Bend It Like Davis
Corporate executives never seem to tire of using sports analogies to describe their businesses. But Richard K. Davis, the chairman and chief executive of U.S. Bancorp, put one to vivid use this week in characterizing his company's game plan in the years leading up to the credit crisis.
"We had the best goalie, we had the best back line … and we even put our forwards on defense," he told investors at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference. "Nobody scored on us."
But a prudent culture and classic defensive moves can only get a company so far. "We hadn't lost. We just weren't winning enough."
So now the company is going on offense, investing in growth opportunities like corporate banking and wealth management, and putting more effort into improving employee engagement, he said.
That said, it would be a big surprise if Davis ever started showing the flashy qualities of, say, soccer star David Beckham.
Back to the Future
Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Ken Lewis invoked his mentor Hugh McColl during a keynote speech Tuesday at the same conference.
Lewis in recent months has borrowed quotes from economists, historians and even Japanese proverbs during public appearances. But McColl's quote seemed appropriate given that it may be Lewis' last appearance as B of A's chief executive; he is set to retire at yearend. McColl "liked investors, but he did not like analysts," Lewis said in his brief remarks.
Lewis then borrowed from a note his predecessor wrote to analysts before retiring in 2001. "I have seen you in the good times," Lewis said. "I have seen you in the bad times, and now I have seen you for the last time."
Lewis joked that, as the chief operating officer, he had to handle the fallout from Wall Street from that note. "But in a way for different reasons, I guess the saying is still the same," he said.
Lev Dassin has gone from prosecuting white-collar criminals to defending them. Dassin, who served as the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York for eight of the office's more eventful months in recent memory, has joined the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP as a partner advising on commercial litigation, trial and enforcement matters in New York. At the U.S. Attorney's Office, Dassin oversaw the prosecutions of Bernard Madoff and Marc Dreier, along with national security and terrorist cases.
The 44-year-old graduate of Cornell University and the New York University School of Law rejoined the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2005 after a stint in private practice. He was the criminal division chief and went on to become deputy U.S. attorney before serving as interim head of the office, until a permanent successor was installed in August.