Amid public furor over giant Wall Street bonuses and lingering anger over the trillion-dollar bailout of financial firms, a number of prominent bankers are using their corporate jets to fly to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.
According to the Wall Street Journal, executives from at least two TARP recipients are opting to take private flights rather than fly commercial. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit will travel to Davos via corporate jet, as will all of the Bank of America executives who will be in attendance. Citigroup lost 7.8 billion last quarter, while Bank of America posted a $5.2 billion loss.
Citigroup has a history of grabbing unflattering headlines for its corporate jet policy. A year ago, shortly after accepting $45 billion in bailout money from the federal government and announcing it would cut 75,000 jobs, Citigroup execs moved to purchase a new $50 million private plane. President Obama balked at the proposed purchase, and the bank canceled its plan. But a week later, news broke that Sandy Weill, Citigroup's former CEO and chairman, used a company jet to vacation with his family in Mexico just weeks before.
In response to public outcry over the trip, Weill's office said he would relinquish the perk.
The annual Davos forum at the famed ski resort brings together industry insiders and government officials to discuss the world's most urgent economic issues, but for bankers, the forum often serves a second purpose: to mingle with clients and lobby government regulators.
Leslie Gaines-Ross, a public relations strategist, warns that major financial firms should be careful to manage the optics of the trip. As she told the WSJ:
"They don't want be seen skiing or with a drink in their hand," says Ms. Gaines-Ross. "They should fly commercial and double or triple up in cars. They need to make sure this is all business."