Jon Corzine: The Mission Ahead

Governor Corzine began his career on Wall Street in 1975 when he was recruited by the New York investment firm Goldman Sachs. After taking a job with the firm as a bond trader, he and his family settled in New Jersey. Corzine was named a partner in 1980, became a key player in crucial strategic decisions, and was eventually named chairman and chief executive officer in 1994. Three years later, Corzine was named as chairman of a presidential commission to study capital budgeting as a means of increasing federal investment in schools, technology, and infrastructure. During Corzine's tenure at Goldman Sachs, Fortune magazine named the firm one of the 10 best companies to work for in the United States, and Corzine was named by Time magazine as one of the top 50 technology executives in the country in 1997. He left Goldman Sachs in May 1999 after converting the investment firm from a private partnership to a public company – a bold move that yielded handsome profits both for stockholders and Goldman employees. Shortly after his departure from Goldman Sachs, Corzine entered public services upon election to the United States Senate in November 2000. While serving in the nation’s capitol, Corzine was the driving force behind a forward-looking, progressive agenda. As senator, Corzine served as a member of the Committees on Banking, Intelligence, the Budget, and Energy and Natural Resources, and parlayed his position in leadership to advance numerous initiatives beneficial both to New Jersey and the nation as a whole. As a member of the United States Senate, Corzine co-authored the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a piece of legislation designed to crack down on corporate malfeasance crafted in the wake of accounting scandals surrounding Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and other major corporations. Corzine was also a sponsor of the Start Healthy, Stay Healthy Act, which expands children’s health care and expands coverage for pregnant women. He supported legislation outlawing the practice of racial profiling and, with Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, was chief sponsor of the Darfur Accountability Act to address genocide in the Sudan. Corzine was also only one of 23 members of the Senate to vote against the Iraq War Resolution. Corzine entered the New Jersey governor’s race in 2005, and shortly after his Election Day victory, resigned from the U.S. Senate to take the oath of office as New Jersey governor on Jan. 17, 2006. As governor, he has continued to build on his reputation as a progressive, yet fiscally-responsible public servant. Corzine is a 1969 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves until 1975. He received his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.
  • Transcript


Jon Corzine: Well, I think there’s no avoiding that the major issue that is going to impact everyone’s life in America is the economy. Have to get that stabilized. We have to get it out of freefall into a position where it begins to recover.

And so, all decisions, I think in the short run, have to be focused on trying to get our economy going so that our people, our citizens can restore their confidence in the direction of the country.

He [President Obama] can never walk away from our responsibilities in the international arena. We have two wars, 160,000 troops in harm’s way, as we sit here at this moment in time, so he can’t take his eye off of our international responsibilities. And, in fact, it links back to our economy, because if we were able to thoughtfully and carefully bring some of our troops home and have a lessened investment in some of the things that we’re doing in our overseas operations, it will help our economy at home. So I think he has to give that great effort.

And then I think the overall issue with regard to our energy independence and protecting the globe from the buildup of carbon, all of those issues come together.


Jon Corzine: I think we have to get focused on the real economy, on the basic elements of housing markets, financing markets in general so that credit begins to flow.

First thing, I probably be doing is ask the President [Barack Obama] to make sure that we change our bankruptcy laws so that there could be renegotiation of mortgages between the lender and borrower in an organized and some straightforward way.

Second thing, I’d be pushing to make sure that we were finding the way to put money into keeping people in their homes, either direct loans to the individual so they continue to make payments or a restructuring of the loans themselves.

The fact is, we won’t stabilize the wholesale financing markets. The toxic products that have been created on leverage, CDOs, the kinds of things that people have talked about in the mortgage-backed security market that are causing banks so much problem; unless we actually stabilize the underlying housing market and the mortgage market that is a part of that.


Jon Corzine: First thing you have to do anytime you have a tough situation is talk openly and frequently with the audience that is going to be the receiver of the changes that you have to take or make to address the problem. You need to make sure that you’re fully in communication about what the nature of the problem is, and what it is that you believe you need to be doing, and that needs to be very clear. And you need to be repeating that over and over again, as far and broadly as you can, so that people understand what is impacting their lives.

I think, actually, communication is a lot of it, but also not avoiding the problem, you just have to go at it. And the tougher it gets, the more you have to be direct at addressing the problem, because if you don’t, there’s a cumulative momentum to the sort of negative patterns that develop, whether it’s in business or whether it’s in government and economics.


Recorded: November 13, 2008