Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Valuable Perspective on the Bartiromo Saga

Pam Martens, ex-Smith Barney broker famed as the whistleblower in the "boom boom room" sexual harassment case, has a very intriguing two-part article in Counterpunch on the Maria Bartiromo controversy. Part one ran last weekend, part two yesterday.

Rather than deal with this as an ethical issue -- a non-starter in my view -- she digs a bit deeper and, instead, views Bartiromo as a "poster child for crony capitalism."

I don't agree with everything in these articles, but I think that Pam Martens has dug closer to the heart of the issue than anything I've read so far. The problem is not that anything "unethical" happened, but that the coziness of the media to big business has gone too far.

Ms. Martens observes as follows:

The real story, in my view, is that Ms. Bartiromo, a journalist, should not have been riding around on Citigroup's private jet on speaking tours with Citigroup clients. She should not have been considering a $5 million TV show sponsorship by Citigroup while masquerading as an impartial business journalist on CNBC. (She has conducted at least 11 Citigroup interviews over a two year period.)

The real story, in my view, is that as far back as 2002, when Sandy Weill controlled Citigroup with an iron fist and Chuck Prince was his top lieutenant, Ms. Bartiromo was not sounding very much like an impartial journalist on the back jacket of "King Of Capital: Sandy Weill and the Making of Citigroup." Here's what she said about a man who was about to explode in the news as the kingpin of one of the most corrupt businesses on Wall Street: "Sandy Weill is probably the best deal maker on the planet. He is truly one of the leading business titans of our times."

The real story is that Ms. Bartiromo is the new face of crony capitalism and the living embodiment of a corporate media that has lost its way so thoroughly that CNBC justifies Ms. Bartiromo's actions by brushing away the conflicts as simply "source development."

I think the last paragraph is a bit of an overstatement. But I do think that what she is saying here is important.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.


Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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