Rubin Says He Could 'Have Gone Somewhere Else And Made More Money'

Under fire Citigroup executive Robert Rubin has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, and given us some interesting insights into the way he views his own culpability for the firm's current malaise.

Some suggest that Rubin, who is thought to have taken some $115m in compensation from Citigroup since 1999 (and is the only member of Citi's board who had trading experience) should have been more involved on overseeing the bank's activities. They say that he might have spent less time fly-fishing and advising US President-elect Barack Obama, and more time taking care of the store.

Although acknowledging that Citi's board needs to take some share of the blame for the company's troubles: 'Maybe there are things, in the context of the facts we knew then, we should have done differently', he insists that board members are not there to micro-manage the business: 'The board can't run the risk book of a company. The board as a whole is not going to have a granular knowledge (of operations)'.

Rubin acknowledged that he was involved in a board decision to ramp up risk post 2003, but insisted that this misfired as executives executed the plan properly. He also appears to justify his compensation by suggesting that he could have got more elsewhere: 'I bet there's not a single year where I couldn't have gone somewhere else and made more'. Some Citi investors may be wishing he had gone for all the good he appears to have done.

In the meantime, Bloomberg reports that Citi chairman Sir Win Bischoff spoke at a Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce event in Zurich last week, and said that 'more share and retention-based compensation is not a magic bullet', and called for the need for common accounting principles across borders and more powerful financial regulators. Bischoff also suggested that two consecutive quarters of banking profits without significant writedowns would be enough to restore confidence in the industry.

Finally, Reuters reports speculation in Japan that Citi is to sell its NikkoCiti Trust and Banking unit in deal worth up to $420m. Likely buyers include Mitsubushi UFJ Financial, Sumitomo Trust & Banking and Mizuho Trust & Banking.

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