BARACK OBAMA delivered a speech this September at a swanky healthcare conference for investors run by Cantor Fitzgerald. As Fox Business News first reported on Monday, the firm paid him $400,000.
The ensuing criticism of Obama for cashing in on his presidency has been thunderous – but has overlooked exactly whose money he is taking.
Cantor Fitzgerald, a major Wall Street brokerage house, lost 658 of its 960 employees when the World Trade Center was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. But when it settled a long-running lawsuit against American Airlines for $135 million in 2013, the proceeds didn’t go to the families of the dead.
At the time of the settlement, Cantor’s CEO Howard Lutnick issued a statement: “For the insurance companies, this was just another case, just another settlement, but not for us. We could never, and will never, consider it ordinary. For us, there is no way to describe this compromise with inapt words like ordinary, fair or reasonable.”
But Lutnick and his fellow Cantor partners reportedly kept some of the money for the firm and distributed the rest to themselves, in proportion to their ownership stake. Lutnick, the firm’s biggest partner, may have received as much as $25 million.
And according to Liz O’Brien and Marilyn Rocha-Carmo, widows of two of the Cantor employees killed on 9/11, the firm never informed them of the settlement — nor even that the company had filed the lawsuit in the first place.
Rocha-Carmo, whose husband Antonio was a Cantor bond trader, sounded noticeably taken aback when told of the firm’s actions. “It is a little shocking,” she said, because Lutnick “always made it sound like he was always going to take care of us, and was doing everything in our best interest, and now learning about this doesn’t feel like that anymore.” Rocha-Carmo added that she is in touch with other Cantor victim families via social media, and they do not appear to be aware of the American Airlines settlement.
Cantor declined to comment about the lawsuit’s outcome. Because Cantor is a partnership, little about its finances is publicly available.
Obama’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Obama senior adviser Eric Schultz wrote, “As we announced months ago, President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision and his record.” Schultz also said Obama accepted the invitation “because, as a president who successfully passed health insurance reform, it’s an issue of great importance to him.”