Multinational Monitor

JAN/FEB 2009
VOL 30 No. 1


Wall Street's Best Investment: 10 Deregulatory Steps to Financial Meltdown
by Robert Weissman
and James Donahue


Cleaning Up the Mess: New Rules for Financial Regulation
an interview with
Ellen Seidman

Closing the Regulatory Gap: Derivatives and the Hedge Fund Industry
an interview with
David Ruder

Foreclosed: The Failure to Regulate Abusive Lending Practices
an interview with
Debbie Goldstein


Behind the Lines

Simple Finance

The Front
Chevron Escapes Liability - Ecuador's Debt Default

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Book Note

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Greed At a Glance

Once a Public Servant ...

The new Obama administration economic team is sporting a number of Clinton-era operatives. One so far without an official White House perch: Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary.

Rubin has spent the last nine years at Citigroup, where he came on board as a senior counselor, shortly after greasing the skids for the deregulation that left Citi the world’s biggest bank. Citi, betting heavily on subprimes, would go on to lose more than $65 billion during Rubin’s stint, and, early in 2009, a somewhat regretful Rubin formally resigned his Citi duties.

Overall, Rubin pocketed $126 million in cash and stock for his Citi labors. But he seems to regard his years at the bank as something akin to public service. Declared Rubin in one recent exit interview: “I bet there’s not a single year where I couldn’t have gone somewhere else and made more.”

Solidarity Forever (or at least until the market recovers)

Deep pockets angry about their investment losses now have an alternative to the private bankers and wealth managers who have lost them small fortunes since the global economic meltdown began. That alternative: a growing “self-help” network known as Tiger 21.

This New York-based “investment club” for mega millionaires aims to bring together rich people willing “to share experiences about the opportunities and challenges of living with money.”

The club currently boasts chapters in locales from Palm Beach to San Francisco, with members forking over $30,000 a year in dues for the chance to talk investment chit-chat. The chatterers hold fortunes that average between $30 million and $50 million, not counting, says a club spokesman, “homes, art and toys.”

Tiger 21 appears to be booming.

“People are scared,” says Steve Sack, an entrepreneur now organizing a new Seattle chapter, “and the antidote to that fear is knowledge and information.”

A Sale for Super-Rich Old Salts

Some awesomely affluent souls with fading fortunes apparently no longer get the joy they once did from sailing the Seven Seas — on their super-yachts. A rash of used luxury boats has hit the market.

Amway’s Richard De Vos has a 167-footer, with an on-board diving pool, on sale for just $22.5 million. Ron Perelman, the billionaire who took cosmetics giant Revlon private in 1985, wants considerably more —  $68.6 million, for his Ultima 111, a 190-foot boat with eight “staterooms.” And venture capitalist Tom Perkins, the Guardian reports, is trying to unload his 290-foot Maltese Falcon for $157.8 million.

Meanwhile, over in Florida’s Fort Lauderdale, designer Donald Starkey still has enough faith in the yachting market to push on with the construction of a true global “giga-yacht,” a 656-foot, five-decker scheduled to be ready for sale in 2010 — at $500 million.

Hearts of Plentiful Gold

In South Florida, the legions of designers and event planners who owe their livelihoods to the upper-crust set are breathing a sigh of relief. The super rich are still spending — at least, as one local wedding planner notes, on “the big emotional events.”

Indeed, points out Bruce Sutka, a top exec with a West Palm Beach event-staging firm, his company has one upcoming affair with a $225,000 budget just for decorations.

Dream Concierge, another South Florida event planner, is now putting together a $500,000 black-tie spring wedding. The 130-guest bash will feature $110,000 worth of filet of beef and lobster tail and “a canopy of 12-foot-tall birch trees draped with hanging orchids.”

“In these circles,” smiles a satisfied Breeze Taylor, a planner with Dream Concierge, “people want their guests to be wowed and surprised.”

The Friendly Skies

The troubled General Motors and Ford automakers, working hard to avoid another public relations disaster, have announced plans to sell off their company jets. Other companies are following suit. Worldwide, researchers at banking giant UBS point out, the share of business jets up for sale has more than doubled since last fall.

So why are key figures in the business jet industry smiling? Companies may be selling off their private jets, but they’re not swearing off private jet rides. Private jet companies that specialize in selling flight time in 25-hour packages are doing quite nicely. The New York-based Marquis Jet has sold over 1,000 such packages — at an average $150,000 each.

Many big companies that owned their own jets, says Frank Schiavone of Concord Private Jets, rushed to get their planes “off the books” before 2009. Concord has been hawking an introductory special to capitalize on the rush: 25 hours on a Gulfstream IV for just $299,500, with one free hour for every 25 hours purchased — and $200 worth of free catering on every flight leg.

— Sam Pizzigati, editor of Too Much, an online weekly on excess and inequality

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