Whitney in New York, 2007
|Alma mater||Brown University|
Arch Capital Group
Meredith Ann Whitney (born November 20, 1969) is an American businesswoman hailed as “The Oracle of Wall Street” by Bloomberg. She is known for successfully forecasting the difficulties of Citigroup and other major banks during the financial crisis of 2007–2008.
Education and career
Whitney grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. She graduated from Madeira School in 1987 before attending a post-graduate year at Lawrenceville School, becoming a member of its first co-ed graduating class. She graduated with honors from Brown University in 1992 with a B.A. in History.
Whitney joined Oppenheimer Holdings in 1993 as a Director, and in 1995 she joined the company's Specialty Finance Group. In 1998, she left Oppenheimer to become an Executive Director at Wachovia. Whitney returned to Oppenheimer in 2004, where she researched banks and brokers as a Managing Director. She resigned from Oppenheimer on February 19, 2009 to establish her own firm, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group (MWAG), where she produced company-specific equity research on financial institutions and analyzed the sector's operating environment.
Whitney issued a particularly pessimistic, but accurate, research report on Citigroup on October 31, 2007, to which many Wall Street analysts, and the news media, paid attention. She noted that the bank's dividends paid out to investors were greater than its profits at the time, and made the case that this would lead to bankruptcy. Shortly after the report's publication and a sharp drop in Citigroup's stock, Charles Prince resigned as the bank's CEO and his successor slashed the dividend. Earlier that year, Forbes magazine had listed Whitney as the second-best stock picker in the capital-market industry. Citigroup stock went on to lose 97% of its value by early 2009.
Whitney's extremely bearish view on banks landed her on the cover of the August 18, 2008, issue of Fortune magazine. Even before the problems that befell Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers in September, she said, "It feels like I'm at the epicenter of the biggest financial crisis in history." That year, Fortune listed her among the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business", The New York Post listed her among the "50 Most Powerful Women in New York City", and a CNBC viewer survey named her as "Power Player of the Year" over Jamie Dimon, Ben Bernanke, and Hank Paulson.
On December 19, 2010, in an interview on the CBS television program 60 Minutes, Whitney stated that 50 to 100 counties, cities, and towns in the United States would have "significant" municipal bond defaults totaling "hundreds of billions" of dollars, and that "it'll be something to worry about within the next 12 months." Since the record amount of municipal bond defaults in one year was just over $8 billion at the time, Whitney's comments about hundreds of billions in defaults briefly shook the market and drew a great deal of attention, much of it critical. According to Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair: "Many of the articles attacking her accused her of making a very specific forecast — as many as a hundred defaults within a year! — that failed to materialize... But that's not at all what she had said: her words were being misrepresented so that her message might be more easily attacked. 'She was referring to the complacency of the ratings agencies and investment advisers who say there is nothing to worry about,' said a person at 60 Minutes who reviewed the transcripts of the interview for me, to make sure I had heard what I thought I had heard. She says there is something to worry about, and it will be apparent to everyone in the next 12 months."
"A tale of two Americas is emerging: one weighed down by debt and facing de minimis economic growth and another brimming with opportunity and nimble to invest in the future." This was the thesis to Whitney's 2013 book, Fate of the States: The New Geography of American Prosperity. She argued that a "new map of prosperity" was emerging in the wake of the financial bust, with jobs moving away from the coasts and toward 17 "central corridor" states in the Midwest and Mountain West.
Whitney's municipal debt thesis is still considered valid by at least one analyst. In January 2018 S&P Global published an analysis by Mercer Capital titled "Meredith Whitney is Still Right." A decade later, Whitney's forecast of a wave of municipal defaults has not panned out. She closed her hedge fund soon after she made the disastrous call.
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- Abelson, Max; Basak, Sonali (December 8, 2015). "Meredith Whitney Is Back: Overseeing Stocks at Bermuda's Arch". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on December 9, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- Whitney, Meredith; Krawiec, Carla (October 31, 2007). "Is Citigroup's Dividend Safe? Downgrading Stock Due to Capital Concerns" (PDF). Equity Research. CIBC World Markets. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
- Lewis, Michael (April 9, 2008). "The Rise and Rise of Analyst Meredith Whitney". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015.
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- Sellers, Patricia (May 17, 2010). "Meredith Whitney takes on bank reform". Fortune. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
- Kroft, Steve (December 19, 2010). "State Budgets: Day of Reckoning". 60 Minutes. 13 minutes in. CBS. Archived from the original on February 22, 2015. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- Mysak, Joe (December 22, 2010). "Meredith Whitney Overreaches With Muni Meltdown Call". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on February 25, 2015. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- Lewis, Michael (November 2011). "California and Bust". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on January 11, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
- Whitney, Meredith (2013). Fate of the States: The New Geography of American Prosperity. Penguin. ISBN 9781591845706.
- Task, Aaron (June 5, 2013). "Meredith Whitney's 7 Best States for Business and Economic Growth". Yahoo Finance. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
- Mullaney, Tim (June 5, 2013). "Meredith Whitney redraws 'map of prosperity'". USA Today. Archived from the original on February 5, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
- Copeland, Rob; Zuckerman, Gregory (October 6, 2015). "Meredith Whitney Shuts Her Hedge Fund". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on October 1, 2019. Retrieved November 20, 2019.