neal’s Jerry! Look at him smiling like that! Oh, the humanity.
As Merrill Reels, Goldman Glitters [DealBook/NYT]
in other news
Stan O’Neal: It’s the Final Countdown!What did you do this weekend? Oh, yeah? Well, Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal, whom we put on Deathwatch last week, spent the weekend negotiating his $160 million severance package. Nice payout, considering he, you know, was responsible for the biggest loss in the bank’s history. But can we just say it’s kind of amazing how fast this all happened? It was only a week ago that O’Neal announced his multi-billion-dollar write-off, and this morning, the Wall Street Journal reports he’s expected to resign this afternoon. Whereas we and the rest of the universe have had Citigroup’s Chuck Prince Deathwatch for like three years and still the dude is cozy in his Lexington Avenue throne. So, why has O’Neal gone down like a ton of bricks, while Prince is living large? Management Today suggests it might be because O’Neal is black. But we’re not so sure. (Also, not so comfortable with that headline, guys, considering O’Neal is actually a descendent of slaves.) But more likely it is just that he:
• Reported an $8 billion loss in the third quarter, which makes Chuck seem like he was being frugal for losing only $6 billion.
•Was super-competitive with Goldman Sachs, to the point where his staff avoided him during Goldman earnings because he was not nice.
• LOST $8 BILLION
• Was maybe talking to Wachovia about a merger behind the back of his board.
• Lost $8-fucking-billion
We think that about sums it up.
O’Neal Out As Merrill Reels From Loss [WSJ]
O’Neal Gets Merrill Lynched [Management Today]
Earlier: The Stan O’Neal Deathwatch
in other news
The Stan O’Neal Deathwatch Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal has enjoyed a spectacular rise to the top of Merrill Lynch. He makes $48 million a year! Alas, now he’s sinking like a stone. Since it is Schadenfreude Friday, let’s review how it all went down.
October 5: Merrill estimates it will take a loss of $4.5 billion on collateralized debt obligations, i.e., mortgage-backed securities.
Tuesday, October 23: Er, take that back. CEO announces that third-quarter losses might be more than first projected. Like $2 billion more. Whoopsie! O’Neal’s “job could be in jeopardy depending on the actions he takes to reassure Merrill’s board,” predicts the Wall Street Journal.
Is Kate Beckinsale Too Hot to Play Judy Miller?MEDIA
• Matt Drudge cracked open The New Republic’s Iraq fabulist controversy once again. Did the mag’s Baghdad diarist really make up details about mass graves and troops ridiculing a disfigured female soldier? Franklin Foer complains that Drudge’s docs could only have come from the Army. [Slate, NYO]
• Chris Jones, the managing editor of Portfolio.com, announced his departure from the mag after giving notice over a month ago. High-level rumors also indicate Joanne Lipman may soon be relieved from command — but only for the Website. [WWD]
• The Judith Miller movie is now filming in Memphis, and let’s just say that Kate Beckinsale is way too hot to be a reporter. On the other hand, the Valerie Plame CIA character, played by Vera Farmiga, looks just about right. [WP]
white men with money
Bank of America’s Friends: One Is Silver and the Other’s GoldEmbattled CEOs like Citigroup’s Chuck Prince, whose departure has been rumored and longed for since he announced profits were down by 60 percent last month, and Merrill Lynch’s Stan O’Neal, who the other day announced they’d be taking $8.4 billion — that bears repeating: $8.4 billion — in write-downs, ought to take a cue from Bank of America’s Kenneth Lewis, who after reporting a 32 percent drop in third-quarter results decided to do like a smart despot and start executing his cronies before the people start marching him to the gallows. Last night, Lewis announced a restructuring of the bank, which includes the “early retirement” of B of A head of investment banking R. Eugene Taylor, above, a trader for some 38 years and a longtime tennis buddy of the CEO’s. He’ll be replaced by Brian Moynihan, a bright young thing who will move from Boston to New York to take over the division. But Moynihan has never run a capital markets unit before now, and honestly, with the Red Sox in the World Series, how popular will he be in New York?
BofA’s Wall Street Retreat [WSJ]
Related: The Hanger-on [NYM]
‘Times’ Laughs in Morgan Stanley’s Face (Well, Back)MEDIA
• Marcus Brauchli remains top editor at the Journal, but there’s a growing sense of inevitability that Robert Thomson, Sunday Times of London editor and Murdoch “old boy,” will challenge him for the position. (Related question: Does Murdoch have any “boys” who are not “old”?) [NYO]
• The Times’ third-quarter earnings almost doubled analysts’ expectations, giving the paper a chance to gloat about the big hit Morgan Stanley took a week ago by selling its stake in the company. [NYT, DealBook/NYT]
• Rick Reilly, previously the highest-paid writer in the history of Time Inc., will get $2 million a year for five years at ESPN. Who knew wussifying sports would pay so well? [NYP]
Former Cravath Associate Pleads Guilty to Sex CrimesLAW
• James Colliton, the former Cravath associate embroiled in a sex-crimes suit, got a lighter sentence after he admitted to paying a mother for sex with her two teenage girls. [Law Blog/WSJ]
• Debevoise and Plimpton’s marquee new hire, the former attorney general of the U.K., has a few scuffs on his highly polished shoes: He carried on an affair while in office with a leading woman barrister. [Above the Law]
• When $1,000 an hour isn’t enough, premium billing — a kind of law-firm tip for a job well done — is the best way to really start raking in the profits. [DealBook/NYT]