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How Much Does It Cost to Hire Two Ex-Presidents?

The wealth management arm of UBS hosted both former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton this week at a private panel discussion at Lincoln Center in New York. But the Swiss bank is not saying how much it paid for the privilege.

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These things don’t come cheap—typically, an organization that wants a former president has to cough up a lot of cash. Even more so, presumably, for a rare dual appearance by presidents 42 and 43.

“We did have a private client event on Monday evening, but I cannot comment on any of the attendees or speakers,” said UBS spokesperson Karina Byrne.

That, despite an article on the event by Politico, whose reporter Maggie Haberman noted that the event was moderated by UBS Wealth management Americas CEO Bob McCann, and focused on a new report by the bank recommending entitlement and tax reform.

A person familiar with the event told Politico that the two presidents discussed the death of Osama Bin Laden, but declined to reveal what they said.

Zurich-based UBS isn’t offering any insight, either.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton seen speaking during the inaugural Rural Summit in Washington, DC
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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton seen speaking during the inaugural Rural Summit in Washington, DC

“I'm declining to confirm that Bush or Clinton were even there,” Byrne said in an email to CNBC.

In 2007, the Washington Post reported that Bill Clinton was often paid $150,000 per speech for remarks to trade associations.

He is represented by the Harry Walker agency, which notes on its website that “President Clinton’s core values of building community, creating opportunity, and demanding responsibility resulted in unprecedented progress for America.”

President Bush is represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, which notes on its website that the 43rd president is prepared to offer “thoughts on eight years in the Oval Office, the challenges facing our nation in the 21st century, the power of freedom, the role of faith and other pressing issues.”

UBS has been in the news in recent years for its interactions with the US government. Earlier this month, the bank agreed to pay $160 million to settle charges that it rigged the bidding process for investment contracts with municipal governments in states across the country.

And in 2009, the bank agreed to pay a $780 million fine to settle US government complaints that it had helped wealthy Americans avoid taxes by setting up secret accounts in Switzerland.

UBS is not alone in its reluctance to comment on the Clinton and Bush event: A representative for President Bush declined to comment for this story. And a representative for President Clinton did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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