The Lesley Stahl Interview: ‘Rattling the Cage’ With Maria Bartiromo

2010_0326_amazon_mariabartiromo_success_jacket_0.jpgAs Bartiromo’s new book hits shelves, the two journalists address their roles in the financial crisis, reaching for the top, balancing life and more …

LESLEY STAHL: Maria Bartiromo, thank you so much for being with us on

MARIA BARTIROMO: Hi, Lesley, thanks for having me.

LESLEY: We’re thrilled. You are the first person to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Maria, while you were dubbed the “money honey,” you have won a reputation as a solid, top-flight financial reporter with as many — if not more — scoops and insights than any reporter, male or female. And now you’ve written a book called The 10 Laws of Enduring Success. You start the book with an anecdote about yourself on 9/11 when you were down there on Wall Street as the towers came down. And you went out into the street to report live right then, and you write that everything turned black around you, and that you were choking and running for your life, and it was your birthday. Wow.

MARIA: I know.

LESLEY: So tell us how you think that day and your experiences changed you.

MARIA: I think that day was harrowing for all of us, and it doesn’t matter if you were down there or not. But being down there at Ground Zero and actually watching the people’s reactions, and watching the camaraderie on the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, how everyone was just feeling so strange and just  … we united and we had fear. You know, it taught me a lot, actually, and it did change me, because I think you recognize your own mortality, and you recognize that anything can happen at any time, to snuff out all that you’re doing. And I think the reason that I started the book with that story was because over this 20-year period that I’ve been covering financial news and the economy, I’ve seen a lot of booms and busts and different sentiments about Wall Street and about business from the masses. And after September 11, I think that it became clear that there are times that you could do everything right in life and you could become so successful that it actually puts you at the top of the tower, in what would be a terrific location. And yet you can turn around and everything can get snuffed away from you. And, of course, that was terrorism and that was a very rare event, but it is emblematic of what I’m trying to say. And I began the book with that story, and then went into a number of other boom-and-bust-type situations, when a person feels like the world is falling apart around them and they have to figure out how to adapt, and they have to figure out how to survive, and then thrive. And that’s what I did. I went back to a number of the interviews that I have done, whether it was heads of state, or big CEOs, or big investors, and I asked them, “How did you become successful? How did you get there, and how did you keep it? How do you keep it?”

And so that’s what I tried to do. But I didn’t want it to be a compilation of other people’s ideas. I didn’t want it to be, “OK, here’s what Queen Rania thinks is success; and here’s what Jack Welsh thinks is success.” I wanted it to be Maria’s ten laws. So I approached it really in that way. I looked at different situations when I was standing there, or sitting there, meeting with someone, and my own perspective of how that person arrived and how they kept it. And I tried to even put in the trappings of success. You know, what are the trappings where you could trip up and actually lose it? And I think that’s what I’ve tried to do, based on my experiences in covering the markets and the economy, as well as beginning with the treacherous day of September 11, when we were all so scared watching what was happening. And it was an unbelievably emotional and awful day.

LESLEY: It sure was. Now one of the things you write in the book, that I actually underlined, was that successful people are always thinking about what they can do to move to the next level. And I found that interesting because I have to confess: I have never done that, and I always thought that’s what men did, but women didn’t. So explain that, because I’m not sure I don’t want to challenge you on that a little bit.

MARIA: OK. You know it’s interesting that you would say, “I think that’s what men do,” because I think that’s what men do do. I agree with that. But I also think that women do it in some cases. I feel like I do it and I feel that some of the people that I interviewed that I tried to find out how they did it, do it. I think that they keep rattling the cage. Yes they feel like they’ve gotten to a place and they’re successful; and yes they feel like, “OK, I’ve accomplished a lot.” But in their heart of hearts they want to do more. I mean, you probably do it and you don’t even know you do it because it’s instinctual with you.

LESLEY: I don’t think I want to go to the next level. I think I love my level, and I think what I do is I want to survive. I want to last because I love it so much.

MARIA: Me, too. And I love what I do.

LESLEY: Even in your book you quote Warren Buffett, which is one of my favorite quotes. You have wonderful quotes. You did interview everybody in the world, and they all come up with great quotes. And he says he wants people to read on his tombstone, “My God, he was old.”  And I think what he means is that he kept doing it. He didn’t quit and he was really old and he was still going … ticking.

MARIA: At his job, that’s absolutely right. And another person that I spoke to in the book was this woman Laura from the Longevity Center at Stanford University, and she said, “The goal in life is to die at a very young place, but as old as possible.”

LESLEY: But still doing that thing that you love instead of always —

MARIA: Still doing what you love.

LESLEY: — thinking, “What’s my next level?”

MARIA: Exactly. But see, I don’t want you to mistake what I’m saying. Just because I’m saying “getting to the next level” doesn’t mean changing jobs. That means constantly doing it, constantly picking it up. I mean, yes, we’re doing what we love, and I love what I’m doing, and I don’t want to switch jobs. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep doing what I’m doing. So how do I keep doing what I’m doing? I’ve got to keep lifting the bar because I’ve got lots of people around me who want to do it too, and lots of competition, and lots of places to go where if I stand back and I’m not constantly striving, somebody else will. So I’m not necessarily saying, “Take it to the next level,” like change your job; I’m just saying you’ve got to keep rattling the cage. You’ve got to keep doing what you do and you’ve got to do it well.

LESLEY: Lift your game.

MARIA: Absolutely.


MARIA: That’s what I meant with that.

LESLEY: OK. Why do you think everybody missed the meltdown in 2008? Why did you miss it? Why did all the press miss it?

MARIA: I think that we were in a moment in time, the way we were in dot-com, where we are an optimistic society, we just kept thinking, “Well it’s great news because it’s just great news and it’s going to get better.” I mean, I remember when we were – and I wrote this in the book as well – when we were in the dot-com fever in 1999, we had a segment on CNBC called “Annoying Little Comparisons,” where we would come up with market values of Ford Motor (market value is X, Y, Z) versus Joe Schmo’s The market value was much higher and yet the earnings were much lower, the revenue was much lower. All we were doing was looking at clicks to a website. Why? Because we were in this moment in time when we just figured the gauges to measure success had changed. In fact they hadn’t changed. We’re not going to look at hits to a website to see how successful a company is. It’s about fundamentals, it’s about earnings, it’s about cash flow, it’s about revenue – and the same with the housing boom. You know, when you look at 2007 into 2008, prices for your average home in, I don’t know, pick a city – Phoenix — were up 40 percent. Why? Why were home prices up 40 percent year over year? Did the neighborhood get better? Did the schools get better? Were there better streets? No. Nothing really changed except this euphoria that you had to buy, buy, buy, buy now because the price of your home was going to rise. Not everybody missed it. There were some people who profited handsomely on it. You look at a guy like John Paulson, who had a hedge fund, who did real work, did real analysis on what happens when housing starts to climb three percent.

LESLEY: But look at this new book —

MARIA: Well, foreclosures go up 15 percent.

LESLEY: Look at the new book by Michael Lewis.

MARIA: Exactly.

LESLEY: He can count on his hands  … one hand, practically, how many people got it. I wonder how much the media, how much you personally — and all of us in general — learned from this. How do you do your job differently now, because of that?

MARIA: I think you want to be a contrarian. I think you want to look at things skeptically more.

LESLEY: Do you think it’s really changed that much?

MARIA: I just want to get this elephant out of the room. I don’t think you could blame the media. I think that’s silly.

LESLEY: I’m not blaming the media, but I wonder if everybody who does what you do, and you specifically, have gone back and said, “Wow, I blew it. What do I do next time? What do I do right now?”

MARIA: I think you have to look at the situation and ask very simple, straightforward questions of yourself. Is this too good to be true? Does this seem sustainable? Home prices moving up 40 percent year over year is obviously not sustainable. I would like to think that the next time around I could be more of a contrarian, I can be more skeptical. That’s what Jim Rogers, the international investor, will tell you. Make sure you look at things and question them, and don’t always go with the herd mentality. Don’t — just because everybody says it’s true — necessarily feed into it, because nothing goes up forever and if it does seem like it’s unsustainable, it probably is. So that’s one thing that I feel like I could learn. Another thing is, look around and if everyone is doing it, investigate why. So Goldman Sachs was selling all of these packaged mortgage securities that included sub-prime. Why? Because Morgan Stanley was. Why? Because CitiGroup was, because Merrill Lynch was.

LESLEY: So they were making money off it?

Yes. They were all making money off of it – until they weren’t. So all they needed was one thing to happen that would break the dominos and that was house prices started declining, and they stopped going up. And then they were all left holding the bag. But you asked why everybody did it – because if you didn’t do it, the next guy was making more money than you. So it was this vicious cycle. And then let’s not forget the regulators. Barney Frank, back in 2006, saying, “Look, everybody should own a home. This is the American dream. Let’s make it affordable.” Alan Greenspan with low interest rates, let’s make it easy to get a home. So you’ve got a lot of things that meshed into place where it just seemed like home prices – we’re looking at this euphoric situation and they were going to continue, until they didn’t.

LESLEY: But you know the financial price and I, myself, we took these CEOs and these financial “geniuses” and we made them superstars. I did it, you did it. I did a big profile of Jack Welch and many others. And it’s brave to be a contrarian, it’s brave to go against  … you have to be brave to go against a tide like that.

MARIA: You need courage.

You need courage. But the press – we’re supposed to be the watchdog. And I don’t know if there’s been enough chest banging, you know, beating up on ourselves, so that it won’t happen again, because we weren’t wearing the watchdog hat, which is a huge part of our job.

MARIA: But the press has to be definitely taking more responsibility. And, you know, I agree that you really need to recognize that there were things missed; real things missed. Having said that, if you look at CNBC for example, all we do is business, all we do is the markets. At any given time in that period from 2006 to 2009, at any given moment in time, you could have seen Robert Shiller on air saying, “This is a house of cards about to fall.” You could have seen George Soros on air, I’ve interviewed him a number of times throughout that period saying, “I would be shorting this market. I’m betting against it.” You could have seen, at the same time, Angelo Mozilo saying, “Mortgages should be sold and mortgages should be taken out. This is the greatest time – Goldilocks economy.”

So I want to make sure that I  … we’re on the air, on business in the market, 24/7, 14 hours of live programming. And at any time you could have seen both sides of the story. So I want to make sure that that’s out there as well, because we certainly had a number of bears in that period on the story saying, “This is not sustainable.” But there was a moment in time, a mentality ingrained, that everything was great, and home prices would keep going up.

LESLEY: Let me ask you about an intriguing story you tell in the book about sexism and you. So you’re down to the Stock Exchange — as I said, you were the first to report. It was an all-male club and here you come around with a camera and a microphone, and you have this nemesis, this one older trader. You don’t tell us who he is, but he’s an older trader, and he really gives you a hard time. Tell that story.

MARIA: He really did, Lesley. I mean, I was down at the — and because no one had done this, it was really due to all involved – myself included.

LESLEY: It was brave, Maria. That is brave.

MARIA: Well, thank you. So we convinced Dick Grasso, then the NYSE CEO, to let us down there and to try to demystify what was going on there. I had gotten some allies, some people were helpful for sure. One of them was this guy George, who was the specialist in GE stock. That is, he brought the buyers together with the sellers. Every day he stood at this post at the New York Stock Exchange and he explained to me how the orders would come in, how he would get the buyers to match them up with sellers, and why a stock was halted when it wasn’t. He would teach me all this stuff when I first got down there. And then I found out that Jack Welch was coming down to the New York Stock Exchange and I said, “Oh, wow, what a great break for me,” as the reporter, because I’m the face of CNBC on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. And GE, being the CEO of GE is my boss’s boss, and this is perfect. I could be the one to take him over to the post of GE, show him how trading goes, introduce him to George, the guy who’s running his stock every day. I was down there about a month and this happened. And I walked over to George to tell George that Jack was coming the next day, and I just wanted him to know it, and I wanted to make sure it was OK if I brought Jack over there. So I walked over, and there were about 25 guys, maybe 20 or 25 guys in earshot standing around. It did not look like it was busy. I would not have interrupted if they were busy. And I walked over and I said, “George,” and this one guy who was working in the post of GE, he was trading that stock, I guess he was waiting to see how the stock would move so he was just standing there not doing anything. He went ballistic on me. He must have been twice or three times my age. He said, “Run along! Get away from here, little girl. You will not come back here! You will not put this on your little TV show. Get away from here and don’t come back!” I just remained. I looked around. I mean, you could imagine the knots in my stomach.

You wanted to go cry, I know you did.

MARIA: I did. Of course I did. And so I’m looking at these 25 guys waiting for a response from me. They’re either waiting for a fight or waiting to see how I’m going to answer; my face is getting red. So I dug down inside to get any dignity that I had and I said, “Don’t speak to me that way,” and I walked away. And I’d run along – basically what he told me to do. But George followed me and said, “Oh, Maria, don’t mind him. What did you want to tell me?” I said, “George, I’ll come back later.” And then I was just furious. I felt awful, I was mortified in front of 25 people on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and then I called up Dick Grasso. I said, “Dick, I’m not going to be harassed. Who is this guy?” Of course, soon into it I learn, he’s on the board of the New York Stock Exchange and he was one of the main dissenters who said, “I do not want this woman here.” For the next — literally, I’m not even kidding, I mean it’s unbelievable — seven years he just tortured me. Every time I walked by him he would say, little grumblings: “Save your money.” In other words, you’re not going to amount to anything just, “You’d better save your money. Get away from me!” I mean, just terrible.

LESLEY: Unbelievable. Seven years.

MARIA: So finally, we were in 1999 now, and then into the year 2000, and the market starts falling. Remember: We had the dot-com bust before September 11 in 2001. So the market’s plummeting and people are losing money and it’s a very critical moment in time when you’re seeing some real fortunes lost after the dot-com boom. And I walked by him and he gave me his usual hostility and he said, “Save your money.” And I turned around and I just had had it and I said, “No, no, no, no. You know what? You’d better save your money, my friend,” and I kept walking. And it stopped.

LESLEY: It stopped – seven years later?

Yes. But then I didn’t see him much because I just spoke back, because at that point I just said to myself, “You know what? I’m tired of this. I work really hard. I study 24/7. I’m here, I know my stuff. This guy can’t touch me. Who the hell are you? I’m demystifying this for America. You’re your own  … you know, you’re a guy in a boy’s club trying to hide what you do. Let the sun shine in.” And so I ran into him at a party years later and he said, “Maria, I just want you to know, I still haven’t seen your TV show but I read your column, and I’m sorry I treated you so poorly over the years.”

LESLEY: Oh, he did? He apologized?

MARIA: He did actually apologize like ten years later.

But you know Maria, after all this time … there was a big article in Newsweek recently; I’ve been reading this over the last couple of days – the glass ceiling is as hard as glass as ever. Women are beginning to slip back all over the place. It’s unbelievable, we have women, the majority in our professional schools; women doing better, getting into marketplaces. But they still are not becoming the leaders. And I don’t know about how many women are at CNBC. I guess a lot, I see a lot on the air. But there’s just this overall feeling that for women it has not been a steady march up the hill to this day.

MARIA: Yes, I think it’s been mixed. I mean, I would be a little more optimistic. I think I see it a little more optimistic because I think that when you look at women today, women are soaring. Now, are they breaking the glass ceiling? There is a limit. There is a limit. I agree with you on that. But I think that when you look at, for example, all around the world and you look at the business degrees, and you look at school degrees, 60 percent of higher degrees today are going to women.

LESLEY: Well, that’s what I’m saying. That’s been true, Maria, for ten years.

MARIA: But then they get to the CEO’s feet and they’re unable to break it. And we still have that elephant in the room and that is, we make 85 cents on the dollar of men.

Still. And some women, in some places it’s 77 cents on the dollar. And I have to tell you, I am shocked, because this march started, really, in 1972. And I can’t believe that we’re where we are, that we’re not further than we are by 2010.

MARIA: Well, obviously you are the pioneer. I mean, you’ve been a pioneer in this.

LESLEY: But at that point when — the truth is — when affirmative action passed. You would not believe that by 2010 we’d be seeing huge articles in Newsweek saying we’re slipping back.

MARIA: Well, you know, it’s unfortunate. I think it really is mixed, depending on the profession. But there’s no doubt about it. I mean, the evidence is there, once you get to the higher echelon of corporate America, there’s an inability to break through it. I mean, you have a handful of CEOs that are women. But for the most part it’s the CFO role, it’s underneath the president role. It’s not that top role, with the exception of a handful. I don’t know what it’s going to take. Look, I think women have the goods. I think men are slipping back as well because I don’t think that men do what women do, and that is to try to juggle it all. But I guess, because we leave the workforce to have children and then go back, unfortunately it’s held against us. And we start, we re-enter the job at a different place, at a different salary – lower – and …

LESLEY: But you know, even for women who don’t have children, that’s what these new numbers are showing. That there’s sort of an assumption that the problem is that women leave to have children. But these new articles are saying it’s something else.

MARIA: Well, it’s a boy’s club in management.

LESLEY: Exactly. Exactly. And you’ve really worked at that. You know what I love in the book? You tell that everybody wondered how you were going to react to the “money honey” label, and I love that you laughed it off. Because I think that’s part of it. If you act as though you have arrived and laughing these things off is part of that, I think that’s terrific.

MARIA: Thank you. But it didn’t even take anything to do it. I mean, if someone says to me, “Oh, they call you ‘money honey,’” I said, “Do you really think someone calls me up and says, ‘Hi, money honey’?” Of course not. Nobody really calls me that. It’s the tabloids. So it’s fine, I mean just roll it off. I was happy to get noticed and I know what my viewers expect from me. There is no debating why my viewers come to my show versus another show on CNBC or on another financial news network, because I’m going to ask the top people the tough questions, the questions that need to be answered, and I’m going to try to break news and give you the story straight – no screaming, no knee-jerk reactions. Quick sound-bite situations — that’s not what I’m about. And I think my viewers know that. So I’m comfortable with that. So there’s no reason not to laugh at it.

LESLEY: OK, final question. You ask in the book: How much are you willing to sacrifice for success? So what’s your answer? What do you think that you have sacrificed?

MARIA: It’s a really good question, Lesley. I think that you do sacrifice something. I think you sacrifice your time. I think you sacrifice in some ways a home life. Now, I have to be honest: I don’t really have a major balance in my life. I mean, I have a great husband who understands that I love my work, and as a result of that he has made it easy for me to strive and strive and strive and work hard. But I think that when you are —

LESLEY: Do you have children?

MARIA: No, I don’t.

LESLEY: OK, do you consider that a sacrifice in your head?

MARIA: You know, I could have had a child; I could have actually focused on that more. I didn’t want to, so no, I don’t see it as a sacrifice because I did it because I wanted to do it. Will I at some point? Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t feel that way right now. But I don’t know. I think that when you are pursuing something and you love it, you give it your all. And I certainly have given it my all because I love what I’m doing, and I think that’s the No. 1 thing that you need when you want to be successful – you must love what you do and you must pour your heart into it, and I’ve done that. Yes, I haven’t done other things because I haven’t been either ready, or I haven’t wanted to take energy away from work. I don’t know what the reason is. I can’t answer that today, and I can’t answer today whether or not I will have regrets. But certainly I have put all of me into work.

LESLEY: You know what? It shows. Your show is terrific, you’re terrific. And you have now written a book, The 10 Laws of Enduring Success. And the wOw women are going to love to hear your thoughts in this interview, and they’re going to enjoy reading what it takes to be successful. And you did, you’ve interviewed everybody. You’ve interviewed everybody for the book, and have wonderful quotes from them. So I thank you and I wish you the best of luck. When does the book actually come out?

MARIA: Lesley, I so appreciate you having me today. It comes out on March 30.

LESLEY: So, Tuesday?


LESLEY: OK. Terrific. Have fun on the book tour.

MARIA: Thanks a lot, Lesley.

LESLEY: And thanks for your time. Thank you.

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