In Defining Hypocrisy, Weill, Who Led Repeal Of Glass Steagall, Now Says Big Banks Should Be Broken Up

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Who is Sandy Weill? He is none other than a retired Citigroup Chairman, a former NY Fed Director, and a "philanthropist." He is also the man who lobbied for overturning of Glass Steagall in the last years of the 20th century, whose repeal permitted the merger of Travelers of Citibank, in the process creating Citigroup, the largest of the TBTF banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. In his memoir Weill brags that he and Republican Senator Phil Gramm joked that it should have been called the Weill-Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Informally, some dubbed it “the Citigroup Authorization Act.” As The Nation explains, "Weill was instrumental in getting then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on finance capital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression." Of course, by overturning Glass Steagall the last hindrance to ushering in the TBTF juggernaut and the Greenspan Put, followed by the global Bernanke put, was removed, in the process making the terminal collapse of the US financial system inevitable. Why is Weill relevant? Because in a statement that simply redefines hypocrisy, the same individual had the temerity to appear on selloutvision, and tell his fawning CNBC hosts that it is "time to break up the big banks." That's right: the person who benefited the most of all from the repeal of Glass Steagall is now calling for its return.

Hypocrisy defined 5:20 into the interview below:

I am suggesting that [big banks] be broken up so that the taxpayer will never be at risk, the depositors won't be at risk, the leverage of the banks will be something reasonable... I want us to be a leader... I think the world changes and the world we live in now is different from the world we lived in ten years ago.

How ironic is it then that at the signing ceremony of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley, aka the Glass Steagall repeal act, Clinton presented Weill with one of the pens he used to “fine-tune” Glass-Steagall out of existence, proclaiming, “Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.”

How ironic indeed. And how hypocritical for this person to have the temerity to show himself in public, let alone demand the law he ushered in, be undone.

Weill discussing all of the above and more with a straight face here:

For those curious to learn a bit more about Weill, here is some good reading:

Weill is the Wall Street hustler who led the successful lobbying to reverse the Glass-Steagall law, which long had been a barrier between investment and commercial banks. That 1999 reversal permitted the merger of Travelers and Citibank, thereby creating Citigroup as the largest of the “too big to fail” banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. Weill was instrumental in getting then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on finance capital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression.

 

Those restrictions were initially flouted when Weill, then CEO of Travelers, which contained a major investment banking division, decided to merge the company with Citibank, a commercial bank headed by John S. Reed. The merger had actually been arranged before the enabling legislation became law, and it was granted a temporary waiver by Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve. The night before the announcement of the merger, as Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley writes in her book “Tearing Down the Walls: How Sandy Weill Fought His Way to the Top of the Financial World... and Then Nearly Lost It All,” a buoyant Weill suggested to Reed, “We should call Clinton.” On a Sunday night Weill had no trouble getting through to the president and informed him of the merger, which violated existing law. After hanging up, Weill boasted to Reed, “We just made the president of the United States an insider.”

 

The fix was in to repeal Glass-Steagall, as The New York Times celebrated in a 1998 article: “…the announcement on Monday of a giant merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group not only altered the financial landscape of banking, it also changed the political landscape in Washington.... Indeed, within 24 hours of the deal’s announcement, lobbyists for insurers, banks and Wall Street firms were huddling with Congressional banking committee staff members to fine-tune a measure that would update the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial banking from Wall Street and insurance, to make it more politically acceptable to more members of Congress.”

 

At the signing ceremony Clinton presented Weill with one of the pens he used to “fine-tune” Glass-Steagall out of existence, proclaiming, “Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.” What a jerk.

 

Although Weill has shown not the slightest remorse, Reed has had the honesty to acknowledge that the elimination of Glass-Steagall was a disaster: “I would compartmentalize the industry for the same reason you compartmentalize ships,” he told Bloomberg News. “If you have a leak, the leak doesn’t spread and sink the whole vessel. So generally speaking, you’d have consumer banking separate from trading bonds and equity.”

 

Instead, all such compartmentalization was ended when Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in late 1999. In his memoir Weill brags that he and Republican Senator Phil Gramm joked that it should have been called the Weill-Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Informally, some dubbed it “the Citigroup Authorization Act.”

 

Gramm left the Senate to become a top executive at the Swiss-based UBS bank, which like Citigroup ran into deep trouble. Leach—former Republican Representative James Leach—was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, where his banking skills could serve the needs of intellectuals. Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration treasury secretary who helped push through the Citigroup Authorization Act, was the most blatant double dealer of all: He accepted a $15-million-a-year offer from Weill to join Citigroup, where he eventually helped run the corporation into the ground.

 

Citigroup went on to be a major purveyor of toxic mortgage–based securities that required $45 billion in direct government investment and a $300 billion guarantee of its bad assets in order to avoid bankruptcy.

 

Weill himself bailed out shortly before the crash. His retirement from what was then the world’s largest financial conglomerate was chronicled in the New York Times under the headline “Laughing All the Way From the Bank.” The article told of “an enormous wooden plaque” in the bank’s headquarters that featured a likeness of Weill with the inscription “The Man Who Shattered Glass-Steagall.”