Last week we presented our list of the 25 recession winners — the individuals who navigated the crisis and emerged even more powerful.
Today we list 10 individuals who had the chance to win big, but somehow didn’t fully seize the moment.
Many are like Meredith Whitney (pictured) individuals who gained instant celebrity due to the crisis, but who have seen the lustre come off just as quickly, as the crisis fades. Others managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
As an early critic of the Fed and the dangers of loose money, Ron Paul could have emerged as a mainstream thought leader in the debate over how to reform the financial system. Unfortunately, Paul was never able to shake off the crazies -- indeed he embraced them -- and is instead synonymous with gold bugs, conspiracy enthusiasts and protesters who bring guns to Presidential rallies.
Like Meredith Whitney, Nouriel Roubini earned a lot of praise heading into the crisis, as he had been a longtime predictor of doom. But he missed the turn and hasn't had much novel to say as the economy has come out of crisis.
Like Whitney, Roubini has a tendency to hedge a lot. His party-boy image reinforces the idea that the bust was his bubble.
When Obama announced that he was bringing Paul Volcker as an economic aide, many cheered the decision, owing to Volcker's toughness as former head of the Fed. But he's scarcely been heard from, and has mainly squawked from the wings with little evidence that he's had a real role in guiding economic policy.
As the economy slid into crisis last year, Meredith Whitney emerged as a star, owing to her early warnings about Citigroup and the banking sector as a whole. She then jumped ship, leaving Oppenheimer to start her own shop. But with the economy coming out of crisis, Whitney has had a hard time staying on top. Instead of strong, gutsy calls, she's hemmed and hawed, trying to make open-ended predictions that can't be proven wrong.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will go down as a victim of history. In the early days of the Obama administration, it looked like he might be forced into early retirement, owing to various controversies and the swooning stock market. His disastrous first rollout of the PPIP nearly sealed his fate. But as things improved, the PPIP, and Geithner himself, have been forgotten. He's hardly seen from anymore, and though he has a regulatory reform agenda, other policy initiatives have pushed it to the back burner.
The Wells Fargo CEO could have been a Jamie Dimon-like winner. But despite full confidence from Warren Buffett, his bank still hasn't repaid TARP, putting him in league with Ken Lewis and Vikram Pandit. Had it not been for an ill-timed decision to outbid Citi for Wachovia, Stumpf may have been on our recession winners list.
Early on in the crisis, Nassim Taleb was a media darling, constantly being praised for having foreseen the crisis in his well-timed book The Black Swan. But he has an uncanny knack for getting caught up in petty issues -- he's constantly complaining about having been misquoted or misunderstood in some way -- and as such he comes off to many as being arrogant and obtuse, rather than perceptive and useful.
Nobody really blames Vikram Pandit for the troubles at Citigroup (C). That company's fate was sealed long before he arrived on the scene. But Pandit could have been a hero by acting decisively and slimming the company down, so that it wouldn't represent an ongoing systemic risk to the system. Instead he's tried to have it both ways, simultaneously selling assets here and there, but still talking about growing.
Even as other private equity and hedge funds have started to bounce back, Steve Feinberg's Cerberus has floundered. The firm's had dismal returns, and investors in Cerberus hedge funds have raced for the doors. The company was recently forced to quell a rumour that it would default on its debts.
Lloyd Blankfein should be happy right now, as his firm Goldman Sachs (GS) appears stronger than ever. But whereas once the news reports were nothing but glowing about the venerable Wall Street firm, success has bread contempt and suspicion. There's been a non-stop stream of negativity towards the company, as various conspiracy theories have gained traction, badly damaging Goldman's reputation. If Blankfein could do it all over again, he might have somehow had them be a little less successful at coming out of the crisis.