In a recent New York Times article, entitled "Where was the Wise Man?" former Treasury and current Chairman of the Executive Committee of Citigroup, Secretary Robert Rubin denies any responsibility for the enormous losses that have hit Citigroup in the wake of the sub-prime and credit crises:
“By the time I finished at Treasury, I decided I never wanted operating responsibility again,” Mr. Rubin, 69, said during a two-hour interview in his office. Sitting in a red-cloth chair and propped against a thick book to support a bad back, he made it plain that responsibility for Citigroup’s staggering losses can’t be laid at his feet.
“People know I was concerned about the markets,” he says. “Clearly, there were things wrong. But I don’t know of anyone who foresaw a perfect storm, and that’s what we’ve had here.”
“I don’t feel responsible, in light of the facts as I knew them in my role,” he adds.
But did he make mistakes?
“I’ve thought a lot about that,” he responds. “I honestly don’t know. In hindsight, there are a lot of things we’d do differently. But in the context of the facts as I knew them and my role, I’m inclined to think probably not.”
I've met Robert Rubin, spent time talking to him in his office, and walked away completely impressed with the man. In fact, they really don't come any better--he's decent, professional, experienced, kind, and brilliant. But in this case, he's dead wrong. When you are sitting in an office on the executive floor of Citigroup's headquarters in New York City, getting paid $15+ million a year, issuing denials rather than accepting one's share of responsibility for poor management decisions (and effectively blaming them on others)...well frankly, it just boggles the mind. As the "Wizard" of Citigroup, he absolutely shares responsibility for the disaster that has hit his organization.
Ultimately, that is the difference between leadership and management. Managers pass the buck. Leaders make the buck stop where they sit. Reading Rubin's statements, I was surprised. More than anything, I was saddened. Rubin is better than that.
And then yesterday, anticipating statistics that would confirm an anemic economy, President Bush also pushed the blame for the nation's economic woes elsewhere, blaming Congress for "letting the American people down." No admission of responsibility there either....