18 April 2013

Jeff Sachs: The Pathological Environment on Wall Street (and in Washington, London, and Berlin)

"But there is a sort of  'Ok guys, you're mad, but how are you going to stop me' mentality at the top."

Robert Johnson, Audacious Oligarchy

Thanks to Bill Still for making this available on the web, and thanks to several people who sent it to me.

It is remarkably similar to something I wrote earlier today, but I am certainly not the only one.  Reform and the lack thereof is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

Sachs certainly livened up a clubby conference of complacent financerati in the Pennsylvania Room at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The topic is "Fixing the Banking System for Good."  It is not so much what Jeff Sachs said alone, but also how out of touch with reality that group of people may be.

I find this interesting because just today Mary Jo White, the new head of the SEC, has indicated that their policy would be to 'move along' and not look at the financial crisis any longer.

This will continue until there is a problem too large to hide, and the confidence breaks. And then good luck controlling the reaction in the global markets. 

But for now they don't care, because they are operating within hermetically sealed capsules of personal privilege, and are locked into an odd form of group think and willful denial which I call the credibility trap.   In times of general deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. 

And it is killing the economic recovery. 

And for now, anyone who speaks out, who speaks the truth, is ignored, ridiculed, marginalized, and threatened sometimes subtly and sometimes not, and generally isolated because no one will stand up with them. 

Neither austerity or stimulus will work until there is genuine reform. 

Don't forget that the CBC's documentary on the precious metals market is on this evening.  I will post a link with the commentary later, and will link to a video when it becomes available.

There is a strong push for change, and an even greater resistance from those whose paychecks and allegiances require them to oppose it.  This generally makes for an interesting episode in history.

Listen to this carefully

Thank you to Janet Tavakoli for this:
"I believe we have a crisis of values that is extremely deep, because the regulations and the legal structured need reform. But I meet a lot of these people on Wall Street on a regular basis right now. I'm going to put it very bluntly. I regard the moral environment as pathological. And I'm talking about the human interactions that I have. I've not seen anything like this, not felt it so palpably.

These people are out to make billions of dollars and nothing should stop them from that. They have no responsibility to pay taxes, they have no responsibility to their clients, they have no responsibility to people... counterparties in transactions. They are tough, greedy, aggressive, and feel absolutely out of control, in a quite literal sense. And they have gamed the system to a remarkable extent and they have a docile president, a docile White House and a docile regulatory system that absolutely can't find its voice. It's terrified of these companies.

If you look at the campaign contributions, which I happened to do yesterday for another purpose, the financial markets are the number one campaign contributors in the U.S. system now. We have a corrupt politics to the core, I'm afraid to say... both parties are up to their necks in this.

... But what it's led to is this sense of impunity that is really stunning and you feel it on the individual level right now. And it's very very unhealthy, I have waited for four years... five years now to see one figure on Wall Street speak in a moral language. And I've have not seen it once. And that is shocking to me. And if they won't, I've waited for a judge, for our president, for somebody, and it hasn't happened. And by the way it's not gonna happen any time soon, it seems.