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CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL
Details on AIG Bonuses Revealed; Economic Anger Management
Aired March 17, 2009 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone.
It is the one story that affects all of us, the story so important only the worldwide resources of CNN could bring it to you with the in-depth reporting and analysis you deserve.
Tonight and all this week, we are bringing you "The Road to Rescue," everything you need to know about how to get through our country's financial crisis.
And we start with bullet point number one tonight, the truth about those AIG bonuses. Now, you and I may have just heard about them. So, it is only natural we would be a bit upset about this. But where do Washington politicians get the nerve to suddenly act as if it is a surprise to them?
Well, guess what? It shouldn't be. We're going to tell you what we mean in "Cutting Through The Bull" shortly.
Bullet point number two tonight: the power to change. We have all heard the stories of bank failures and loans gone bad. But there is one place where nearly all the loans are paid back in full. They have a system, it's working, and you don't have to be rich to get help. We're going to reveal the man who is trying to lead a revolution in banking.
And bullet point number three tonight: President Obama goes green on this Saint Patty's Day. He runs elbows with Ireland's prime minister and members of Congress, invoking history and humor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As Speaker Pelosi mentioned, this luncheon was begun under Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan, two men of Irish stock who loved a good scrap, but who also knew how to work together to find common ground and put the differences of the day aside, in favor of laughter and good cheer at the end of the day.
In fact, looking at all of you, I am reminded of a greeting President Reagan once offered the guests at this gathering. On Saint Patrick's Day, he said, you should time with saints and scholars. So, I have two more stops to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: The president also made some revelations about his own Irish heritage. Yes, you heard me right. And you will see that in our "Political Daily Briefing."
First, though, the news that everybody is so worked up about tonight, brand-new details about the $165 million in retention bonuses paid out by troubled insurance giant AIG.
According to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, 73 AIG executives received bonuses of $1 million or more. The top seven recipients received more than $4 million each. The biggest single bonus was more than $6 million. And get this. Eleven of those 73 who got retention bonuses had left AIG anyway.
Before we go any further, we need to do some serious "Cutting Through The Bull."
Last night, we told you that we were going to be profiling the villains of this crisis, those that we think belong in our rogues gallery. But what we are discovering, the more we learn about AIG, and the more willing we are to take a step back and look at sort of the big picture here, it becomes harder and harder to pinpoint exactly where we should be directing our anger.
But that has not stopped Washington or the late-night comedians from unleashing, as they try to tap into all that populist outrage. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay. I mean, how do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: This is disgraceful. This is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Do you know what AIG stands for? Anybody know? Adventures in greed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Our founding fathers knew that, when the rights of the people get trampled, we must become a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob, empty of all thoughts, an injured, vengeful animal lashing out blindly at shapes and colors.
Let's go get AIG. Whew!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, you would expect Stephen Colbert him to be over the top. But Iowa's Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little better towards them, if they had followed the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, 'I'm sorry,' and then either do one or two things: resign or go commit suicide.
And, in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Without question, our politicians are right on one point. There are plenty of people at AIG who are plenty deserving of all the outrage, especially when we hear, as we did today, that those -- quote -- "retention bonuses," so necessary, they told us, to keep the best and brightest from jumping ship were actually given to a lot of people who have already flown the coop.
But it is the disingenuousness on top of the economic calamity. Enough already. The disingenuousness is by no means limited to AIG. As has pointed out time and time again today, AIG went public more than a year ago with its plans to give out these bonuses.
And all the politicians and White House officials doing the screaming and yelling either did know that or should have known that.
Guys, get it together, please. We don't need you to feel our pain. We need you to fix this problem, minus the histrionics. Leave that to cable news. Instead, how about you focus on what you are going to do when it is time to write AIG yet another check?
And as we engage in what we hope will be a little anger management on this issue, let's bring our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, and senior and political analyst Jeff Toobin into this.
And, Ali, the sad truth, as we noted, Washington, or much of Washington, is performing for the cameras right now. And, in fact we know that they were aware, at least they should have been aware, of what was going on. Walk us through it.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the key, Campbell, should have been aware.
Let's talk a little about this. There are reports tonight -- and we're trying to work on confirming them -- that the president did not know about the details of these retention bonuses and the fact that AIG had legal obligations to pay them before last week.
That is the same thing we are hearing about the treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. But we did. And we are surprised that, if we did and we reported it and other news outlets reported it, that it wasn't out there.
Take a look at our colleague Mary Snow in a report on January 28 of this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: American International Group is paying bonuses to its Financial Products unit. That same unit racked up huge losses. A source familiar with the matter puts the figure at $450 million.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, so Mary Snow reported on this on January 28. I talked to AIG about it on that same day.
On March 2, earlier this month, I spoke to CEO of AIG, Ed Liddy, and I asked him about it. We specifically discussed why he would be paying out $450 million in bonuses to the very group that was at the center of the destruction of AIG.
And he said because they had legal obligations to do so. So again this was out there. It is a little surprising that the White House and the administration are pretty firm on the fact that they didn't know about it before last week.
BROWN: So, nobody read the paper that day? Nobody watched TV? They were a little checked out, or...
VELSHI: In fairness, they were new to the job. Maybe something got lost in the shuffle. But the fact is it was out there.
BROWN: I know you are not as bothered. And, frankly, there is good reason for outrage. I want to make that clear.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Sure.
BROWN: But my issue here is those who may be performing for the cameras. You don't have a problem with the histrionics.
TOOBIN: I don't have a problem. Count me as pro-hysteria on this one...
TOOBIN: ... because I just think it is so outrageous that that the public, the Congress needs to stand up and say, this is unacceptable, and we need to figure out a way to fix it.
Now, you are right. They should have fixed it earlier. They should have called attention to it earlier. They should have stopped it earlier. But that doesn't diminish the outrageousness of it now.
BROWN: But what happens when they have to write another check and they have gotten everybody all riled up, and we look at them and say, you are really asking us to give more money after what you just conveyed to us?
TOOBIN: Well, presumably -- and here is where you know they can actually do some good -- they will write the check with strings attached or not write the check at all, but do it in such a way that these kind of abuses are prevented.
But what is so outrageous about this is that it could have been prevented. Here, you have the government writing $170 billion worth of checks, mostly the Federal Reserve, by the way, not the Department of the Treasury. And they could have said, this cannot be used for bonuses. But they didn't. And that's what is so outrageous.
BROWN: Now they are trying to get it back. They're trying to get the money back.
BROWN: And lots of ideas being thrown around. What is genuinely feasible?
VELSHI: All right. There are probably about three ideas out there right now.
One of them has just been actually proposed by Senators Grassley and Baucus. And the idea is a very heavy tax both on people who receive bonuses and on companies that pay them. The idea is taxing back as much of the bonus money as possible. That's something that would happen in Congress.
The other one is suing the people who got the bonuses to get them back and saying that you're not entitled to them, you didn't earn them, and you're recipients of government money; we want them back.
The more likely one, the one that is likely to be presented by the government, is recovering the bonus money and/or blocking future bonuses using the leverage of the money that still has to be paid to AIG. As you mention, there's another $30 billion as a minimum to go to AIG, might be as much as $80 billion more, depending on what they will need. So, there is certainly leverage on the government's side.
TOOBIN: I mean, just think about $80 billion still to go? Still to go.
VELSHI: That's leverage.
TOOBIN: It's leverage.
TOOBIN: It's an outrage they're getting the money. Forget the leverage.
VELSHI: Well, one thing we have to separate is the outrage about what has happened with these bonuses and the future of AIG and what it means to the country, two separate issues. You can disagree on both of them, but they are two separate issues. And we need to keep them separate.
TOOBIN: Count me as outraged by both.
BROWN: All right. Guys, we will end it there.
BROWN: Ali and Jeff, thanks very much.
And the AIG controversy, another mess we should point out the White House did not need, we're going to look at how the Obama administration can get away from this latest distraction, if they can.
And as part of CNN's unprecedented "Road to Rescue" coverage, new dangers from our struggling economy, people who want your money and the illegal ways they are trying to get it -- the latest scams when we come back.
BROWN: Armed with the latest details about AIG's bonuses, reporters zeroed in on White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today. What did the administration know? When did they know it? Press corps kept pressing. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: But the White House didn't start talking about this issue until after the deadline was already over.
QUESTION: Is it possible that Secretary Geithner did not completely inform the president about what was happening here until it really just all blew up?
QUESTION: Are you confident that the oversight process at Treasury is working properly?
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I am confident the oversight process is working. Am I confident -- what I'm -- what I think the president and all of America are outraged about is the message that any bonus like this sends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Senior White House correspondent Ed Henry there part of the melee, and joining me now. And, Ed, I want to talk about a separate interview you did. You sat down with the president's top economic adviser, Larry Summers, today and pressed him on the same question. Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: When did you learn that they were going to be giving out these bonuses?
LAWRENCE SUMMERS, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Secretary Geithner was notified last week of what was contractually obliged.
We are all, as the American people are, outraged by what has happened by AIG, outraged by the way in which the company was run recklessly and regulated with abandon, outraged at the kinds of contract that were entered into.
Now, these contracts were entered into before there was any government involvement a year ago, before there was any government involvement in the company, long before this administration began and, frankly, the shame that's involved in accepting bonuses in a unit within that company that has been so disastrous, not just for the company, but for the global financial system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, Ed, what kind of pressure is the White House feeling tonight on this issue?
HENRY: Enormous pressure, Campbell.
What you heard there from Larry Summers, he was talking how they essentially inherited this from the Bush administration, and all this started back then.
But what this is showing tonight is all of this has landed directly on President Obama's desk in the Oval Office. And just in the last few moments, we have gotten some new information. The White House has now finally put out a timeline of when top officials learned all this information about the bonuses, some important information.
First of all, we have now pinned down the day, according to White House officials. It was Tuesday when Treasury Secretary Geithner finally found out about these bonuses, that they were coming. Very important to note that, on Wednesday -- he waited a whole day before he reached out to the CEO of AIG, Edward Liddy, and tried to press him to block this.
More importantly, it was not until Thursday that Secretary Geithner informed the president. That's going to raise a lot of questions about why the president didn't learn about this sooner.
I also earlier asked Larry Summers, why didn't they use the leverage? When they had to cut this check for another $30 billion for AIG, why didn't they use that leverage to add some strings to all this?
Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: It seemed like, with the American people owning 80 percent of this company now, you could have put some strings on it two weeks ago. Why didn't you act then?
SUMMERS: Secretary Geithner has used all the legal authorities that are open to him to contain and limit the payment of bonuses. What he did not do, and what would have been irresponsible to do, as outrageous as these payments are, would have been to put at risk the stability of the financial system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: And so what he was basically trying to say there is, bottom line, is, if they added all these strings to AIG, AIG may have balked, just may have gone bankrupt, collapsed, and then it could have been a Lehman Brothers-style crisis that would have made all this much worse.
But bottom line is this problem is now in the president's lap and they're having a hard time dealing with it, Campbell.
BROWN: Indeed. Ed Henry for us tonight -- Ed, thanks very much.
HENRY: Thank you.
BROWN: So, genuine outrage from the White House here or political posturing? What is really going on?
We will bring our panel in for that, Tony Blankley, who served as Newt Gingrich's press secretary, also the author of "American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century," along with CNN political analyst Roland Martin, and back for more, senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin, joining me as well.
Roland, let me start with you.
You heard what Larry Summers said just there, the White House generally saying their hands were tied on this. Not everyone buying it, though. Did the administration blow it?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think what Larry Summers just said was one of the stupidest things I have ever heard in my life.
That is, oh, if they balked, then they would have collapsed. Oh, so, right. Those folks would have said, kill our own jobs? I mean, this -- when you have leverage, when you say, look, you are going to die without us, I have absolutely control over what you do, they wouldn't have balked. They would have complained. They would have cried, yelled. But they would have said, in the end, get rid of the bonuses.
This is absolutely crazy. And I say don't sit here and make justifications for it. Just say you blew it.
BROWN: Tony, what do you think?
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, this is sort of odd.
I take Larry Summers' statements very seriously. I think the first priority of our government has got to be making sure that we maintain the viability and strength in the financial system we have. That's got to be more important than even fair play and justice. Now, I don't know the facts. None of us know all the facts.
But Summers is -- is a very experienced and shrewd man. If there was a danger -- and that's what he was saying, that there was actually a danger that AIG might fail -- then, obviously, that's why we have already put $180 billion into AIG, because of the derivatives they hold and all of the other institutions around the world that would ripple through if those derivatives fail.
This is a very serious moment. And I am glad that the president said that we have to honor the contract rights. That's another issue we might want to talk about.
BROWN: All right, hang on for a second, Jeff. I know you want to respond to that. We have got to take a quick break, though.
Stay right there, guys.
With all this venom over AIG, politicians obviously taking full advantage of it. What's going to happen when AIG does come back, asking for more taxpayer billions, and what happens to the world's economy if this time the answer is no?
We will talk about that when we come back after the break.
BROWN: We are back, breaking it down, the AIG bonus backlash.
And amid the mounting anger, one of President Obama's top economic advisers seems to be saying, don't get mad; get working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUMMERS: It is wrong to govern out of anger. We have to recognize what we are angry about, do something about it. That's why we are focused on establishing a new resolution regime as part of a sweeping overhaul of the financial system, so the next time one of these things happens, the government will have the authorities to do what's right.
But we can't let anger stop us from taking the steps that are necessary to maintain the stability of the financial system, keep credit flowing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Roland Martin, Jeffrey Toobin, Tony Blankley back with me once again.
Jeff, what do you think of what he just said?
TOOBIN: I think the Obama administration just missed this issue.
They didn't see this whole bonus issue coming. They can tap- dance all around it, but the fact is they didn't see that these bonuses were being paid and that there would be such outrage. They could have done something about it before the bonuses were paid, but this only became a big issue after the bonuses were paid, so they're stuck scrambling.
But, when they're caught, they're caught. And they're caught here.
MARTIN: And, Campbell...
BROWN: Yes, quickly, Roland.
MARTIN: Campbell, what is jumping out here is -- and you are hearing it from these companies -- well, that, if we don't get our way, well, then, frankly, the company is simply going to fail.
No, they're not going to allow this -- the whole business to simply to fall down because they don't get their coveted bonuses. Frankly, you want to break it down, they are pimping the federal government. They are basically saying, we know you need us. You have no choice but to allow us to live. So, we are going to still get what we want.
And that's what I find to be offensive. They still say, give us our bonuses and give us a $60 billion bailout. That's the problem.
BROWN: Go ahead.
TOOBIN: But that position, if that's what AIG's position is, is simply untrue.
They're getting $30 billion. The only amount at issue here was $165 million for this one group's bonuses. If they had taken that $165 million out, they still would have gotten their $30 billion. AIG wouldn't have gone out of business. This problem could have been solved.
But it wasn't, because the Obama administration people involved were not focused on it. They simply missed it.
BROWN: Tony, let's look forward a little bit, because what we are hearing, the estimates are is that AIG is probably going to need another $70 billion in bailout money. But now everybody is so worked up about all this, Washington feeding all that, that it may well be politically impossible. How dangerous is that? What kind of situation are they in?
BLANKLEY: That is dangerous. And the responsibility of the government and the Congress and Senate is to not inflame irrational thoughts in the public.
If in fact we have to bail out AIG or some other institution further, in our own interest, to avoid failure of the financial system, then we can't let politics or passion get in the way.
Also, the call to somehow get -- overcome these contracts with some sort of post -- ex post facto legislation is also I think unconstitutional. We have to honor contracts, whether we like them or not, because that's the foundation of commercial activity.
TOOBIN: Well, we litigate contracts in this country all the time.
TOOBIN: So, that can be settled in court.
But let's think about the numbers year. Poor old General Motors is stuck begging for $5 billion to tide itself over. AIG is at $170 billion and counting from the U.S. Treasury.
I just think the Obama administration or the Federal Reserve, which is really the person responsible here, they need to do a better justification -- better job justifying why all this needs to be spent, because the public has just had it.
MARTIN: Campbell, moving...
BROWN: Yes, go ahead, Roland.
MARTIN: Yes, moving forward, very simple, where I come from, when you get a bonus you have done a good job, I think anybody who is coming to the federal government, saying, please help us, it is a matter of renegotiate those contracts, say, no more bonuses. They're still getting their salaries, but not the bonuses. It's as simple as that. We can do that moving forward.
BROWN: Tony, I will give you the last word on this. Go ahead.
BLANKLEY: Yes, I just wanted -- to Jeffrey, the state does not abrogate contracts between private parties as a routine matter. Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, as you know, doesn't permit that.
TOOBIN: We will see you in court, Tony.
MARTIN: OK. Well, then don't ask for my money, then. Don't ask for my money then.
BROWN: Guys, we have got to end it there.
Roland, Jeff, Tony, many thanks. Appreciate it.
BLANKLEY: Thank you.
BROWN: Thanks very much.
Shifting gears for a moment to tell you about what may -- a story that may have taken a tragic turn, a simple skiing lesson that may have turned out horribly. We're learning new details of the skiing accident that injured actress Natasha Richardson. And we will get an update for you on her condition when we come back right after the break.
BROWN: It is a sad fact recessions are boom times for scam artists. We are going to tell you how to avoid getting taken as our "Road to Rescue" continues.
But, first, Gary Tuchman joins us right now with the briefing -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Campbell.
Actress Natasha Richardson reportedly was flown to undisclosed location in this country today, after being seriously injured in a skiing accident at a resort in Canada Monday afternoon. Richardson, who is the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and married to actor Liam Neeson, fell on a beginner's trail during a lesson at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec.
According to a resort spokesperson, she was not wearing a helmet. And she showed no sign of injury and returned to her hotel. But, an hour later, she complained of feeling unwell and was taken to the hospital.
"The Montreal Gazette" reports that Richardson's two sons with Neeson were skiing with her at the time of her fall and that Neeson flew to Montreal from a Toronto film set to be with her at the hospital.
Pope Benedict XVI is in Cameroon, the first stop on his seven-day trip to Africa. He sparked controversy when on the trip down he told reporters that condoms are not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
In New York City, tens of thousands crowded Fifth Avenue for the 248th Saint Patrick's Day Parade. The parade started this morning, but the party is going strong across the city, no shortage of green beer and green ties.
TUCHMAN: And, Campbell, you have got to see this.
I have a green tie, as you can see.
In a new ad, JetBlue Airlines is having a little fun at the expense of some of the least liked people in America these days, CEOs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Here is Carl, a CEO jetting with JetBlue for the first time. Unlike the terminals where you parked your old private jet, T5 is filled with regular people.
Relax, Carl. Think of them as shareholders.
This is a ticket kiosk. It lets you get your boarding pass without having to talk to the aforementioned regular people. Just tap the screen. Then scan your credit card. Make sure it's yours. And there you have it, easier than writing off a toxic asset.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: That's a very clever ad.
You know, Campbell, we travel a lot in this job. And a lot of people ask me this question. When you cover stories, do you take the CNN corporate jet?
And we have got to answer, we fly airlines like JetBlue. Even when we go to Baghdad, we fly airlines like Royal Jordanian. So, we are the network of the people, Campbell.
BROWN: I didn't know CNN had a corporate jet.
BROWN: I'm not even sure we do.
TUCHMAN: I don't know the answer to that. But we don't fly it. I can tell you that much, Campbell.
BROWN: Gary, a very, very clever ad. I watched that earlier today.
BROWN: Gary Tuchman for us tonight. Gary, thanks very much.
And as we told you earlier, all this week we are explaining the economic crisis and showing you its many ripple effects in ways that only CNN can. Tonight, Anderson Cooper is in New Orleans reporting on the return of volunteerism. Out of work doesn't have to mean not working. That's after the break.
BROWN: Michelle Obama has made community service one of her signature issues and today she put her muscle where her mouth is. Joining more than 100 disadvantaged young people on the National Mall, they're working to build an energy efficient house that will eventually be donated to a homeless Texas family. The first lady also opened up about why volunteering is so important to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I, too, found my life enriched. When I left my job at a corporate law firm, I thought that was the best thing I'd ever do, making a lot of money in a corporate firm in Chicago. But it wasn't until I stepped away from the corporate track and worked in city government and eventually helped to found the Chicago chapter of public allies, and AmeriCorps program, a national service program, that I realized how important public service and community service was to my own development.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And Michelle Obama, not alone on this. Across the country people who have lost their jobs are actually turning to volunteering. "The New York Times" reports that volunteernyc.org had 30 percent more volunteers. Last month in Philadelphia, Big Brothers Big Sisters has seen a 25 percent increase in calls from people who want to be mentors, one very positive ripple effect that is sweeping the country. And Anderson Cooper is in New Orleans tonight with more on this -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": Campbell, we're actually following that ripple effect and we're seeing it in action here in New Orleans. I'm at a project right now. The St. Bernard project has been rehabbing this house behind me. They're very close to finishing that. They're closing in on 200 homes that they've been helping rebuild, and they have seen a steady stream of volunteers.
As you said, a lot of groups seeing an uptick. AmeriCorps, which you just heard the first lady mention, AmeriCorps, back in January and February, this year they had 18,000 applications for volunteers. That's four times the amount of applications they had at the same time, same two months just last year.
We've been profiling some of the people who are volunteering their time here. They've lost their jobs or their businesses aren't doing well, but they're not just sitting around. They're using that spare time to help others. Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): For Suzanne Mintz (ph), volunteering with the St. Bernard project in New Orleans is a much needed stress reliever during these tough economic times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want to wallow. You know, we want to be able to do something and feel worthwhile and that we're able to do something.
COOPER: The mother of three, Suzanne runs a small jewelry business out of her home in Silver Spring, Maryland. In the past year, sales have fallen over 40 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sort of feels like it's a day-to-day, you know, the questions that we raise and that we present to each other. You know, what should we do today? And do I continue doing what I'm doing? Do I need to look for a job? Would I find a job if -- if I made that effort?
COOPER: The recession is making Suzanne rethink her life, but it's also helped shine a light on what's truly important to her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This to us is not discretionary. It's just something we have to do. Whatever sacrifice it might take of us to do it is nothing compared to what it is for the folks here who are still not back in their homes.
COOPER: And it's a win-win really for both. For the nonprofit groups, it's obviously extra labor, extra help. They benefit from the skills these volunteers bring. And for the volunteers themselves, it's a chance to exercise their skills and maybe even pick up some new ones. So, it's really a win-win for both, Campbell.
BROWN: Absolutely. Anderson Cooper for us tonight from New Orleans, Anderson.
And CNN's unprecedented worldwide coverage of the "Road to Rescue" continuing all night and all this week. Again tonight, Anderson is going to be live from New Orleans. Watch "AC 360" at 10:00 Eastern only on CNN.
And even in the middle of the global money meltdown, there are business people who are taking action to make real people's lives better. We found a banker, yes, indeed, a banker who is doing well by doing good. Wait until you hear his story. That's next.
BROWN: CNN's special coverage the "Road to Rescue" continues tonight with our look at the true leaders of their field. Pioneers of business with the power to change not just their domain but the way we all do business in the future.
And chief business correspondent Ali Velshi back now. Last night, an unlikely choice, Ali, a CEO from the auto industry. Tonight, a banker, what's gotten into you?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Not only a banker, a Bangladeshi banker, somebody from another part of the world, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. You don't usually associate the two, but Muhammad Yunus is our choice tonight for someone with the power to change.
VELSHI (voice-over): With $27 from his own pocket, Muhammad Yunus started a microfinance empire in his home country of Bangladesh in 1976. His initiative was rewarded 30 years later with the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.
VELSHI: One admirer says of Yunus, whatever banks did he did the opposite. And today that makes him a stand out. His bank, Grameen Bank, gives out very small loans to borrowers, nearly all of them women, to start or expand their own businesses. Yunus says women, even very poor women, are the most dependable customers.
MUHAMMAD YUNUS, GRAMEEN AMERICA: If you can bring financial services, they can feed (ph) their own jobs, self-employment, create income for themselves.
VELSHI: Interest rates are high, often 20 percent. But Grameen Bank says 98 percent of the loans are paid back. Why?
One reason is peer pressure. People who borrow money from Grameen must meet regularly in groups of five with a Grameen official. If any of the borrowers don't pay back their loans, no new loans for the entire group.
YUNUS: What we do in Bangladesh, in the villages in Bangladesh would be exactly same thing in New York City, and it works as beautifully as it is done in Bangladesh.
VELSHI: Maria Gallengo couldn't get a loan from a traditional bank, but she did get two $3,000 loans from Grameen Bank. The loans helped her increase business at her apartment rental agency in Queens, New York, by 30 percent.
MARIA GALLENGO, GRAMEEN BANK LOAN RECIPIENT: So they can help people like myself and other people that don't have -- they are not established with their credit is very, very helpful.
VELSHI: Yunus started Grameen America in New York just over a year ago. It's loaned out more than $1 million. Out of over 500 loans, less than one percent have gone bad. It's a record many established American banks can only dream about. Yunus now wants to expand. He's looking at North Carolina, New Jersey, Nebraska, Louisiana, and other states. His mission remains the same.
YUNUS: Being in poverty means that you're not contributing your talent, your energy, your creativity into the marketplace to benefit everybody else. We should be removing poverty not for the person himself or herself, it's for us too.
VELSHI: Now, this seemed like such an unusual thing in 2006 when he got the Nobel Peace Prize. But now, while so many banks are in so much trouble, it seems quite novel to have somebody like Muhammad Yunus. The Grameen foundation works in 26 countries around the world and as I mentioned, they're looking at expanding in the United States.
And, by the way, Muhammad Yunus says one of his goals is to eliminate poverty in the world. Again, it seems like something undoable but this is a man who has done much of the impossible. So as part of our power to change, yesterday, we talked about Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford. Tonight, Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank, the founder of Grameen Bank.
Stay tuned all this week. We'll be finding people for you who have the power, the influence, and the capacity to change, Campbell.
BROWN: All right. We'll see who you've got tomorrow night. Ali Velshi for us. Ali, thanks.
Tonight, a warning, scams on the rise. We have what you need to know to keep your money safe when we come back.
BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" just minutes away. He's going to have more on Natasha Richardson. Also, money talk from a man who knows a thing or two about bankruptcy. Donald Trump is going to be with Larry as well.
Larry, give us a preview.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, you took the whole thing, took the whole tease away.
BROWN: Oh, sorry about that.
KING: OK, no, I like that. That's funny.
We'll have the latest as Campbell said on actress Natasha Richardson, reported to be badly injured after a skiing incident. And then, Mr. Trump is here and we'll get his take on AIG and bonus outrage. We'll talk about the economy and get his thoughts on Bernie Madoff.
And then, Ben Stein and Arianna Huffington all on "LARRY KING LIVE" next.
Campbell, you're doing a great job.
BROWN: You are, too, Larry. See, you had much, much more than I gave away. What are you talking about?
KING: You're right. You had a point. You had a point.
BROWN: It's all right. Larry King, we'll see you in a few minutes.
Money is tight. We want you to keep yours, so don't get scammed in this environment. We're going to show you how to protect yourself armed with the right information when we come back.
Also, Irish-Americans who made their name in Washington. Kennedy, Moynihan, O'Neill, Obama? Yes, the president makes his case in tonight's "Political Daily Briefing."
BROWN: No surprise that the sharks are out in the middle of this money meltdown. Scams are on the rise across the country. Everything from fraudulent foreclosure rescue companies to Web sites that promise to help you get a share of the $787 billion stimulus. Yes, really.
Ali Velshi back at the wall to lay out everything you need to be looking out for these days. Ali, what are we seeing out there?
VELSHI: I get these e-mails, Campbell, from my relatives sometimes. Hey, see this. It's not an offer. You need to be smart about what's on there.
The Internet has become the place where people try and find you and make you a victim of a scam. Let's talk about the stimulus. She just mentioned this.
We saw this a lot last spring when the stimulus checks were going out to people. E-mails would go out and asking people to put information in so that they could get their check or get it deposited in their account. Same thing with the stimulus. There are checks and there are e-mails going out asking for your information. We're going to talk about that.
Foreclosure scams, people offering to get you out of foreclosure, to negotiate on your behalf, to figure out your credit information. Please don't do that.
The Housing and Urban Development, Department of Housing and Urban Development has counselors who can counsel you for free.
Number three, unemployment scams. People offering to send you lists, ways to get jobs, access to jobs, paying you, but you pay them to work from home. Those are scams as well.
There are some legitimate work from home projects, but a lot of the ones that you're solicited for in the Internet are not legitimate. And, of course, investment scams. We have seen the biggest of them all with Bernie Madoff, and more exposed daily, but there are even smaller ones that can target you. So you have to have to be careful about things that ask you for information or money on the Internet that you didn't initiate contact for.
Campbell, there's lots out there and you have to be able to separate the good from the bad.
BROWN: And let's see that now.
Donna, I want you to address first investment scams that Ali mentioned. You know, people trusted Bernie Madoff with their money. Look how that turned out. How do you focus in on the person that you are handing your life savings to in many cases to know that they can be trustworthy?
DONNA ROSATO, "MONEY MAGAZINE": Well, as common as scams are, it's actually pretty easy to check these things out. With an investment scam, first of all you want to make sure that you're not investing in something that sounds a little too good to be true.
Now, with Bernie Madoff, what happened was what you call infinity scam. Scammers like to prey on people who know each other -- networks of people. And if you know, anything about that Madoff scam, a lot of these people knew each other and so they talked about what great returns they were getting. It's easy to sort of get people sucked in.
BROWN: And, Ric, address for us what Ali else had mentioned -- record number of foreclosures across the country. If you're in danger of being foreclosed on yourself, how do you avoid getting caught up in some of the things we've been hearing?
RIC EDELMAN, FINANCIAL ADVISER: Well, just recognize that there is no secret formula out there. If someone tries to approach you and says I can show you the way to get out of your mess, they're making it up. If there was such a way, you would have reported it right here. So chances are the simplest way to know that you're being scammed, you didn't hear it on CNN.
VELSHI: And that by those foreclosure scams also apply to credit, people calling in and saying they can deal with your credit problems. Again, there are legitimate people who can but just because somebody says they can, doesn't mean they should be trusted.
ROSATO: And Ali has talked about this before, but Ric is right off as well. There are legitimate places that you can go to get help. And so a foreclosure (ph) is trying to help you with your mortgage, trying to save your house, go to hud.gov and they'll put you in touch with a legitimate, either credit counselor or housing counselor.
EDELMAN: Legitimate folks don't ask for upfront money as fees for services they haven't yet provided. So anybody who's asking for cash upfront is a red flag.
BROWN: Donna, let me have you address this one, the job search. People obviously more vulnerable when they're looking for a job. What sort of red flags should they be looking out on that front?
ROSATO: Similar. A lot of what's very popular right now for people offering you work at home opportunities, where they ask -- ask you to put money up front in exchange for information or a kit on how to make money. They'll give you like -- yes, you're paying for something up front. So never pay for something up front. And also just be skeptical.
A very easy way to check these things out is to put the name of the company or the project in Google and put the name scam or fraud with it.
ROSATO: Google that and you'll easily turn up some negative information if it's a problem.
BROWN: If you're worried, Ali, you may be the victim of a scam?
VELSHI: Well, depends what kind of scam you're in. I think the best thing is preventative measures. Right now even if you don't know, you have to check with your investment adviser to find out about the investments that you're in. Make sure you are convinced that they're legitimate.
When somebody sends you a link, don't click the link. Take the name of the company. Put it into the Internet. See if that's really the case.
Get your credit score. You're entitled to it once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Get that just to look at it and see if there's anything in there that's not yours. But just be smart about it. Don't answer people. Don't provide information over the Internet unless you've initiated contact with them.
BROWN: Finally, Ric, let me have you address this. This is from iReporter Jean from New York. Listen to what she has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN LINDSAY, IREPORTER, GENESEO, NY: I have no 401(k). I will have to work till I drop. I have very little money for savings. What the heck can I do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EDELMAN: And people who are in retirement or, you know, trying to get there, I guess, financially these days are especially vulnerable?
EDELMAN: Right, right. Extremely so because they're desperate and as a result, they will take whatever offer comes their way, in the desperate hope that it works. What they really need to recognize is that it is up to them. They need to rely on family. They need to rely on community and ultimately as a fail-safe on government. Turn to their church, turn to the community, turn to family and recognize you're not in this alone. There are others who are willing and able and ready to help.
BROWN: All right, guys, many thanks to "Money Magazine" senior writer, Donna Rosato, since I didn't say any of this. And Ric Edelman, of course, financial adviser, and Ali as well, thanks, guys, appreciate it.
Now for the holiday, the White House has gone green for St. Patrick's Day. We're going to show in our "Political Daily Briefing" when we come back.
BROWN: Irish eyes are smiling at the White House, but is the president really among them? Tom Foreman is here with that and all the rest of his "pot o' political gold" otherwise known as the "Political Daily Briefing."
How are you?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Pot o' political gold" is a wonder today, Campbell. I guess you could call it the political mix daily briefing on this St. Paddy's Day.
It all starts with the first lady, Michelle Obama, who brought a little Windy City flare to the fountains at the White House. Tourists and motorists marveled at a spray of green water shooting up through the air coming out of the two White House lawn fixtures. The first lady had the water dyed green, a tradition from her hometown of Chicago where the Chicago River is dyed green on St. Patrick's Day.
That looks great.
BROWN: Fabulous. I understand the president also started his celebration a little early.
FOREMAN: Yes. Well, how can you not do that? It's a long standing tradition for the prime minister of Ireland to visit the White House on St. Patrick's Day, where the Irish leader typically offers the president some shamrocks. There he is.
Today no exception. Donning his Irish green tie, the president accepted the shamrocks and joked about the prime minister's visit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Although I think it's wonderful that you visited the Oval Office in Washington, what you're really missing out on is the South Side Irish parade in Chicago. As president, I don't think I could have as much fun as I could before I was president at that parade, because I have press following me all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Those were the days, I'm guessing, for him.
FOREMAN: Yes, yes.
BROWN: But also, hearing that the president says he's Irish?
FOREMAN: Yes. Yes.
FOREMAN: Who knew? Who had any idea?
That's what we're hearing from the president himself. Following the ceremony at the White House, the president and prime minister headed to Capitol Hill for a luncheon hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi where again the president spoke and this time playing up his own Irish roots. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As has been mentioned it was -- it was brought to my attention last year that my great, great, great grandfather on my mother's side hailed from a small village in County Offaly (ph). Now, when I was a relatively unknown candidate for office, I didn't know about this part of heritage which would have been very helpful in Chicago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: And, Campbell, the celebration does not end there. As we speak, it's party time at the White House. The president and first lady are hosting two receptions in honor of St. Patrick's Day complete with Irish fare, like corned beef and cabbage and likely a few Irish beers on hand.
And, I'll bet afterwards they'll go back and meet the most famous Irishman in all of Washington.
BROWN: Who's that?
FOREMAN: Patio furniture.
BROWN: Oh, my God.
Did you go out maybe to a pub, and partake in some of the festivities today?
FOREMAN: No. Well, yes, I did. I did.
BROWN: That would explain a lot.
FOREMAN: It was a lovely time I must say for the Irish.
BROWN: I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Tom Foreman tonight. Sober, everybody, I promise he's sober. Tomorrow on NO BIAS, NO BULL, a story we're calling 1-800- nowhere. People calling their banks for help, but finding the help line is a black hole.
It's part of our coverage this week, the "Road to Rescue" stories, an in-depth reporting and analysis on the economy only on CNN.
That does it for us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.