TALE OF TWO OBAMAS: Tough Talk To CEOs, Soft Pedalling On Bailout Oversight, Advisers Compromised

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POLITICO: The bankers struggled to make themselves clear to the president of the United States. Arrayed around a long mahogany table in the White House state dining room last week, the CEOs of the most powerful financial institutions in the world offered several explanations for paying high salaries to their employees — and, by extension, to themselves. “These are complicated companies,” one CEO said. Offered another: “We’re competing for talent on an international market.” But President Barack Obama wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation and offered a blunt reminder of the public’s reaction to such explanations. “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that. My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” MORE

WASHINGTON POST: The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it ObamaFrown.jpgbelieves will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials. Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package.

The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials. Although some experts are questioning the legality of this strategy, the officials said it gives them latitude to determine whether firms should be subject to the congressional restrictions, which would require recipients to turn over ownership stakes to the government, as well as curb executive pay. MORE

POLITICO: Lawrence Summers, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, pulled in more than $2.7ObamaFrown.jpg million in speaking fees paid by firms at the heart of the financial crisis, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America Corp. and the now-defunct Lehman Brothers. Summers pulled in another $5.2 million from D.E. Shaw, a hedge fund for which he served as managing director from October 2006 until joining the administration.

Thomas E. Donilon, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was paid $3.9 million by the power law firm O’Melveny & Myers to represent clients including two firms that receieved federal bailout funds: Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. He also disclosed that he’s a member of the Trilateral Commission and sits on the steering committee of the supersecret Bilderberg group. Both groups are favorite targets of conspiracy theorists. MORE

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Newspaperchart_042808_1_1.jpgBOSTON GLOBE: The New York Times Co. has threatened to shut the Boston Globe unless the newspaper’s unions swiftly agree to $20 million in concessions, union leaders said. Executives from the Times Co. and Globe made the demands Thursday morning in an approximately 90- minute meeting with leaders of the newspaper’s 13 unions, union officials said. The possible concessions include pay cuts, the end of pension contributions by the company and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees now enjoyed by some veteran employees, said Daniel Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the Globe’s biggest union, which represents more than 700 editorial, advertising and business office employees. MORE

VANITY FAIR: [New York Times Chairman] Arthur Sulzberger has steered his inheritance into a ditch. As of this writing, Times Company stock is officially classified as junk. Arthur made a catastrophic decision in the 1990s to start aggressively buying back shares ($1.8 billion worth from 2000 to 2004 alone). This was considered a good investment at the time, and had the effect of increasing the stock’s value. Shares were going for more than $50. Now they are slipping below $4—less than the price of the Sunday Times. Arthur’s revenues are in free fall: the bottom has Newspaperchart_042808_1_1.jpgdropped out of both newspaper and Internet advertising. He has done more than anyone in the business to showcase newspaper journalism online. vhIt hasn’t helped much. The content and page views of the newspaper’s Web site, nytimes.com, may be the envy of the profession, but as a recent report from Citigroup explained, “The Internet has taken away far more advertising than it has given.” Layoffs have occurred in the once sacrosanct newsroom. Having squandered billions during the newspaper’s fat years—buying up all that stock, buying up failing newspapers, building a gleaming new headquarters—Arthur is scrambling to keep up with interest payments on hundreds of millions in debt, much of it falling due within the next year. To do so, he is peddling assets on ruinous terms. Arthur recently borrowed $250 million from Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications billionaire, who owns the fourth-largest stake in the Times Company. MORE

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