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Federal Panel Grills Former Citi Execs on Market Losses

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Yesterday a federal commission repeatedly pressed two former Citigroup executives asking them to accept some form of responsibility for the huge losses that the bank incurred in 2007 and 2008 resulting in a $45 billion taxpayer bailout. WNYC's Lisa Chow reports on the moment that wrapped up yesterday's hearing.

REPORTER: The little drama that the three hours of testimony produced came at the very end. Chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Phil Angelides asked former Citigroup Chairman Robert Rubin point blank:

ANGELIDES: Do you bear central responsibility for the near collapse, but for the US government, of Citigroup?

RUBIN: I think Mr. Chairman. Let me respond to that in a number of parts.

REPORTER:Rubin went on to say everyone in the financial industry who failed to see the potential for the crisis bears responsibility, that he was not involved in managing people at Citigroup, that he worked at a strategic level and that he didn't find out about the subprime mortgage-related securities that caused much of Citigroup's losses until it was too late. Apparently Rubin's response was not good enough for Angelides.

ANGELIDES: It's not about the fact that there were failures but acknowledging and understanding are important but that's up to you.

RUBIN: My Chairman, I totally agree with that but I also think it's important to understand how one of these institutions works, what role people can play, and what role people cannot possibly play.

REPORTER: And then former CEO of Citigroup Chuck Prince piped in.

PRINCE: You didn't ask my opinion on this but I would like to state if I may.

ANGELIDES: On Mr. Rubin?

PRINCE: I think it is absolutely incorrect to suggest that Mr. Rubin had central responsibility or any central responsibility for what happened at Citigroup.

REPORTER: Prince himself said he was sorry he didn't see the market collapse coming like so many others. But like Rubin, he did not apologize for specific actions he did or did not take to prevent the losses.

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