Right on Rubin

Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post points out that it’s inexplicable that Robert Rubin hasn’t had his reputation much more damaged by his association with Citigroup (not to mention with the deregulating that led to its downfall).

Although Rubin has been cagey about his role at Citigroup, what is indisputable is that all of the decisions that have led to Citi’s recent troubles were taken while he was chairman of the executive committee and were made by executives whom he supported and with whom he worked closely day to day. He supported them when they were criticized, and as a director he approved compensation packages that rewarded them (and himself) handsomely for judgments that turned out to have been disastrous for the shareholders.

Now that Citi has stared into the abyss, I’m sure we’ll see more damaging Rubin profiles.

And Pearlstein correctly calls out Obama for appointing a bunch of Rubin Lites to head his economic policy:

The ultimate irony, of course, is that just as Rubin & Co. at Citi were being bailed out by the Bush administration, President-elect Obama was getting set to announce a new economic team drawn almost entirely from Rubin acolytes…

But perhaps the next time Obama thinks about assembling a group of wise men to advise him on the economic crisis, he might consider leaving Rubin out of the mix. The accountability that Obama has promised to bring to economic policy should start at home.

Rubin was on board with Citi’s funny accounting, too, which Jonathan Weil of Bloomberg spells out in detail here.

UPDATE: More on Rubin, from the Times, here.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.