Three Infuriating Facts About Wall Street CEOs Five Years After The Crisis

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This post first appeared in ThinkProgress.


Richard S. Fuld, Jr., former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lehman Brothers, wipes his eye during testimony before the House Financial Services Committee regarding financial reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Richard S. Fuld, Jr., former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lehman Brothers, wipes his eye during testimony before the House Financial Services Committee regarding financial reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Five years ago this week, the investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. declared bankruptcy and triggered the financial collapse that brought us the Great Recession. Things have turned out quite well for former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld and four other industry executives whose work contributed substantially to the cycle of subprime lending and financial swindling that caused the crisis. Fuld and his colleagues haven’t just avoided legal repercussions for the crisis. They’re also among the wealthiest people in the country.

As part of a series commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) published a look at Fuld and executives from Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and Bank of America on Tuesday. Here are three infuriating facts CPI unearthed about the masters of the financial universe.

1. Dick Fuld walked away with half a billion dollars and three homes. Fuld’s $529 million fortune is actually a lot less than he could have been worth had he been able to cash out all of his stock before the Lehman bankruptcy. He had been paid $889.5 million in salary and stock between 2000 and 2007, and at one point his stock options were worth a full $900 million. CPI offers a digital tour of Fuld’s three homes: mansions in Greenwich, Connecticut and Jupiter Island, Florida, and a ranch in Sun Valley, Idaho. When Lehman settled for $90 million with former investors who the firm had deceived through an accounting trick approved by Fuld, it was an insurance company that paid, not executives like Fuld.

2. The former Bear Stearns CEO who walked away with over $300 million plays high-stakes bridge in retirement. Jimmy Cayne oversaw Bear Stearns’s massive gambling on home loans and related financial products prior to the company’s collapse. Today, he oversees a different sort of gambling. Cayne is the number 22-ranked bridge player in the world. He walked away from the company two months before it went belly up, having cashed out $289 million in stock and received another $87.5 million in direct cash bonuses from 2000 to 2007. Cayne and his wife own two Manhattan apartments, a mansion on the Jersey shore, and a $2.75 million condo in Boca Raton, Florida. “He’s paid no judgments or settlements from any lawsuits,” CPI reports.

3. Three bailed out CEOs whose “golden parachutes” were worth a combined $272 million are doing just fine. Charles Prince left Citigroup in 2007 following the announcement he’d lost the firm $11 billion in mortgage-backed gambles. The company paid him $28 million to leave. Stan O’Neal was fired by Merrill Lynch the same month, and the firm sent $161.5 million out the door with him. Ken Lewis left Bank of America in 2009 with a parachute payment of $83 million. All three of their firms had to be bailed out by taxpayers. The three men’s exit payments dramatically understate their total compensation. O’Neal and Prince each have vacation homes in the islands off of Cape Cod. Lewis has sold two homes in recent years but retains a condo in Naples, Florida.

While these stories of huge personal success in the face of clear business failure are infuriating, they are far from exceptional. Fully one-third of the highest paid financial industry CEOs of the past two decades have been fired, bailed out or busted for fraud.

Meanwhile, 11.3 million Americans remain unemployed, with tens of millions more having dropped out of the workforce or struggling to survive on low-wage part-time service industry jobs. Those who do have work are earning less than they did prior to the crisis, and American workers as a whole have experienced a lost decade in wage growth despite boosting their productivity substantially. By contrast, the financial industry that caused the crisis has bounced back rapidly, with record profits and near-record bonuses for its executives.


Alan Pyke Alan Pyke is the deputy economic policy editor for ThinkProgress.org. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he was a blogger and researcher with a focus on economic policy and political advertising at Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation and PoliticalCorrection.org.
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  • strider367

    But to these people minimum wage is to high…

  • Anonymous

    These guys are no different that Al Capone and the rest……crooks enjoying the high life on the backs of those they the take advantage of…..they should have EVERYTHING confiscated as ‘ill gotten gains’.

  • Bill Pieper

    The MO for this crime has become SOP for every heinous agenda the oligarchs want to force upon the public. First scare the crap out of them with dire scenarios of what will happen if we don’t act immediately (Condi Rice’s mushroom cloud, Hank Paulson’s seizure of the financial system), carefully coordinated with professionally created propaganda disguised as news on the media outlets they conveniently own. Then coerce lawmakers – purely for appearances you, the imperial system no longer requires token consent – and presto, they have their bailouts. Nevermind that there were many much more sensible approaches that would not have cost taxpayers a dime, but that would have affected the year end bonuses of our overlords who simply must put in that new kitchen in their Hamptons estate for next summer, don’t want to upset the wife you know.

    As soon as the names Robert Reuben, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner appeared on Obama’s list of economic/finance team, it became crystal clear to many paying attention which side of the divide his administration was. As Albert Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them” but that was precisely what they did, but they can’t help themselves, it is what they are. When Americans willingly put people who are demonstrably ill-suited into positions of power, decade after decade, it is hard to be very sympathetic.

  • Anonymous

    As more of the facts fall out of lazy, desultry FBI, SEC, DOJ investigations state attorneys’ general & pension fund mgt like CalPers will land on the data like vultures on a carcass. I wish them luck because year by year the wheels of justice will grind exceedingly fine.

  • DavidW

    We need options not protest. Move yer D^mn Money into a Credit Union. Buy into or start a Cooperative owned business that is local. Learn about Cooperative Enterprise by investing and shopping at a Food Co-op. Vote with our dollars.

  • Raymond Moser

    Thank you Barack Obama. Did you save the world from Depression or embolden the EMPTY SUITS of Inequality?

  • Bill Pieper

    This demonstrates one of the problems in politics in the US, in particular in the way everything is framed by a media looking for easy controversy to boost ratings. A criticism of a Democrat is automatically an endorsement of the even more loathsome Republicans. This is BTW, exactly how they want you to respond. Keeping the plebs at each other’s throats is the main reason they are able to continue committing the largest act of theft in human history.

    I suggest you read more carefully and take a few deep breaths before banging out a response in comments.

  • Bill Pieper

    Well of course. That is obvious. The elected officials are merely the errand boys.

  • Anonymous

    More like a lost generation and a half on the wage growth.

  • Anonymous

    And thanks to all the noble-minded idealists who, shocked to learn we had elected a politician, didn’t go to the polls in 2010. That certainly showed your quality.

  • Anonymous

    Accusing the banks of negligence is cutting them way too much slack, the rapine was, and continues, deliberate and systematic. The largest, and fastest, redistribution of wealth and power in history.

  • Anonymous

    Of course, Mittens was one one them, albeit a relatively minor player.

  • Anonymous

    So take ALL of their “winnings” and split it up amongst ALL of the unemployed you listed and whatddyagot? Just under $100 for each unemployed person… ONCE.
    Check my math..

  • DavidW

    We can fight money with money! Deny these banks by educating people on the options to keep our money local with Cooperatives, with a public banking initiative, with Credit Unions.

    Take away their market share and reduce their power. They only understand competition and we have to compete with these jokers by showing people another way and being good enough at it to build another business sector that keeps our wealth from being sent to these CEO’s as “royalty” payments.

  • DavidW

    Let’s go get our money back, by competing with these companies. Take their market share away and they’ll understand that they don’t have the economic power to move our political democracy to bend and bow to their desires.

    Google Rochdale Pioneers 1844 for some perspective on a practical model for us to follow.

  • Bill Pieper

    For the record, he was running against McCain in 08, not Mittens.

  • Bill

    “he is really successful, he works in finance” – every girl, ever.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    They are thieves, they manipulate people money to cash in then the collapse the market and say oops sorry you lost your pension plan or your savings to millions of American with small amounts each invested in mutual funds.
    The robber barons do not believe in god or fear punishment, they can buy their way out of everything. Be smart, never invest in the market only real estate and gold. Do not buy with credit cards, stop using them and see how fast the banks will change.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    like he invented the corrupted generation of today financial gurus, this stuff been going on for years. The 1970 saw mergers used by speculators to steal the pensions of blue collar workers. 90 thousand of them lost their pension. then they changed the law. Reagan deregulation caused the savings and loan to collapse and cost to the taxpayers was more than 140 billions

    see :The Cost of the Savings and Loan Crisis: Truth and Consequences

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    stop the BS the more you fail to understand the system is highly corrupted and the corporations are running the country the less likely changes will occur. Each person needs to connect in its town and do what needs to be done to make changes, it begins locally not in Washington.
    that is the truth of the matter.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    i think they call it survival of the fittest. Certainly not a ethical bunch

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    I have helped in the election but not expected anything to change dramatically since the politics of division offer no solutions, only pandering.
    There are many with “good intentions” but we know the road to hell is paved with them. We cannot have a democracy when the economic system is predatory, ethics non existent and the philosophy based on survival of the fittest.
    The bailout became necessary because the government at that time failed to regulate and oversee the markets properly and pushed for a deregulation of the banks so they were able to use people’s money for speculations using instruments designed to scam the world. Bailout was used for the wrong reasons and distributed to the people who committed the crime. The only real crime in this country is to be poor, then you have no bread, neither justice or a voice and people are being driven there relentlessly by the few.

    America needs to abandon its utilitarian philosophy that permeates and directs every aspect of the nation’s life and recognize life as sacred or stop calling itself a Christian nation where 75 % of the people believe in angels and 25% of them act like vampires.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    good ideas!