So there’s how prominent liberal bank critics have been grilled on CNBC lately. Now let’s take a look at how CNBC acts when the perpetrators of the crisis come on the air.
(A note: This obviously isn’t a scientific survey—who could watch that much CNBC? If you’ve seen a tough recent CNBC interview of major bankers, send it my way. Regardless, these examples are telling):
When Sandy Weill, predatory lending architect of the biggest bailout recipient of them all, Citigroup, came to Englewood Cliffs last month, he got a guest host spot on Squawk Box for two hours and was fawned over by part-time New York Times guy Andrew Ross Sorkin and Weill’s own daughter, who was brought on to pontificate for seven minutes on pops and the markets.
Weill is, of course, the father of Too Big to Fail and the undertaker of Glass Steagall, who built a $2 trillion goliath from a subprime and predatory lending core. It would go on to need the biggest bailout of them all, less than three years after he left Citi.
When Becky Quick set up her first question to the “philanthropist, financier, author, and most importantly, the former chairman and CEO of Citigroup,” she forgot to call Weill’s Citigroup a fraud-ridden, predatory lending, subprime innovating, tech bubble blowing, housing bubble instigating primary architect of the financial crisis, all of which it was. Instead:
You are a man who built Citigroup. You’ve been hailed as someone who was a visionary at looking at some of those financial supermarket big banks that have come through. I just wonder in retrospect—very few people saw the financial crisis coming—but in looking back, do you think that the megabanks played a role, in terms of too big to fail, for what happened with the financial crisis—or not?
That was the tone of the interview, including after Weill made big news by telling Quick and part-time NYT editor Andrew Ross Sorkin that he now supports a sort of Glass Steagall II that would split off investment banking from deposit taking banks. This is a guy, as Fox Business reporter (and former CNBCer) Charlie Gasparino says, whose “record as a banker… should banish him from ever dispensing advice on the business he helped destroy.” CNBC, by contrast, welcomed him as a “visionary” and a “philanthropist” and treated him with the utmost deference, even after his epic flip-flop.
This deference to bankers is not an aberration. Watch Gary Kaminsky’s embarrassing April interview with Goldman Sachs’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein. To call it “softball” would be too kind. This is tee ball journalism:
Here’s one representative question, about the infamous Greg Smith op-ed in The New York Times:
Just to put this issue to bed, you did this investigation, you looked through emails. This idea of Muppets and calling clients “Muppets.” Can we categorically say that you’ve done the thorough investigation and that this was typically a one-off?
Here’s a craven February interview of Alan Schwartz, who was CEO when it collapsed and had been a top executive there for years. Watch and marvel as Joe Kernen absolves Schwartz and all of Wall Street for the collapse:
Way to speak truth to power there, Joe.
Finally, we don’t have to wonder what a Maria Bartiromo interview of Hank Greenberg would be like compared to her sandbagging of Eliot Spitzer. She interviewed Greenberg last summer, deferring to him even as he rambled on about how AIG supposedly got wronged by the gubmint in its bailout.
Their journalistic compass is off by 180 degrees over there. Everyone should be skeptically interviewed, but especially the bankers who run the show. To adversarially question the overseers and critics while obsequiously chatting with the bankers who were critical in creating the worst recession since the 1930s is just upside down.
You have to wonder who’s more captured: The regulators or CNBC?
(To clarify: Clearly, I’m not talking about former regulators Barofsky and Spitzer being captured. They’re the exceptions to the rule)