Sympathy for the devil’s banker

September 24, 2008

After a couple weeks of just trying to keep up with developments in the financial crisis, reporters and bloggers are taking halting steps toward describing the mythos of the investment banker.

It’s been a while since Tom Wolfe and Bret Easton Ellis popularized the bespoke-suited arrogance commonly associated with the financial world’s anointed — the easy millions, the casual disdain for the rubes and the marks in the lower classes and the single-minded pursuit of money. Depicting the carnivore in his or her habitat is beginning to come back into vogue as taxpayers who may soon be on the hook to bail out their social betters in the investment banking world wonder why they’re getting stuck with a bill they didn’t incur.

New York magazine ran a story called, “The Rage of the Previously Rich: A Lehman trader copes with the sudden onset of income shrinkage,” featuring this choice nugget:

The collapse of the world’s most powerful wealth-creating engine required everyone to take stock of their financials. One Lehman executive in Rye Brook, fretting about paying off a Hamptons summer house and a ski chalet in Vermont, panicked on Monday morning and laid off her nanny, who had been with the Westchester family for nine years. “The nanny called me crying,” says Marla Sanders, who runs Advance Nannies and staffs Lehman homes. “One of the children she had brought home from the hospital.” Sanders knows more cuts for her clients are on the way. “They’re going to have to sell homes. The question is, will the homes sell? They’re cutting some of the children’s activities out, dance class, acting class. Are they going to have flowers delivered every day to their homes? I don’t think so!”

On Wednesday, ivygateblog featured comments from the pseudonymous “George”:

One of my friends at Bank of America texted me, ‘Hey, we might be buying you guys.’

I was in denial. You see, Merrill has a much better repuation than a commercial bank like Bank of America. I was shocked I would be joining a lower-tier commercial bank. There’s a feeling, ‘I didn’t go through this whole interview process to work at a commercial bank.’

More from George:

Changing compensation will obviously change the attitude of students toward the industry. They might go to med school or law school instead. … This is a sad week. … We may be losing the competitive advantage for getting the best talent.

And finally, regarding the proposed $700 billion bailout plan, courtesy of the United States’s 300 million would-be shareholders of bad debt:

It’s a good step toward stabilizing the turmoil. If the government can take the balance sheet pressure off the companies then the companies will look better going forward.

After all, that’s the only thing that counts in this whole story.

(Photo: Workers leaving Lehman Brothers office in London. Reuters)

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