I was very saddened to hear of the death of Paul Calello, 49, the former chief executive officer of Credit Suisse investment banking. He had been ill and under treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma for well over a year.
Paul's death is a great loss because of his unique character and qualities. Unpretentious, matter-of-fact, thoughtful and completely honest and dependable, I found him to be a true prince of a person and wise about the frailties of Wall Street and the proper course of leadership in crisis.
His global firm can thank him for the way he steered a prudent course through the worst crisis in Wall Street in 80 years. Calello understood the dangers of too much leverage. He made a careful study of the risks faced by the other large banks in Credit-Suisse's class-Merrill Lynch, Lehman Bros., Citigroup and Morgan Stanley-and recognized that he had little time to ensure a solid, safe condition for Credit-Suisse.
To his immense credit and vision, Paul recognized the need to radically reduce risk in the fourth quarter of 2008 in order to be in a strong position at the start of 2009. He reduced risky assets on Credit-Suisse's balance sheet by 16% in late 2008. He sold off assets that weren't earning a proper return, and most significantly increased the firm's capital position so that Tier 1 capital was 13.3% in early 2009, the best ratio on Wall Street.
Then Calello had the strength of purpose not to pay huge cash bonuses to his staff as other failing firms did but to use other troubled assets in the distribution of bonuses that might improve in price in the future. No other financial executive had the brilliant courage and tenacity to accomplish such a fair and worthwhile solution.
Calello was a quiet leader. You knew his word was good. You recognized you were in the company of an exceptional person. I'm just sure his loss cut short a productive life that would have made this nation an improved place to cope with all of our many problems. Rest in peace.
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