Who is the least trustworthy C.E.O. on Wall Street?

That was the question Portfolio asked. The results from a readers poll, along with appropriate quotes:


Alan Schwartz, Bear Stearns:  "Capital … remains strong."     26%

Martin Sullivan, AIG:  Chance of a loss? "Zero."                       22%

Ken Lewis, Bank America:  There’s "value in Countrywide."    12%

Ken Thompson, Wachovia: We’re in "a great market."              11%

Dick Fuld, Lehman Bros: "The worst is behind us."                   8%

John Thain, Merrill Lynch: "We have tackled the problem."      8%

Vikram Pandit, CitiGroup: We are "well-capitalized."                7%

Kerry Killinger, Washington Mutual: "Profitability" in 2008.        4%

John Mack, Morgan Stanley: "Comfortable" with the risks.         3%


What? No Angelo Mozilla? What is a list of least trusted CEOs without the Man with the Tan? I guess he no longer technically qualifies . . .


And the Winner, er, Loser Is…
Mark Stein
Portfolio, Aug 5 2008   10:43AM  EDT

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. dave commented on Aug 9

    With a quick edit they seem prescient:

    Ken Lewis, Bank America: There’s “negative value in Countrywide.”

    Ken Thompson, Wachovia: We’re in “a great market for shorts.”

    Dick Fuld, Lehman Bros: “My wife is behind us.”

    John Thain, Merrill Lynch: “We have tackled the problem, and it is us.”

    Vikram Pandit, CitiGroup: We are “well-capitalized for a ponzi scheme.”

    Kerry Killinger, Washington Mutual: “Profitability” in 2008 is laughable.

    Some, of course, cannot be helped. And I still dig Mack the Knife.

  2. SLUGGO commented on Aug 9

    SLUGGO thinks John Thain is a piece of crap for what he did to the floor guys at the NYSE. (Thain the happy face)

  3. Clay commented on Aug 9

    Countrywide’s combined net losses for the 3 quarters ended 3/31/08 was $2.515 billion ($1.2B + .422B + .893B). The results for the qtr. ended 6/30/08 have not been disclosed yet and the merger with BOA was supposed to have been completed on 7/1/08. I read somewhere recently that Countrywide’s liabilities may exceed the fair market value of it’s assets. Wonder if Ken Lewis will still have his job at BOA on 12/31/08?

  4. Bob A commented on Aug 9

    And the truth is:
    “We are, as a group, a bunch of lyin’ sacks of _ _ _ _ ”

  5. wally commented on Aug 9

    Now, if you’d post the annual salaries and bonuses, we’d see how much they get paid to not understand the fundamentals of the businesses they run.

  6. Joe commented on Aug 9

    At least for Ken Lewis, he is just stupid and didn’t lie to everyone. He bought Countrywide so at least he believed what he said, the others I doubt it.

  7. David C commented on Aug 9

    How can you tell when a salesman, et ah, CEO is lying? Old joke, new twist.

  8. john thompson commented on Aug 10

    Wow, Sluggo is posting. Is that KROQ sluggo? We’ve gone punk rock. This must be some madness!

  9. daveNYC commented on Aug 10

    They’re all equally trustworthy, it’s just which one is lying in this specific instance.

  10. Evan Press commented on Aug 10

    How much did these bozos earn last year?

  11. Stuart commented on Aug 10

    No confidence in any of them. I sure they know their business, I just don’t trust any of them, any more. All members of the Financial aristocracy.

  12. Todd commented on Aug 10

    Though I am not qualified enough to post on this blog in any sort of professional capacity, I do feel like I can somewhat comment in a comedic capacity. And let me just say, the moniker “The Man With A Tan” is without question the most perfect nickname any CEO has ever had the misfortune to receive.

    I don’t understand how Angelo’s disgusting epidermis wasn’t the first thing mentioned whenever he was the subject of discussion. Rare is the man who has ever achieved that delicate combination of leathery, spotted and overtly cancerous skin without causing widespread mistrust. Honestly, how could you see complexion like that and buy into whatever operation he was running? Simply shocking. It simply reeks used car salesman. (I sincerely apologize to any used car salesman I have compared to Angelo Mozilo)

  13. Blissex commented on Aug 10

    «Countrywide’s liabilities may exceed the fair market value of it’s assets.»

    Someone argued about a year ago (August 2007):

    «I would argue that Countrywide is insolvent. Their only asset is their pricing platform, their business algorithm, and that’s not working. The next biggest asset they have is the toner for their copiers.»

  14. Blue Bellied Yankee commented on Aug 10

    You people obviously don’t understand the job of a CEO (and most US executives for that matter). Let me enlighten you.

    The purpose of a CEO is to manage the price of the stock (in the short term). My experience is executives will tell you just that, “…my job is to manage the price of the stock…” This is what they won’t tell you, to do their job they manage reported profits for next few quarters, and beyond maximizing the next few quarters reported profits, most don’t care about much else. The fact that financial instruments may (will) blow up years down the road is not their problem, they don’t get paid to worry about such things. They get paid to report good earnings, and hopefully (I doubt they will even admit this to themselves) they will be long gone before things blow. The long term is irrelevant, which is pretty much exactly how our government works and people like it that way or we wouldn’t have the government we have. Coincidentally by managing the stock price executives maximize their own wealth, through control of tens (even hundreds) of millions of dollars in stock options.

    John Bogle (founder of Vanguard) wrote a book in 2005:


    His main point in the book is that we have moved from ownership capitalism to managerial capitalism where companies are managed to maximize the personal wealth of management not the owners. It is a good read, and also very scary, but it is true and I see his point unfolding and no one is there to stop it as the US sinks (not so slowly) into the muck and we destroy the wealth our forefathers build up over the centuries.

    So the actions of the CEOs are fully expected, and certainly not confined to the financial industry. Just look around you can see it everywhere (Ford and GM are also fine examples or the pharma industry with their selective reporting of drug research data), in fact our government has done a very good job of subtly promoting this kind of activity.

    Just remember CEOs are doing exactly what they are paid to do. That helps a great deal in understanding these guys actions. After all people even executives do what they are paid/expected to do.

  15. Falcon commented on Aug 10

    Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson deserves to be on this dubious list as he runs this newly fashioned finance company called Long Term Taxpayer Management….Kabloom!

  16. leftback commented on Aug 10

    You can add Mudd and Syron to these clowns.

    This is why there is a mute button on the TV remote, especially when the CEOs are on. Anything they might say is worthless.

    You can use it for Dennis Kneale too.

  17. Bruce commented on Aug 10

    Uh, why no mention of the CEO of our two new friends, Fannie and Freddie?

    Think about it…

    Not only did they do a rotten job and apparently caved at any suggestion of political pressure, but all of us Joe Sixpacks will fund whatever bill they have when they are finished at the table…

  18. Mother Teresa commented on Aug 10

    The least trusted CEO on Wall Street is quite possibly happy Hank Paulson. His quotes since taking office are hilarious. Hank got to take advantage of this corrupt practice of taking profits on investments to accept a public appointment…. ….obviously put in place to lure the brilliant minds of private industry to serve our country. More commonly known as the criminal revolving door between corporate positions, lobbyists and government. So, how much did he cash in without paying taxes? I do believe at least $300 million without looking it up. He’s butt **cked the American people coming and going – first by being part of the current group of clowns that created this mess and now as the head cheerleader to save his cronies on Wall Street. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

  19. dave commented on Aug 10

    Blue Bellied, they get paid to make ignorant asses of themselves? Yeah, we all understand talking the book. But that is not what this collection of morons has done. And they are morons. And Thain is a particularly dispicable piece of trash, I wish the Vinnies would hunt him down and chop him up.

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