Imagine Wall Street settling scores through boxing
Wall Street puts on one of its most overt displays of testosterone Tuesday when the bell rings for Corporate Challenge Boxing. Usually, the event is packed with fighters, most of whom by day hold middle-ranking positions at corporations. In one corner, there’s Morgan Stanley Smith Barney broker Austin “Monkey Fist” Philbin and in another, Strategic Capital Partners’ Albert “Kid Blanco” Gore, son of the former Vice President.
But what if Wall Street’s higher-ups, old and new, jumped into the ring instead?
It would offer a direct way to settle scores — virtually guaranteeing at least a couple of barnstormers. In the old-timers department, Morgan Stanley Chairman John Mack, for example, could take on Phil Purcell, his predecessor who refused to honor a 1997 handshake agreement to cede the corner office to him after a year or three. Of course, in the end he got the job anyway, so perhaps he’d rather take out any festering rage on Oswald Gruebel, who forced him out as co-chief of Credit Suisse in 2004.
For more recent contretemps in the ring, how about sending Ken Lewis in for a spot of fisticuffs with John Thain? The former Bank of America boss might well still have his job if he hadn’t fallen for the sweet-talking ways of Merrill Lynch’s last leader and bought the Thundering Herd. And Thain, who now hangs his gloves at CIT, may still be incensed at Lewis using him as a scapegoat when Merrill’s continuing woes forced BofA to go running to the U.S. government for cover.
Many of the best grudge matches of the 2008 financial crisis, however, would need to be co-ed. One would pit Lehman Brothers finance chief Erin Callan against David Einhorn, the hedge fund manager who pointed out some of Lehman’s dodgy accounts a few months before the investment bank collapsed. Similarly, Citigroup chief Vikram Pandit could find himself swapping jabs with FDIC chair Sheila Bair.
As a finale, Bair and the other chief regulators could tag team against the top four Wall Street executives. True, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein might worry his rivals will leave him to fend for himself in the ring. But there’d be a good chance the regulators would turn on each other first anyway.