Bank chiefs to travel by public transport
By Francesco Guerrera, Greg
Farrell and Saskia Scholtes in New York
Published: February 7 2009 00:04 | Last updated: February 7 2009 00:04
They will travel from points near and far – from
California to the New York island – but the financial titans converging on
Washington next week for a congressional grilling will all leave the private
jet in the hangar.
Vilified for enjoying lavish lifestyles while
their companies are kept afloat by billions of taxpayers’ dollars, the men
formerly known as Masters of the Universe have opted to get a first-hand
look at the US’s crumbling transport infrastructure.
All of the big-name financiers set to appear
before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday will go to the
capital by train or commercial aircraft, the Financial Times has learnt.
Weary travellers trying to negotiate New
York’s La Guardia airport on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning should not
be surprised to bump into
Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein or
Morgan Stanley’s John Mack.
Citigroup’s chief executive will also be on one of the NYC-DC air
shuttles. After being castigated by the US Treasury for wanting to take
delivery of a $50m jet – a decision
subsequently reversed – Citi is in no mood to antagonise its government
As for Jamie Dimon, people close to the
JPMorgan Chase chief did not disclose his means of transport other than
to say it will be public.
The banks’ spin doctors argue that commercial
travel is often the preferred choice for New York-based executives because
of the frequency of flights between the Big Apple and the nation’s capital.
But even John Stumpf, who runs San
Wells Fargo, is going to have to stand in line at security before he
embarks on his coast-to-coast jaunt.
Ken Lewis, the
Bank of America chief who is trying to sell three corporate jets and an
helicopter acquired with the takeover of Merrill Lynch, will cover the 400
miles between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Washington by train.
The “bulge bracket” brigade’s decision to
tighten their belts, or at least fasten their seat belts, comes after
President Barack Obama called the banks’ decision to pay $18bn in bonuses in
the middle of the most virulent financial crisis in generations “shameful”.
With shareholders, employees and consumers
hurting – and politicians still fuming at the US automotive executives who
used their jets to come to DC begging for money – Wall Street had the sense
to realise that, for now, cheap is indeed cheerful.
Financial Times Limited 2009