New York: Citigroup has hired the services
of Richard F Hohlt, a long time Washington "insider" with a history of aggressive advocacy for the banking industry, says a media report.
The New York Times, citing sources, said that Richard D
Parsons, Citigroup's chairman, enlisted the services last
spring of Richard F Hohlt.
Citigroup, however, is likely to come under flak because
of the said appointment of Hohlt, who as a top lobbyist for
the savings and loan industry in the 1980s, blocked regulation
of these institutions and played a pivotal role helping to
prolong dubious industry practices.
Five former regulators, who encountered Hohlt during the
savings and loan fiasco, expressed dismay and surprise that he
had been hired by a bank that has received tens of billions of
dollars of taxpayer assistance, and voiced concerns about what
exactly he had been hired to do, the New York Times said.
Quoting former regulator William K Black, the report
said, "It is singularly obscene that any recipient of taxpayer
assistance through the TARP programme during the current financial crisis would hire one of the most infamous lobbyists in the world to represent them."
Parsons, in an interview, said he hired Hohlt simply as a
political adviser who provides information and counsel, and
does not focus on particular legislation. "I hired him to keep
me in touch with what's going on in Washington and what the
mood and tenor of the town is."
Hohlt's role is to solve problems and help communicate
more effectively, but not to lobby on Citigroup's behalf,
Parsons said, adding :"I don't bring him to meetings. He is a
useful source of information".
Defending his appointment, Hohlt in an interview has said
that Citigroup has retained him as an adviser to provide
strategic counsel on Washington matters related to the bank,
and not as a lobbyist.
Regarding his reputation he said that his work with the
league was "prehistoric" and that in the years since then he
has built a reputation as an honest and experienced resource.
Quoting sources, the report further said Hohlt was also
hired to advise Parsons on ways to blunt the demands of the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, one of the bank's
Hohlt was the longtime lobbyist for Washington Mutual,
which collapsed in 2008, becoming the biggest bank failure in
history. Hohlt has also represented the mortgage finance giant
Fannie Mae, which was taken over by the government in
September 2008 because of billions in mortgage losses.
First Published: Sunday, October 11, 2009, 21:29