The New York Times takes a look at Citigroup's hiring of Richard F. Hohlt -- a former lobbyist with a controversial past who will now advise the volatile bank on policy issues.
The Times reports that the decision has taken many industry insiders by surprise. Hohlt, who served as a high-powered lobbyist for the savings and loan industry in the 1980's, helped stymie attempts at government oversight leading to that decade's S&L crisis, which cost taxpayers $150 billion.
Now he has been hired as a "political adviser" by Citigroup chairman Richard D. Parsons.
Few banks can use advice about navigating the federal government more than Citigroup, a company so hobbled by the crisis that it has essentially become a ward of the state, kept alive through multiple infusions of taxpayer funds.
The Times reports that several former regulators expressed shock that Hohlt had been hired by a bank that has received tens of billions of dollars from the federal government.
"It is singularly obscene that any recipient of taxpayer assistance through the TARP program during the current financial crisis would hire one of the most infamous lobbyists in the world to represent them," says William K. Black, a former regulator and top investigator for the definitive Congressional report on the S & L crisis.
Citigroup received $45 billion bail out from the federal government last year and is said to be considering shrinking its North American retail banking focus, according to Bloomberg.
In an interview last week, Hohlt said he was "simply the messenger" for the savings and loan banks decades ago.
"Yeah, mistakes were made," he said.