Sunday, February 8, 2009


Reading the New York Times today, I came across a full page ad from the CEO of Wells Fargo Bank. He was responding to the outgoing outcry against recognition events and luxury retreats funded by banks involved in the financial bailout. The full-page letter sought to achieve three things:
  1. Explain that everyone is wrong about what these retreats are all about -- these aren't for the multimillionaire brokers but just for the common folk like tellers and clerk to recognize their efforts
  2. Explain that by demanding these retreats not be held, we the taxpayers are deepening the recession -- all that retreat money isn't going to hotels, chambermaids, waiters, and valet parking attendants
  3. Make us feel guilty -- in response to all of the outcry, Wells Fargo is canceling all retreats for the remainder of the year and has to make due with thanking their employees through a newspaper ad because we're all getting fired up by overblown media accounts.
Look, I don't think anyone wants the recession to mean that people who do outstanding work can't be recognized for their efforts but I can't see how their management could have possibly believed that the planned Las Vegas junket and this full page ad would be a good thing. If there is one thing that the American people do not currently hold in abundance right now, it's sympathy for the financial industry.

For Wells Fargo in particular, this attempt at public rationalization as well as the "we're only canceling these events because you're all a bunch of a spoilsport meanies" message fall flatter than the value of my 401k, especially as details of the lavish past retreats emerge (helicopter rides, wine tasting, horseback riding in Puerto Rico, and a private Jimmy Buffett concert in the Bahamas for more than 1,000 of the company's top employees and guests).

Almost 600,000 people lost their jobs in January and no one except apparently the bankers are willing to accept that the financial institutions at the center of this mess should be allowed to continue spending money like that after getting bailed out by the taxpayers (see Citigroup's retreat on a plan to buy a $50 million luxury jet as a perfect example). Seriously, that's almost as bad as auto makers taking their private jets to Washington DC to ask for financial support. Can these people possibly be more tone deaf? Perhaps they should use some of the bailout funds to pay for a new position in senior management -- the Vice President of What the Hell are You Thinking?

No comments: