This Reuters story explains how Morgan Stanley will be at the Memorial in name only. Sort of like most of the tournament's past honorees.
"We've canceled our participation in the event due to the environment," a spokeswoman said, though she declined further comment.
Meanwhile Hostage #1, Northern Trust, posted a somewhat defiant letter on their website from CEO Waddell. I think this thing could drag on for a while. Bring in a negotiator!
Bloomberg's Christopher Condon reveals all sorts of interesting details about Northern Trust. Let's start with this on Wells Fargo, which controls golf's sixth major, the Wachovia Championship:
Wells Fargo & Co., a recipient of $25 billion in government aid, said it’s cutting spending on the Wachovia Championship golf tournament April 27 through May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia Corp. in December, is evaluating all sponsorship agreements to determine how they benefit the company and communities, Mary Beth Navarro, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based company, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
Is that any way to treat a major?
Frank said today in an interview he was “disappointed” with Northern Trust’s reaction to his letter. “They can’t argue anymore that they didn’t want the money but Paulson made them take it. While that’s accurate, they can return it now.”
I'm telling you NoTrust gang, print up a big winner's check, Barney's name and it'd be a beautiful moment for all.
Unlike TARP recipients such as Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., Northern Trust has remained profitable amid the financial crisis. The company, which has handled accounts for President Barack Obama and his wife, reported operating profit of $323.3 million in the fourth quarter, a 48 percent increase compared with a year earlier.
Wow, there's a buried lede if I've ever seen one. And...what?
The company managed George W. Bush’s investments in a blind trust during his presidency. Obama and his wife, Michelle, had their checking account and home mortgage with Northern Trust as of mid-January.
See, not all bad publicity is bad!
As far as columnists go, the L.A. Times' excellent Michael Hiltzik mostly gets it right (until he starts quoting that Dwyre piece on Chrysler) and in a moment of good news for the PGA Tour, seems to differentiate between spending money to sponsor a golf tournament and spending lavishly to entertain fat cats.
The bank plainly didn't realize that the ground has shifted beneath the industry's feet; in the post-meltdown spotlight, no institution, no matter how fiscally virtuous it thinks it is, can do business the old way. One reason that banks have become such a despised species is that their managers still resist publicly accepting responsibility for their role in the financial meltdown. Instead they resist caps on executive pay and gripe about coming regulations.
In the current economic environment, there's no way to rationalize an entertainment expenditure that looks so insensitive on the surface.
Maureen Dowd in the New York Times brands them Northern Untrustworthy and Northern No Trust, writing:
Coming in a moment when skeptical and angry Americans watched A.I.G., Citigroup, General Motors and Chrysler — firms that had already been given a federal steroid injection — get back in line for more billions, the golf scandal was just one more sign that the bailed-out rich are different from you and me: their appetites are unquenchable and their culture is uneducable.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes:
Senator Kerry's solution to this "idiotic" decision is to outlaw fun. "Kerry's TARP Taxpayer Protection and Corporate Responsibility Act," the Senator's press release announced, "would prevent any recipient of TARP funds from hosting, sponsoring, or paying for conferences, holiday parties and entertainment events." Penalties would include fines and forced reimbursement of TARP funds. A bank could still throw a party for customers, provided it gets a "waiver" from the Treasury Secretary, who has 30 days to issue his golf and chardonnay diktat.
We'd be the first to agree that taxpayer money should be spent wisely. But Northern Trust makes money. It could probably pay back the TARP funds tomorrow if the terms of that investment didn't make it onerous to do so before three years have elapsed.