CNBC called and soon William and I were on the show for one of those 60 second spots with a 30 second commercial in the middle. You can watch it here, although to get a better sense of what we’re trying to say it is better to read the original articles.
The problem is that this is more easily said than done. Most people working on Wall Street can make ends meet while a small few can make vastly more money than they need. The trick is to make sure that the process of making money does no harm.
Question: How much money would all the participants in the mortgage securitization industry have to give to charity to undo the harm they have caused?
Answer: More than they have ever made.
The real opportunity to do good on Wall Street is to reform it from within. But to do the right thing you have to be able to recognize the difference between right and wrong, and then you must be able to say “no” when ordered to do the wrong thing.
I think the majority of problems in finance stem not from poorly designed regulations or lax enforcement but rather from bad parenting. I have never been saved from doing the wrong thing because of a regulator or a regulation or a manager or a compliance officer or a lawyer. I have been saved by the imagined voice of my father saying, “I’m ashamed of you.” (And once he was gone, now I imagine my children saying the same thing.)
What my father said to me, which is the same as what I say to my children
Reputation managers, public relations agents, and spinmeisters working their magic on a clueless press and a forgetful populace have re-defined words so frequently that they have lost their meaning.
“Financial engineers” used to be the “rocket scientists on Wall Street” who concocted esoteric “derivatives” but when these products went south they became “innovators” working on “alternative investments” – which were presumably alternatives to the stuff they came up with previously. Eventually the International Association of Financial Engineers changed its name to the International Association of Quantitative Finance with the goal of “advancing the field of quantitative finance.” Presumably, their members who once called themselves “financial engineers” are now “quantitative financiers.” After their next blow-up I wonder what term they will advance the art by calling themselves something else.
“Banker” used to mean someone who took deposits and made loans. There were variants: Retail Bankers, Commercial Bankers, Investment Bankers, Mortgage Bankers, and even Personal Bankers. But there are also speculators and hedge funds operating as banks, and some “bankers” are best described as “bank robbers.”
My favorite is “hedge fund manager.” The reason is that I used to be one, and I got a kick out of how many definitions people could come up with. The only one I’ve found that made any sense was, “A payout schedule in search of a strategy.”