Saturday’s Wall Street Journal took a tough look at Bob Rubin’s disastrous tenure at Citigroup.
Mr. Rubin…acknowledged that he was involved in a board decision to ramp up risk-taking in 2004 and 2005 even though he was warning publicly that investors were taking too much risk….
His troubles have upt teh former Treasury secretary in the awkward position of having to justify $115 million in pay since 1999, excluding stock options…. Mr. Rubin said his pay was justified and that there were higher-paying opportunities available to him. “I bet there’s not a single year where I couldn’t have gone somewhere else and made more,” he said.
That is a novel argument: I earned my pay because someone else would have paid me more.
Asked if he had any regrets, Mr. Rubin said: “I guess I don’t think of it quite that way.”
Rubin argues that he was only an advisor to Citigroup and that “the board as a whole is not going to have a granular knowledge” of operations.
But in at least one hugely important matter, this turns out to be not quite true.
Mr. Rubin was deeply involved in a decisin in late 2004 and early 2005 to take on more risk to boost flaging profit growth, according to people familiar with the discusssions. They say hew old comment that Citigroup’s competitors were taking more risks, leading to higher profits.
..At the time, Mr. Rubin was saying in speeches that most assets were overvalued. He would quote a noted investor he knew as saying that “the only undervalued asset class in the world is risk.”
Which, as we all know, turned out to be as wrong as wrong can be. Meanwhile, the stock of Citigroup is down 70% from the time Rubin came on board.
In his defense, Rubin says that no one saw the current crisis coming.