Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Keeps His Word

ByABC News
October 10, 2001, 2:50 PM

Oct. 10 -- Two days after hijacked jets were slammed into the World Trade Center, Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick was sobbing on national TV, pledging that his bond-trading firm would look after the families of the company's more than 700 victims.

The following day, he cut off the paychecks of those who were missing, angering many of the families by assuming their loved ones were dead. He then said he would sever the victims' health benefits by the end of September.

Now he tells ABCNEWS' Connie Chung that he is keeping his pledge to the victims' families. For the next five years, the company will set aside 25 percent of its profits for them. The funds will cover the families' health care costs for the next 10 years, with whatever is left over being equally distributed among the families in cash.

"We are going to be with these families for the very long term," said Lutnick, who was out of the office on the morning of Sept. 11 because he was taking his son to the first day of kindergarten. "No cap, no limit. The more we make, the more successful we can rebuild our company. We share it together."

If the company's profits were lower than expected over the five years, the company would keep making payments until each family had received at least $100,000, he said. Lutnick also said the company would pay out all bonuses and commissions owed to the victims by Thanksgiving.

Asked why he cut salaries after vowing to look after the families, Lutnick said, "It was the most difficult decision, because it wasn't a business decision or a personal decision. It was an everything decision."

Lutnick said he had two options: a short-term and a long-term one. "If we paid salaries to 733 people who were gone, and only had 300 people in the United States of America who were left, the company would not be there in the long run," he said. "Three hundred people in the United States can't pay 700 of their friends' and co-workers' salaries and stay in business."

Cutting Off Hope