HeroVet: John S. Reed, Bringing Ethics Back to NYSE

John S. Reed

Interim Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange John S. Reed reacts to a question during a press conference in New York, September 29, 2003. Reed, called from retirement to lead a reshaping of the world's largest bourse, said on Monday he has no immediate plans to ax NYSE board members. Reed, former co-chief executive of Citigroup Inc., said he was in "listening mode" on how the NYSE should mend its ways following the furor created by a $140 million pay package given to his predecessor, Richard Grasso. 

John Reed started his adult life with the Army Corps of Engineers in Korea. Today, at 64, after once leading the nation's largest bank, is now charged with engineering a new attitude at Democracy's economic hub, the New York Stock Exchange.

As former chief executive of Citigroup's predecessor, Citibank, Reed is credited with making the bank a leader in technology. He pushed the introduction of automatic teller machines and credit card technology. He also weathered a potentially lethal corporate crisis in Citibank's real estate portfolio in the early 1990s, and accusations of impropriety in business with Mexico.

In fact, John Reed, former chairman of Citigroup Inc., has been asked to serve as interim chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Stock Exchange by its board precisely because his lifelong career leading him to the top of the financial world has been untainted by scandal.

"John has a strong moral compass and is enormously respected," said Jamie Dimon, CEO of Bank One Corp., in a recent interview with Bloomberg News. "John understands and appreciates technology, and he has enormous respect among the investment firms and the business community."

It was his departure in 2000 from Citigroup 18 months after the merger of Travelers and Citibank that capped his 35 years with the , handing the reigns over to co-CEO Sandy Weil. Reed, in a conference call while vacationing off the coast of France, appeared quite comfortable in "retirement."

"I’ve been pretty happily retired for the last three years," Reed said on Sunday, September 21. "When I got a phone call Friday afternoon, frankly, I was honored that somebody would think of me for this particular post."

"The institution is too important, and the role now, particularly with the changes going on in corporate America, is too important," he said. "There are times in your life when the right answer is 'Yes'."
"I have sat on many corporate boards, some that function well and some that did not. I've seen crises similar to the NYSE's," said Reed. By many definitions, he's seen as an "outsider" to neutralize the clubby NYSE reputation under the leadership of outgoing chairman Richard Grasso, who resigned amid a furor over his receipt of $139.5 million in deferred compensation and retirement benefits.

In fact, Reed says he's physically only been inside the NYSE once. He will also be receiving a $1 salary in his interim role.

Much of the last four years since departing Citigroup has led Reed to writing and teaching, at Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Reed was born in Chicago in 1939, and spent many of his younger years in South America, where his father managed factories for Armour & Co. and moved to Argentina when he was five years old. His family lived in Brazil for a while, but then returned to Buenos Aires, where he graduated from high school. After getting his bachelor's degree from the (MIT), Reed served as an officer in the U.S. Army in Korea between 1962 and 1964.

Image Credit: http://billmoyers.com/guest/john-s-reed/

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