I grew up around the investment banking world. I am well aware of how dirty, and how ruthless it can be, and that there are also some very intelligent and honest, moral people in the business as well. There is an intense and inherent conflict between the two, one I have seen play out many times.
This is not one of those I know personally, but this one is playing out very publicly.
The very next time you hear a right wing politician explain to you in that patronizing smug tone they use how important it is to repeal, reduce and remove regulations to help business — remember THIS is EXACTLY the dishonest kinds of business they have in mind. THIS is what lack of regulation and enforcement does.
THIS is why people like Romney are among the wealthy 1%, as are so many of his friends. THIS is why there IS a 1% and a 99% — an uneven, unequal, and unfair playing field. EXACTLY THIS kind of unregulated and dishonest kind of business is done every day, and you and I and everyone else pays for it; it extracts money out of our pockets, making us poorer, and ruining the middle class as a vibrant and viable demographic of people.
Any political figure who tells you we need LESS regulation is lying to you, ripping you off, selling you out, cheating you, and trying to make it legal, or at the very least, easier for them to do. The right is owned, largely, lock stock and barrel, including the tea party that promotes this, and parts of the left and center aren’t much better. Where they are not crooked, the tea party is simply economically ignorant as hell.
This is, if anything, an understatement of the situation. Our country depends on throwing out the crooks and liars and cheats and thieves, and those who contrive to do so under cover of legal activity – even when it isn’t REALLY all that legal if it were regulated fairly and effectively – are the worst of the bunch, they are the crooks who appear to be respectable, the wolves in suits and tuxedoes rather than sheeps clothing. At least with a street hustler, the shell game uses real shells; with the white collar crooked dealer, they use shell companies and other means to swindle you out of your cash, using specialized and specific knowledge that even savvy investors can’t match.
There is a difference between failing after honest effort; too often it is gradually failing, gradually losing ground, not for honest failure but because of dishonest success. We need and deserve fairness for our effort, and we do not have it, and are being obstructed from obtaining it. Look at the positions of your members of Congress, and do NOT accept the bullshit about less regulation, not from ANY OF THEM.
It has only been a few years since the ‘We Don’t Need No Steenking Regulation’ , a parody of the famous line of movie dialog from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, that goes, approximately, ” Badges?We don’t need no stinking badges’. That would be the same group of politicians that brought us debt plucked from the jaws of surplus, with the equally ill-advised and greedy “Deficits don’t matter.”
A Goldman Sachs Insider Speaks
Mar 14, 2012
By ThinkProgress War Room
Epic Resignation Letter Underscores Need for Tougher Rules on Wall Street
This morning, a now-former Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith, published a truly epic resignation letter in the New York Times. Smith wrote that he resigned from Goldman due to its “toxic and destructive” environment which included managing directors referring to their own clients as “muppets.”
The entire letter is worth a read, but here’s the key part:
Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money…It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail….These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?”
Smith also described how Goldman’s thirst for profits at all costs developed:
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm…you will be promoted into a position of influence.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.
Perhaps unintentionally, Smith’s editorial made a compelling case for the Volcker Rule, an element of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act that would prohibit proprietary trading at federally-backstopped institutions. Banks like Goldman, which made billions of dollars by making “shitty deals” that sold mortgage-backed securities and other complex derivative products to unwitting customers then turned to taxpayers for a bailout when too many of those deals went sour, would no longer be able to make those trades without giving up access to the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending and the FDIC’s backing. (Remember, Goldman converted into a bank holding company at the height of the financial crisis, in order to access the Fed’s emergency lending programs.)
While Goldman offered an official response, it also appears to be launching a behind-the-scenes smear campaign against Smith as well.
Applaud this whistleblower; he took chances, and is running very real risks to tell this truth.