The decision to hire former President Bill Clinton to speak at Morgan Stanley’s annual High Net Worth conference earlier this month was called “a mistake” by firm Chairman Philip Purcell.
A company spokesperson, quoted in an Associated Press story on Monday, says the decision to pay the former president $100,000 to $150,000 to deliver some remarks at the company’s conference in Boca Raton, Fla., “did not receive proper review within the firm.”
Morgan Stanley employees fall on both sides of the issue. One broker called the selection of Clinton to speak as “a nonissue” while another called it a “huge mistake.”
Purcell e-mailed clients last week, writing: “We should have thought twice before the speaking invitation was extended. Our failure to do so was unfortunate in light of Mr. Clinton’s actions in leaving the White House.”
Clinton pardoned billionaire fugitive Marc Rich and accepted thousands of dollars worth of gifts as he left office. He has since returned some of the gifts.
“It was foolish to pay that kind of money to someone whose morals and scruples leave so much to be desired,” says an MSDW East Coast rep. “He was just a ridiculous choice. Most former presidents would warrant that kind of money, but bringing him in sends the wrong message.
“Clinton was president when the market skyrocketed, and rightly or wrongly, that will be attributed to him. [But] the Rich pardon and stealing office furniture just adds to his sleaziness.”
Morgan Stanley admitted that the firm has received several calls from clients expressing outrage that Clinton was hired to speak at the conference.
“I’ve had several customers threaten to pull their accounts,” says the East Coast rep, “and they preface it by saying ‘this has nothing to do with you, but … ’”
“To say it was not reviewed is lame,” says a West Coast Morgan Stanley broker. “It’s not that big of a deal, really. They’re locking the barn door after the cow escaped. Most people I spoke to thought it was ridiculous to pay that kind of money for a speech” regardless of who made it.
“The fire got too hot,” the rep says of the post-speech reaction. “This is a nonevent. It’s not even a blip. Nobody is going to get fired over this.”