Wall Street CEOs: Putting Shareholders Before Taxpayers

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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?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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