Why can't more bankers be like Citigroup's ex-CEO?

John Reed helped make our current mess. But unlike his colleagues, he seems sincere in taking responsibility for it

Published November 6, 2009 3:24PM (EST)

It's only fair. Last week, HTWW was mean to Citigroup's former CEO, John Reed, after he acknowledged in a letter to the New York Times that maybe repealing Glass-Steagall's separation of commercial and investment banking activities hadn't been such a great idea. Since Reed was instrumental in forcing the law's repeal, his change of heart seemed to fit squarely in the "way too little, way too late" category.

But Bloomberg's Bob Ivry tracked Reed down and got the CEO on record with an explicit apology, in "Reed Apologizes for Glass Steagall Repeal, Building Citigroup":

"I'm sorry," Reed, 70, said in an interview yesterday. "These are people I love and care about. You could imagine emotionally it's not easy to see what's happened."

...Lawmakers were wrong to repeal the Depression-era Glass- Steagall Act in 1999, Reed said. At the time, he supported overturn of the law, which required the separation of institutions that engaged in traditional customer banking services from those involved in capital markets.

"We learn from our mistakes... When you're running a company you do what you think is right for the stockholders. Right now I'm looking at this as a citizen."

While other bankers are running around trying to defend the Christianity of profit-seeking, and the banking industry as a whole is fighting tooth and nail against any regulatory reform, here's one former executive willing to apologize and admit error. It's refreshing, and worth applause.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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