Unrepentant bankers

By Felix Salmon
November 11, 2009
Andrew Ross Sorkin confirms what most of us have long suspected:

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Andrew Ross Sorkin confirms what most of us have long suspected:

One of the frustrating parts of researching my book came when I finally got to ask the question of Wall Street chief executives and board members that you just raised: Do you have any remorse? Are you sorry? The answer, almost unequivocally, was no. (Or they just didn’t answer.) They see themselves as just one part of a larger problem, with many constituencies to blame.

Many of the most senior members of management on Wall Street now consider themselves “survivors,” as if they were cancer survivors or something. That’s the word they use. While many of them are self-aware enough to politely nod at the notion that they received help and were part of the problem, they seem reluctant to acknowledge they were “rescued” or “saved.”

One of the key drivers of the crisis was the hubris and general lack of humility of senior bank executives. This is connected to the issue of executive pay: almost everybody thinks he deserves what he’s earning. But the only way you can deserve an eight-figure pay package is if you’re really on top of what’s going on in your bank. Ergo, everybody thought they were on top of what was going on in their banks, even when they weren’t; lower pay and more humility would have helped enormously in curtailing some of the most egregious excesses.

If bank executives (with the notable exception of John Reed) see no need to apologize for destroying the global financial system, they are still part of the problem and are very unlikely to be part of the solution. Which bodes ill for the future.


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Reed is retired. I think that probably makes it easier for him to face reality.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

If you interview Nazi high command during 1945, as their country crumbled on all fronts, do you expect any of them to show remorse? Not one. They saw themselves as victims of a larger problem, Allied aggression, Jews insurgency, betrayal by their Italian ally, foreigners ganged up on them. Hitler blamed the whole thing on Germans betraying him on his last days.

If you interview New York mafia dons as their families got rounded up by the FBI, do you expect to see the godfathers show remorse? Not one. They saw themselves as unfortunate victims of other corrupt forces trying to bring them down.

So now you interview Wall Street bank executives. These are not business executives so don’t expect them to show morality or ethics. Just like the Nazis and the mafia.

But I differ on “bodes ill for the future”. Because society will flush out the rot of the rats sooner or later.

Posted by The Real Deal | Report as abusive

Worse than having no remorse is their attitude that they still deserve their totally-disconnected-with-reality compensation. They have been exposed as just the highest paid welfare frauds, as their gambling operations for which they get so insanely rewarded are completely underwritten by the US government.

”Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted by vachon | Report as abusive

“So now you interview Wall Street bank executives. These are not business executives so don’t expect them to show morality or ethics. Just like the Nazis and the mafia.”

I’ve spoken to a couple of cosa nostra characters about this. One of them was the son of a major crime figure. He himself was a bad bad apple when he was younger (just 20 years ago). These days, he’s just a pimp. Supposedly no longer a killer. He absolutely regrets, or at least says he does, the pain and suffering that he caused. The other guy was very senior himself and seems to really regret his previous life, but on the other hand, hate still suffuses his soul.

maybe chuck prince, stan o’ neal, and angelo mozilo will apologize when tim geithner, gordon brown, barney frank, and andrew cuomo apologize for their parts in the meltdown.

Posted by tim | Report as abusive

Vachon – touche`!
tim – Andrew Cuomo’s fault? Do tell.

Posted by Dollared | Report as abusive