You can't score one of finance world's highest positions without knowing how to talk a good game. But since the start of the financial crisis, CEOs for some of the country's largest banks seem to be famous as much for their rhetorical flubs as for their sobering financial assessments.
As leaders of four of the nation's largest banks prepare to be grilled Wednesday by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission -- a Congressionally appointed panel charged with examing the causes of last year's historic economic tumult -- we take a look at some of their more colorful quotes.
John Mack, Morgan Stanley
Former Morgan Stanley CEO and current chairman John Mack may not share some of his peers' penchant for frequent public wisecracks (see Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon on the following pages), but he's not afraid of tough -- and, at least on occasion, profane -- talk.
"'Tell Tim Geithner to get f**ked.' When you come that close to really going out of business, call it near death, death experience, the end of the line, whatever you want to call it, your only focus is to make sure your company survives."
-- Mack didn't censor himself during an Oct. 14, 2009 speech to student at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. Here, Mack was recounting the tumultuous days in September when he worked on negotiating a deal with a Japanese bank to inject money into Morgan Stanley and save the bank from a Lehman-like fate. In the middle of Mack's negotiations, Geithner called, demanding to speak with the Morgan Stanley chief immediately. Geithner's apparently annoying insistence sparked Mack's profane rebuke. (Click here to watch a video excerpt of Mack's speech.)
"We have probably 15 to 20 Fed regulators in our building 24 hours a day … They test our models. They question everything we do. I've never been regulated like that before. It's a different environment. Someone said to me, 'What do you think of it?' I love it."
-- Mack explaining his feelings about increased federal oversight at a Nov. 19, 2009, panel discussion hosted by Bloomberg News and Vanity Fair.
"If you look at the subprime problem in the U.S., you would say we're in the eighth inning or maybe the top of the ninth," of a nine-inning baseball game.
-- As Blankfein would do that same month (see the next page), Mack used a sports metaphor to make what would prove to be a premature assessment about the nation's economic health in April 2008, according to Reuters.
"Given this unprecedented environment and the extraordinary financial support governments provided to our industry, as the leader of this Firm I recommended to the Compensation Committee of the Board last week that I receive no year-end bonus."
-- A Dec. 18, 2009, memo to Morgan Stanley employees in which Mack announced that he would forgo his annual bonus for the third year in a row. He was the first major bank CEO to refuse a bonus in 2009. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs
In 2007, the New York Times said that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein seemed "more master of the quip than master of the universe." These days, with Goldman's blockbuster performance leaving recession-wrecked rivals in the dust, Blankfein maybe be "master of the universe" at last. Still, the quips have kept on coming, though they haven't always served him well.