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Banks oppose bank regulation. News at 11.

By Dylan Matthews

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit has an op-ed in the Financial Times arguing that the Basel III agreement will slow aggregate demand, reduce credit availability, hurt consumers, purple monkey dishwasher.

Mike and Karl are better equipped to evaluate the piece on the merits, but I'm mostly interested in the press strategy behind it. Who on the Citi public relations team thought that having a well-known, and widely resented, bank CEO attack bank regulations would be effective? Who did they think would be persuaded by that?

I can understand the logic behind urging a think tanker to write an anti-Basel piece, or sending anti-Basel talking points to opinion journalists. But everyone reading the op-ed knows that Pandit actually opposes bank regulation because he wants the bank he runs to make more money. That's fine so far as it goes, but it's unclear why anyone who is not an employee or shareholder of Citigroup would find it a compelling reason to oppose Basel III.

Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.

By Dylan Matthews  | November 11, 2010; 10:20 AM ET
 
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Comments

Presumptively ascribing veiled motives can lead to erroneous conclusions. For example, when reading the prior post, I could have noticed that the Clean Coal campaign is led by the Podesta Group, which is operated by the brother of Jon Podesta (the CEO of Center for American Progress and Center for American Progress Foundation), and could have assumed that the Atlantic ran its story solely for the purposes of currying favor with the Podesta Brothers and thereby securing additional advertisers and political contacts. Instead, I gave Fallows the benefit of the doubt and didn't mention the connection to the Podesta Brothers and what they themselves describe as their powerful "government in exile."

There seems to be even more of a case for giving a bank CEO the floor to speak about banking matters: although I'm quite opposed to having bank CEOs on government banking regulatory boards (a well-known mistake persisting for almost 100 years), I'm happy to hear from a trained expert who actually has industry experience. All too often, young academics lacking both tenure and any measure of practical experience -- obscure non-field-based researchers who aren't even allowed to participate in the planning of the budget of the institutions which employ them -- steal the floor and prattle at length, full of the sound and the fury, signifying nothing.

Getting beyond the prejudice -- actually making full use of freedom of speech and actually listening to a variety of viewpoints -- seems to be a positive step.

Posted by: rmgregory | November 11, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Dylan:

SAVE THIS COLUMN!

Don't change a word, keep it with your permanent files when you change computers. I promise that 20 years from now, this will have been the most embarassing thing you have ever written as an adult.

Let's not even talk Basel as you suggest, let's talk your understanding of the world.

1) "Who on the Citi public relations team thought that having a well-known, and widely resented, bank CEO attack bank regulations would be effective? Who did they think would be persuaded by that?"

Resented by whom, the general public? Who cares? Do you think they deliver the FT door to door in Mississippi? I only graduated from a state school, but the first thing my professor in honors level history taught us was know your audience. Who are you writing for? This piece was written for about 5,000 people worldwide whose opinions on this actually matter.

2) "I can understand the logic behind urging a think tanker to write an anti-Basel piece, or sending anti-Basel talking points to opinion journalists . . ."

This is going to break your heart but real movers and shakers, especially in the business community don't read Paul Krugman or Dean Baker. They laugh openly at Christina Romer, and they don't even acknowledge the existence of Steve Pearlstein and the financial writers for most newspapers, or anybody linked to in Ezra's column! (forgive me Ezra) In the business world, Pandit is widely seen as having done an excellent job in a very tough position. His words have gravitas, in a way that yours mine or Krugman's do not.

3) "But everyone reading the op-ed knows that Pandit actually opposes bank regulation because he wants the bank he runs to make more money"

This is the worst sentence in the whole piece. It's why a few of Ezra's readers shake their heads at what goes on in his column. It's not just that he WANTS the bank to make more money. It's his raison d'etre to use an Ivy League phrase. It's the only reaosn he is in the job. Beyond that, legally it's his fiduciary responsibility to his shareholders, the reason that CEO's hold big liability insurance. It's also his repsonsibility to the Federal Government itself, which is still a major shareholder in Citi.

Dylan, sorry to be so blunt, but if you ever want to be read by people other than me, go back and rethink everything you've written here.


Posted by: 54465446 | November 11, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

After 40 years in advertising and dealing with corporate executives, I can tell you that they think — by virtue of being a CEO or a VP — that they are competent to speak on any subject, regardless of their lack of training or experience in the matter.

I guarantee that the PR people tried to dissuade Pandit and lost. He, of course, knew best.

Posted by: tomcammarata | November 11, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

His audience is primarily the financial press and regulators, not the general public. He and other bankers have been saying for a while now that certain aspects of Basel III could lead to an uneven playing field where the banks could potentially, yes, lose business. Agree with him or not, his job is to further his corporation's interests.

Posted by: tuber | November 11, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Simon Johnson addresses this exactly question in a great post at baselinescenario: http://baselinescenario.com/2010/11/12/vikram-pandit-has-no-clothes/#more-8241 .

Posted by: jcdoerre | November 12, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Simon Johnson has a great post on baselinescenario addressing this question: http://baselinescenario.com/2010/11/12/vikram-pandit-has-no-clothes/#more-8241

Posted by: jcdoerre | November 12, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

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