Dodd's Book Deal
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, who has been faulted for his inaction during the financial crisis, has nevertheless scored a book deal touting his efforts to combat it.The book, "Thirteen Days: How the Financial Crisis Changed the Politics of Washington," "will provide an intimate look at how, over the course of 13 days last September, a financial crisis led to panic and meltdown," according to Publisher's Weekly.
It will also describe how Sen. Dodd and others "acted swiftly to try to save the American economy."
News of the deal brought criticism from all sides, including Republicans, who said Sen. Dodd spent much of the run-up to the crisis running for president and was generally an absentee chairman.
"A more apt title would be '13 Weeks: The Senate Banking Committee Chairman's Time in Iowa While the Housing Market Collapsed,'" said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to local news reports.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page should also have fun with this, considering the hay it made over the senator's sweet mortgage deal.
Thumbs Way Down
It would be wishful thinking to imagine a feel-good movie about banking this year. But does the industry really deserve this latest offering from Hollywood?From the trailers and hype, "The International" doesn't center on mortgages or even government bailouts. Instead, it tells the story of a large multinational bank that is really the front for a powerful and corrupt arms-dealing operation. Its heroes, played by Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, try to take the bank down.
Of course, bankers haven't been sympathetic big-screen figures since Mr. Potter tried to ruin George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart).
But "The International," which opened Friday, seems especially damning. A tag line for movie on IMDB.com intones: "They control your money. They control your government. They control your life. And everybody pays."
The movie's release seems likely to satisfy some viewers eager to watch a castigation of bailed-out banks. But the reviews have been mixed. A Washington Post critic said the movie "doesn't deliver quite the satisfying payoff that Tarp-weary audiences may be hungry for."
Lewis on the Spot
While the chief executives of the eight biggest U.S. banks argued they had spent money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program in appropriate ways, at least one lawmaker last week clearly did not believe them.During a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., argued that since "money is fungible," the giant cash infusions banks received couldn't be seen as isolated in one area of their spending. Therefore, all of the banks' activities, including lobbying, could theoretically have been funded by Tarp.
He asked Ken Lewis, Bank of America's chief executive, about the Financial Services Roundtable's opposition to a bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize. Rep. Ellison cited a report in which Steve Bartlett, the Roundtable's president, was heard on an audiotape disparaging the Employee Free Choice Act. (The Roundtable has taken heat for this; the organization canceled a trip to Florida after union-affiliated lobbyists complained of excess.)
"I don't go to the Roundtable," Mr. Lewis replied.
Rep. Ellison asked whether it didn't seem unethical to Mr. Lewis that B of A should support a lobbying group opposing workers' rights during the economic crisis.
Mr. Lewis answered, "I think it's always right to do what's best for your company."
The exchange, choppy and confused as it was, showed that responsibility, too, is fungible.
No Good Deed …
Though observers generally felt Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit came off well during the hearing, not everyone was impressed.Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show," in a segment dubbed "American Grandstand," busted on lawmakers for asking silly questions, but also criticized Mr. Pandit's decision to give in to lawmaker pressure by reducing his yearly salary to $1.
"I will pay my company to allow me to work there," Mr. Stewart mocked. "And while there, I will carry around a 50-pound bag of sand to remind me of my own incompetence. Employees will be encouraged — nay, required — to spit … upon me. And I will no longer wear my prized World's Best Boss T-shirt."