Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Banks learning to restrain themselves

Jeremy Hobson Feb 25, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Banks learning to restrain themselves

Jeremy Hobson Feb 25, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: Not that it’s any of my business, but have you been on any good company golf outings lately? Nah, I didn’t think so.

A lot of companies are cutting back on those kinds of things, what with mass layoffs and a dismal economy. But you may have heard about Northern Trust’s golf tournament over the weekend. The one with the Tiffany gift bags and performances by Sheryl Crow and the band Chicago.

Northern Trust has taken more than $1.5 billion in TARP money. So as you might imagine, the bank’s now in some hot water with Congress over that little party.

Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson reports the financial industry’s still figuring out what’s OK and what’s not.


JEREMY HOBSON: Northern Trust says it didn’t use any taxpayer money for the golf tournament — and didn’t want any to begin with. We’ve heard that line before.

PAUL HODGSON: They get it but they don’t get it.

That’s Paul Hodgson with the Corporate Library. He says corporations, even the ones funded by taxpayers — are still adjusting to the new landscape – which, he says, is all about restraint when it comes to entertaining clients or employees.

HODGSON: If you want to provide a party for your employees, it needs to be at the local amusement park rather than in Disneyland or some other exotic location.

Julie Jacobs is at the center of the world of corporate events. She’s the director of sales for Watson Adventures, which organizes scavenger hunts for companies. Well-known names like AIG, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.

JULIE JACOBS: We’ve had some clients who really go over the top. I mean probably the most over the top is they had some of our staff fly out to Hawaii for a week-long sales meeting.

Jacobs defends the concept. She says there is value in getting employees to bond outside the workplace. But she says if Citigroup called her tomorrow asking for a week in Vegas, she might still take the money but . . .

JACOBS: Honestly, inside it would kind of sadden me if a company like that that was really struggling would be spending that kind of money. ‘Cause I really believe there are ways to accomplish that without spending that kind of money.

Morgan Stanley seems to have gotten the message. The bank said today it will not entertain clients and executives at its golf tournament in June. Though it will remain the sponsor.

In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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