ProPublica’s Jesse Eisinger has an excellent column today on dissent within the financial industry, writing that “Wall Street Is Already Occupied.” As Audit Boss Dean Starkman says on the Twitter, it’s “both plugged-in and wise.”
The financial industry is hardly a monolith, and lots of people within it know the system has gone awry. Like this Goldman alum:
“There have been repeated fines and malfeasance at literally all the investment banks, but it doesn’t seem to affect their behavior much,” he said. “So I have to conclude it is part of strategy as simple cost/benefit analysis, that fines and legal costs are a small price to pay for the profits.”
And Eisinger laments that none of the dissent has come from a position of power:
One notable absence in this crisis and its aftermath was a great statesman from the financial industry who would publicly embrace reform that mattered. Instead, mere months after the trillions had flowed from taxpayers and the Federal Reserve, they were back defending their prerogatives and fighting any regulations or changes to their business…
Over the next year, maybe that will change. Things are going to be tough on Wall Street. Bonuses will be down. Layoffs are coming. Europe seems on the brink of another financial crisis. Maybe from that wreckage, a leader will emerge.
Read the whole thing.
— The editorial board of the Star Tribune thinks the proles oughta shut up and thank the Pilgrims for their $8.50 an hour jobs as shopping cart attendants.
Retailers have been opening stores earlier and earlier to get an advantage on Black Friday and requiring workers to work late on Thanksgiving Day. Anthony Hardwick started a petition to get his employer, Target, not to do that. The Strib’s headline:
Take this job and … be glad you have it
Two words for Anthony Hardwick: Buck up.
And the kicker:
Once again this Thanksgiving, Americans are shaken by uncertainty about the country’s financial future. Too many people are out of work, struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Many are lacking health insurance and forgoing staples that in different times were a given.
So please, protesting retail workers, stop whining about having to work holiday hours.
Be grateful to have a job.
I’m sure Hardwick is glad to be employed. His point is that it’s insane to open stores at midnight after Thanksgiving. Five a.m. will do, thanks. But that’s too much to ask for the Strib.
— Steve Randy Waldman has a great post on just how big the bank bailouts really were:
During the run-up to the financial crisis, bank managers, shareholders, and creditors paid themselves hundreds of billions of dollars in dividends, buybacks, bonuses and interest. Had the state intervened less generously, a substantial fraction of those payouts might have been recovered (albeit from different cohorts of stakeholders, as many recipients of past payouts had already taken their money and ran). The market cap of the 19 TARP banks that received more than a billion dollars in assistance is about 550B dollars today (even after several of those banks’ share prices have collapsed over fears of Eurocontagion). The uninsured debt of those banks is and was a large multiple of their market caps. Had the government resolved the weakest of those banks, writing off equity and haircutting creditors, had it insisted on retaining upside commensurate with the fraction of risk it was bearing on behalf of stronger banks, the taxpayer savings would have run from hundreds of billions to a trillion dollars. We can get into all kinds of arguments over what would have been practical and legal. Regardless of whether the government could or could not have abstained from making the transfers that it made, it did make huge transfers. Bank stakeholders retain hundreds of billions of dollars against taxpayer losses of the same, relative to any scenario in which the government received remotely adequate compensation first for the risk it assumed, and then for quietly moving Heaven and Earth to obscure and (partially) neutralize that risk.Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.
The banks were bailed out. Big time.