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Corporation Member in the Hot Seat

5.2.08

Where Was the Wise Man?, from last Sunday's New York Times, examines the background and current status of Harvard Corporation member Robert E. Rubin ’60, LL.D. ’01, chairman of the executive committee of Citigroup.

In a two-hour interview, Rubin answers questions about his role in the housing and credit crisis. The losses, which have rippled throughout the economy, have so far totaled $40 billion for Citigroup alone. But, Rubin tells the Times, “I don’t know of anyone who foresaw a perfect storm, and that’s what we’ve had here....I don’t feel responsible, in light of the facts as I knew them in my role.”

Citigroup board member Richard Parsons, chairman of Time Warner, tells the Times that Rubin does not have operating responsibility: “You can’t say this happened on his watch, because this wasn’t his watch.”

Others disagree.

“He is like the Wizard of Oz behind Citigroup, he is the guy pulling on all the strings,” said one Citigroup banker who was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation. “He certainly was the guy deferred to on key strategic decisions and certain key business decisions vis-à-vis risk.”

A Corporation member since 2002, Rubin served, like former University president Lawrence H. Summers, as Secretary of the U.S. Treasury during the Clinton administration.

Read about his appointment to the Corporation here. Read an excerpt from his book In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington here.