The Business On: Meredith Whitney, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group
Saturday 20 November 2010
The scourge of Wall Street?
Even more so now. You're right in that Ms Whitney made her name with a string of bearish reports on leading American banks, all of which proved to be right on the money. Now she wants to start her own credit ratings agency.
Is there a market for that?
Well, Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch, the three big players in the credit rating business, didn't exactly cover themselves in glory during the financial crisis. One imagines that if someone with even a slightly better track record of analysing the banks were to come along, punters would bite their arms off. Step forward Ms Whitney.
So remind us why the banks don't like her?
The big problem, from their perspective, is that she's rather too quick to call them out. Ms Whitney first came to public notice when, in 2007, she pointed out that Citigroup was paying out more in dividends than it was making in profit. In hindsight, it seems like an obvious criticism, but nobody else in Wall Street's highly paid analyst community made the same point. Within months, Citigroup had been forced to slash its dividend and raise its capital. It also saw its chief executive resign.
She must be really unpopular?
That's unlikely to bother her — the crisis has been the making of Ms Whitney. She quit Oppenheimer, the firm that employed her when she wrote the Citigroup note, last year and started out on her own. She's doing very nicely, thank you – the New York Post now rates her as one of the 50 most powerful women in New York.
Still, she must have to watch her back these days?
She's got a big, tough husband to do that for her. She's married to John Layfield. These days, he's a Fox News commentator, but he's better known for his career as a professional wrestler. "Bradshaw", as he was known in the ring, was the longest-reigning WWE Champion in SmackDown history. Ms Meredith is presumably safe from even the most vengeful of bankers.
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