So THAT’S who that arrogant-looking so-and-so was…

For months now, I’ve been seeing this one photograph of this one guy, over and over, in The Wall Street Journal — almost always with stories I was uninterested in reading, so the picture just sort of registered in the background.

It was the sort of picture that no sane company publicist would ever have distributed, unless it wantedFuldrichard2_2
its CEO to be hated. And you knew this was a CEO; the picture just radiated, "I’m the kind of guy who thinks he’s really hot stuff because I’m so absurdly overcompensated." And you know, I seldom think that when I look at people. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt (something that drives some of y’all crazy, because you’re always wanting me to join you in despising somebody, and I just don’t feel like it — not necessarily because I’m a nice guy; I just don’t feel like it). But this picture INSISTED that you not like the guy. If a psychologist included this photo in a Thematic Apperception Test, I suspect there would be a surprising uniformity in the stories the subjects would tell.

Well, we’ve all been paying more attention than usual to Lehman Brothers the last few days. For tomorrow’s op-ed page, I happened to choose this Nicholas Kristof column, which in a nutshell is about a guy named Richard Fuld who got paid the equivalent of $17,000 an hour while he was running that company into the ground.

Needing art for the page, I searched AP photos for "Richard Fuld." And lo and behold, what should pop up but that very same picture that’s been half-registering on my mind the last few months. That’s it above and to the right. It was taken by Kevin Wolf at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Jan. 22, 2007. I especially like the way Mr. Wolf thought to include the satellite image of the Earth in the frame, just in case we missed the whole "master of the universe" thing going on.

And apparently, to the extent that this guy Fuld will be publicly remembered, he’ll be remembered looking like this.

Well, I feel so much smarter for knowing that now. But not nearly as smart as he apparently thought HE was.

17 thoughts on “So THAT’S who that arrogant-looking so-and-so was…

  1. bud

    I’d be interested in knowing what Mr. Fuld’s net worth is. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet. This just makes me sick. GOP economics at it’s absolute worst. Enrich a few, give them huge tax breaks then move on.

  2. p.m.

    And, as it happens, from NEWMEAT (, he has given $32,900 to Republicans, $132,250 to Democrats and $43,400 to special interests, his contributions including $2,300 to Obama, more than $5,000 to Chris Dodd, $5,600 in three chunks to Hillary Clinton, $35,000 in two chunks to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $1,000 to Dianne Feinstein, $6,000 in three chunks to Joe Lieberman, $2,000 to John Kerry, $7,000 in seven chunks to Charles Schumer, $3,000 in three chunks to Nita Lowey, $1,000 to Ted Kennedy, etc.
    In other words, almost two-thirds of his political contributions have gone to Democrats.
    So I guess he’s an example of Democrat economics, bud.

  3. Lee Muller

    McCain received $117,500 from Lehman Bros.
    Obama received $370,524(!!) from Lehman Bros.
    John McCain got $36,875 from AIG
    Barack Obama raked in $75,899 from AIG
    (On Sept 17, Obama asked his audience, “Who is AIG, anyway?”)
    Top Recipients of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Campaign Contributions, 1989-2008
    1. Dodd, Christopher $165,400 in 15 years
    2. Obama, Barack $126,349 in 3 years!!
    – source ABC News and FEC queries

  4. p.m.

    So I guess, Brad, that Fuld and Lehman Bros. weren’t “above politics.” In my experience, big businesses and big business people usually play whatever politics they deem necessary.
    So here’s a fair question: Because politics is almost always a game of follow-the-money, and with your being a politics hound and having been a government editor, why on Earth have you been playing faux hero on here lately pleading ignorant to matters financial? Government and politics is about almost nothing other than money, in the form of student loans, welfare, Social Security, interest rates, earmarks, budget considerations, etc.

  5. Lee Muller

    The latest FEC revelations of illegal donations to Obama from Palestine, laundered through multiple phony donors in Georgia, is just the tip of the Muslim iceberg that will sink Obama.

  6. Sold Down the River in Lexington

    Re: “running [a] company into the ground”
    Does this sometimes occur to eliminate the competition, paving the sordid path to starting a new! and improved! company that monopolizes the market?
    Would that not be a conflict of interest?
    Legal? Probably. Ethical???
    How can the owners and managers involved in these schemes live with themselves — and sleep at night? And get up every morning, skulk out, and do it all over again?
    Any business analyst/CPA’s on the blog? Where is Lee? I know he would get right to the heart of the matter.

  7. Brad Warthen

    p.m., you may note a slight facetiousness to my tone when I’m begging off on financial matters. The truth is that I understand the basics at least as well as most journalists, but I’m acutely aware of the fact that that’s a VERY LOW STANDARD.

    I’d rather protest my ignorance and occasionally say something smart on the subject than set myself up as an expert and embarrass myself.

    But while there is that element of facetiousness, it’s true that there’s something about the MYSTIQUE and POWER of money that just hits a dead spot with me. I truly am uninterested in it, and tend to get impatient with money talk, the same way I get impatient with people talking about football — I get a little irritated with other people who seem to care TOO MUCH about it.

    And one of the areas where I am atypical is that I probably attach a little less importance to the whole "follow the money" thing than other people. Fortunately (from your perspective), I’ve always worked with people (Cindi Scoppe is one) who doesn’t mind following the money, and will yank my attention in that direction when necessary.

    But the thing that gets me is that sometimes people act as though the money is the important thing itself, when it isn’t. Case in point that always comes to mind: Several years back when he was Democratic Party chair, Dick Harpootlian just went ape over the fact that the operators of the Barnwell nuke dump had contributed to David Beasley’s campaign. I never really cared about that stuff — I mean, we reported it, but I didn’t care about these contributions THEMSELVES — and that just irked Dick no end.

    What I cared about, and raised hell about, was that Beasley had done the bidding of that company to the extent of getting S.C. out of the nuclear waste compact and keeping the dump open, throwing out years of delicate efforts in the service of a bipartisan strategic policy.

    Dick acted as though what was bad about Beasley’s actions was that he had received the contributions. But that’s like the tail wagging the dog. To the extent that such contributions matter, they are indications that someone might be inclined to favor the contributor. Once that has already happened, the FACT of what was done to screw up the state’s policy was what mattered.

    It’s like getting worked up over a barometric reading when you’ve got a Category 5 hurricane blowing you away. What matters is the storm, not the indication of the storm.

    Of course, I understand where Dick’s coming from. It’s all about the post-Watergate gotcha strategy — he’s not just pursuing bad policy; he’s a CROOK! But what matters to me is the policy, not what sort of darkness might lurk in the politician’s soul. When the POLICY is that bad, everything else is a distraction…

    By the way, just so you understand: I WROTE ABOUT the stuff that Dick cared about. I just insisted that he had it backwards as to what was more important. In fact, here’s a column I did at the time:

    Published on: 08/07/1998
    Section: EDITORIAL
    Edition: FINAL
    Page: A16
    Editorial Page Editor

    Consider a parable:

    John and Mary are having an illicit affair. It has gone on for years.

    John is a man of the world. Mary is to a certain extent what used to be called a "kept woman": John set her up in her apartment, and enabled her to live well without having a real job.

    Mary gave birth several years ago. The child is John’s, and everyone knows it. Mary has made no secret of the fact. She named the child John Jr. and filed the identity of the father with the bureau of vital statistics. But everyone knows about John and Mary anyway. They are seen everywhere together; they’ve even been written about in the paper.

    There’s this local busybody named Dick, who has made what he thinks is a startling discovery: A copy of a hotel register entry showing that John and Mary stayed in the same room one night. He thinks this is dynamite. But the local newspaper seems barely interested. The paper merely publishes it matter-of-factly, and editorializes that such behavior is not illegal but probably should be.

    Dick is apoplectic. He wants John and Mary ruined and thinks the paper isn’t getting excited enough. He implies publicly that the editor also had an affair with Mary. He displays a picture of Mary in a limousine belonging to the editor’s rich uncle.

    Here’s the key to the parable:

    Mary is Gov. David Beasley. John is Chem-Nuclear, the outfit that runs the low-level radioactive waste dump at Barnwell (or maybe he’s Chem-Nuclear lobbyist Warren Tompkins). Dick is Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party.

    John Jr. is the Beasley administration’s decision to drop out of the Southeast Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact.

    Chem-Nuclear, now known as Waste Management, has had its way with Mr. Beasley for years, and the worst thing that can come out of such a relationship has already happened: In 1995, the governor (who received the maximum campaign contribution of $10,500 from Chem-Nuclear in 1994) threw away two decades of thoughtful state and national policy aimed at handing off the responsibility of storing low-level waste to another state.

    This newspaper has blasted the governor repeatedly for that decision. Just last month, I cited it in a column as "the single most politically outrageous thing David Beasley has done as governor." I strongly urged Democrat Jim Hodges to make it a central issue in his campaign for governor.

    But instead, the Democrats have focused on a $19,000 plane ride that Mr. Beasley accepted from Chem-Nuclear and Mr. Tompkins. This newspaper has gotten suitably indignant about the plane ride. Our editorial held that while the ride wasn’t illegal, it should have been. (Personally – not speaking for the editorial board – I just want to make sure they disclose it. I want to know what they’re up to. Outlaw it, and they might find another way to get cozy – a way I can’t see.)

    So the plane ride was a bad thing, but it pales in comparison to what the governor has done for Chem-Nuclear, which was worth vastly more than $19,000. I care more about bad policies than I do about bad appearances. The plane ride shows something bad may be going on; dropping out of the compact is the bad thing itself.

    Frustrated that we haven’t made a bigger deal of the plane ride, Mr. Harpootlian now accuses this newspaper of being in bed with the governor because last year, Mr. Beasley rode to Washington in a jet belonging to Knight Ridder, the corporation that owns The State.

    It seems Mr. Beasley attended the annual Gridiron dinner in Washington. That’s a white-tie event at which the elite of the Washington press corps perform skits and songs making fun of the politicians they cover. They invite the politicians to watch. The State’s Lee Bandy, a Washington veteran since the Kennedy administration, belongs to the Gridiron Club. Last year, he invited Mr. Beasley. The KR big shots from Miami like to go to the Gridiron dinner, too. Apparently, one of them gave the governor a lift.

    Some people think the Gridiron gala is a wonderful event that enables journalists and politicians who are usually at each other’s throats to get together and relate as human beings. Others say it is evidence of just how cozy elite politicians and elite journalists are all the time.

    I don’t know which interpretation is right, but I do know I was in Washington the same weekend as the Gridiron event this year – working, I might add – and Bandy didn’t invite me. And I’ve never even seen the KR jet. In other words, none of it had anything to do with what I do.

    Mr. Harpootlian demands that the newspaper explain "why their parent company Knight Ridder provided Mr. Beasley with free air travel. What does the company and The State newspaper expect in return from the governor?" I can’t help him. KR doesn’t consult with me. Maybe they wanted to be nice. Maybe they wanted to conduct diabolical experiments on him, the way those UFO aliens do. To find out, I’d have to call somebody in Miami, which means I’d have to look up the number.

    But I do know this: On May 2, Mr. Harpootlian was a guest at a party at the home of The State’s editorial cartoonist, Robert Ariail. Mr. Harpootlian was one of several political types invited (as was his GOP counterpart, Henry McMaster). A good time was had by all, although Dick might tell you now that he didn’t really enjoy it.

    Robert hasn’t done a single cartoon making fun of Mr. Harpootlian this year, despite ample opportunity.

    And so, you might ask, what has Mr. Harpootlian done for Robert and The State in return?

    The answer: Not much.

  8. Lee Muller

    I cannot believe you posted such a long piece of nothing. That’s the good thing about print media. There is no space for such wanderings where the author cannot get his thoughts together.

  9. p.m.

    So I must confess, Brad, I find money rather dull myself.
    But many uses for the stuff are decidedly not dull.
    Thus its popularity.
    Not for quite some time yet, I fear, shall it fade from prominence.
    I myself find the idea of an absolute meritocracy attractive, where everyone is paid according to how well they do what it is they’re supposed to do. That would sove the Fuld problem.
    Or maybe it wouldn’t. It appears that for a while, the company did quite well by him and vice-versa.
    Then again, who was it that Christ guy threw out of the temple?

  10. Ralph Hightower

    I agree with Brad Warthen on David Beastley’s (intentional misspelling) abandonment of the Southeast Nuclear Compact which destroyed years of bipartisan cooperation and years of federal and state cooperation.What I did not know was that Chem Nuclear owned Beastley’s soul!
    Yes, North Carolina was dragging it feet by failing to site a nuclear waste dump when it became their turn, besides proposing a site on the NC/SC border.
    What I did not know was that Chem Nuclear owned Beastley’s soul!

  11. Ralph Hightower

    “…” are sections not copied from the article.
    Life After Lehman Brothers

    As midnight approached on Sunday and the world anticipated a bankruptcy filing from Lehman Brothers, Mr. Fuld, the bank’s pugnacious chief executive, continued to work the phones, desperate to find a buyer for a venerable franchise he had saved from near death in the past.

    Lehman is already battling to avoid “job abandonment,” in which workers simply stop showing up even though they have not been formally laid off.
    Some of that was clearly happening on Monday as some of Lehman’s trading floors were only about two-thirds full. A rush of résumé-writing signaled the melancholy of an institution in its final days.
    The recent tears were absent from the scene, replaced by sad-eyed smiles and gallows humor. The bankers’ dress code was mostly out: while a few holdouts kept their ties knotted firmly, most of the traders moved around in jeans, casual shirts, even sneakers. One young employee showed up in a green Lehman T-shirt.

    Bottles of alcohol popped up on the equity trading floor around noon. A dark, squat bottle of Don Julio tequila shared desk space with a keyboard; two rows over, a glass container of 80-proof Monte Alban Mezcal appeared only half full. Pizza arrived soon afterward, two dozen boxes of square-cut slices that were quickly devoured.

    As Lehman began to wind down on Monday, executives at other banks continued to express amazement that Mr. Fuld did not move much faster to seek a buyer, as John A. Thain did in reaching a deal to sell Merrill Lynch to Bank of America over the weekend.
    “Fuld could have gotten a deal done a month ago,” said one senior Wall Street executive involved in the weekend’s negotiations. “Merrill saw how quickly things turned on Fuld, and they made sure the same didn’t happen to them.”

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