I was channel surfing last night when I stumbled upon a couple of Citi commercials—or PSAs, since taxpayers own more than 30% of Citi—that offered viewers a number of depression-era, cost-cutting lifestyle suggestions. With the billions in bonuses Citi has paid out to their workers, the ads so brazenly mock Wall Street’s massive plundering of taxpayer wealth that it’s almost hard to believe that Citigroup had the guts to have them made—and bill us 30 cents of every dollar paid for production and air time costs. But they did.
The first one starts out with a white post-college hipster type who says he maps out the cheapest gas stations to save a few bucks. An African American yuppie dad says he buys everything in bulk, including movie tickets. A white woman in her 40s buys dog food with credit cards that gives her cash back. A voice over says Citi has ways to help us spend wiser, and then the screen is subliminally flashed with a scattered list of ways you can save: car pool, cheaper gas, buy in bulk, diversify investments, save 2% of salary, purchase off-seasony, buy generic, drive less, make gifts personally, debit cards with rewards, but most importantly: get FREE FINANCIAL ADVICE. That part is in bold.
The second one has, among other segments, an office worker talking about biking to work to save the money he spends on gas, and a woman who says she hasn’t bought shampoo in years because she takes hotel shampoo bottles when she travels.
Yes, Americans. Drastic times call for drastic cost-cutting measures, not to mention the use of predatory Citi credit cards and giving the power to Citi financial advisors to diversify your savings into personal bonuses.
As I watched these spots, I couldn’t help but think of the $5.3 billion in executive bonuses that Citigroup paid out last year, straight out of the $45 billion in bailout money we handed over to them. Then I remembered last week’s story about the Citigroup trader who’s fighting for his “right” to receive a $100 million bonus, which he is willing to sue Citi to get.
The man in question is Andrew Hall, an oil trader for a Citigroup subsidiary called Phibro. He’s being supported by Wall Street types because he’s seen as very important to Citigroup, meaning he’s made them a lot of money speculating on the oil market and will continue to do so. Hall is credited with “predicting” the price of oil would skyrocket and made hundreds of millions of dollars for the company.
Mr. Hall Bet Early On Market Shift; Buoying Citigroup
One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Andrew J. Hall, an enigmatic British-born trader who, five years ago, anticipated an important shift in the way the world valued oil — and bet big.
Over the past five years, Mr. Hall’s compensation has totaled well over a quarter-billion dollars, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of securities filings and Mr. Hall’s compensation structure.
Who is Andrew Hall? According to New York Mag, he is “one of the few eccentric and wonderful folks who float among or above the wretched, amoral meatheads” of Wall Street. He leaves his office every afternoon to “to row or practice calisthenics with a ballet teacher” and is “also one of the world’s top collectors of contemporary art.”
But in reality Andrew Hall, who looks like a cancerous Billy Bob Thornton, is a hardcore insider gambler with a long winning streak. He works in a trading outfit that has a long history of market speculation by virtue of manipulation. Hall was one of the key players responsible for driving up the price of oil, creating a speculative bubble that spiked 700% in price and cost the economy an estimated $500 billion dollars just from 2006 to 2008.
By PAM MARTENS
If you want to flush out market manipulation, don’t turn to the sleuths in Congress. They’ve been probing trading of the oil markets for two years and completely missed a company at the center of the action. During that period, a barrel of crude oil has risen from $50 to $140, leaving a wide swatch of Americans facing a choice this coming winter of buying food or paying their heating bill.
The company that Congress overlooked should have been an easy suspect. It launched the oil trading career of the infamous fugitive, Marc Rich, pardoned by President Clinton in the final hours of his presidency. It was at one time the largest oil and metals trader in the world. In the late 90s it bought up 129 million ounces of silver for legendary investor Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, in London’s unregulated over-the-counter market. In 1990, it was one of the first entrants into an ill-fated Russian oil venture called White Nights. In 2005, while part of Citigroup, the largest U.S. banking conglomerate perpetually scolded for obscene executive pay, it handed its chief and top oil trader, Andrew J. Hall, $125 Million for one year’s work. According to the Wall Street Journal, that was five times the pay package for Chuck Prince, CEO of the entire Citigroup conglomerate that year and $55 Million more than the CEO of Exxon-Mobil.
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