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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