Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Mark Gongloff Headshot

Sandy Weill, Builder Of Too Big To Fail, No Longer Accepts Blame For Crisis

Posted: Updated:

The man who brought you Too Big To Fail has had just about enough of everybody blaming him for big banks failing.

In an interview with Fortune's Nin-Hai Tseng, Sandy Weill, the former CEO of Citigroup, said his lumbering beast of a bank, and other lumbering beasts like it, aren't to blame for the crisis.

Weill was the CEO of Citigroup until late 2003, during the key "becoming a monstrous disaster waiting to happen" phase of its existence. He lobbied, tirelessly and successfully, to break down Depression-era regulations against banks becoming too big. He even has a plaque in his office that boasts "The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall," according to a New York Times report.

And after (or, really, before) those regulatory shackles were cast aside, Weill worked tirelessly and successfully to bolt as many moving parts onto Citigroup as he could. Every other bank followed suit, just to keep up. Citi was king of them all for a while, the biggest bank in the world, and Weill rode off into the sunset in 2006, when he retired as chairman, his handiwork complete.

And then the wheels started to come off. About a year and a half after his departure as chairman, Citi announced horrific losses due to its exposure to subprime mortgages, and a year after that the government pumped $45 billion into the bank to keep it from creating a black hole into which all of our money would be sucked. Citi has ever since been shedding as many of the parts Sandy Weill bolted on as it can.

So, naturally, Sandy Weill, whom Time magazine labeled one of the "25 People To Blame For the Financial Crisis," feels deep regret for all of this, no?

No! Are you kidding? Do you really think the man who loaded half his family tree onto a Citigroup jet for a Mexican vacation just weeks after the bank received the second of its enormous taxpayer bailout checks still has a functioning shame gland?

In the Fortune interview, Weill said "too big to fail" is not the problem you are looking for. In fact, making banks smaller would be the real problem, come to think of it:

I think this whole concept of fixing 'too big to fail' is a problem because when you create an environment where you can't make a mistake then you're also creating an environment where nothing good is going to happen.

So true: If you don't give an alcoholic the keys to the liquor cabinet and the Ferrari, then obviously nothing bad can happen. But then nothing much fun can happen, either, can it?

In fact, Weill said, the time has come for us all to stop with the pointing of the fingers at this or that ex-CEO and just move on. After all, we were all equally to blame. Maybe, before you start pointing the finger at Sandy Weill, you should head for the mirror and point a finger there, too:

I would say there is enough blame to go around. I think that the financial industry made some mistakes that created issues, our government made mistakes that created issues, the regulators made mistakes that created issues. People made mistakes that created issues.

Lots of people were at fault. I think we want to move on. There comes a time when you stop punishing people and ask how do we build this back in a way that's going to be safer for the future? We should concentrate on the future and positive thinking.

Sandy Weill hopes you all feel adequately ashamed of yourselves.