All That Glitters

Going for Goldman

I am sure there are plenty of good, highly principled, and altruistically inclined individuals who work at Goldman Sachs. (I know of a number of Old Boys employed at GS who fit this description.)

Unfortunately, the Goldman executives who went before Congress earlier this week might make you think otherwise.  They seemed to be right out of Central Casting.

“Quick. We need a couple of suits who can stare into the cameras without blinking and use doublespeak in order to keep the company out of hot water. And whatever you do, do not acknowledge guilt or mistakes! Being smug, by the way, is A-ok!”

From a distance it seems that these financial leaders may have been “making a difference,” but it surely wasn’t for their clients’ or for that matter their country’s benefit. Even those of us who believe in free markets shuddered as they spoke.

I hope that, when our present boys are someday in leadership positions in the world of finance and beyond that they’ll be motivated by more than just their own narrow self-interest. And if they do make a mistake now and then, I’ll hope they have the decency and humanity to say, “I’m sorry.”


One thought on “All That Glitters

  1. From an anthropological perspective, I’d be fascinated to encounter these “principled” people who work for Goldman. Would be like finding a 100-foot shark or a newt that can speak Latin.

    That said, the real doublespeak is represented by the hearings themselves. In short, the GS guys take a public tongue-lashing from Levin and others, but this administration and Congress are their biggest boosters behind closed doors.

    The White House and Treasury are populated by once and future Gold-men but, more to the point, bailouts and imminent regulations have invariably been tilted in GS’s favor. As just one example, the $180 billion spent to prop up AIG seems steep, considering you could have bought the whole company 10 times over for that. What that money did was pay out Goldman’s bad bets. In this way, GS can claim they “only” got $15 billion or so from the TARP, and have paid it back, while the bulk of our money actually went to cover their mistakes. We saw the exact same move about 20 years ago with Mexican and South American debt instruments.

    Meanwhile, we have the kabuki dance in Congress, with Democratic Representatives and Senators working themselves into high dudgeon, acting as though they aren’t all on the same side.

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