Monday, November 22, 2010

Biting the Hand that Feeds Me

Clouseau: "Does your dog bite?"
Hotel Clerk: "No."
Clouseau: [bends down to pet the dog] "Nice doggie."
[Dog barks and bites Clouseau in the hand]

Clouseau: "I thought you said your dog did not bite!"
Hotel Clerk: "Zat is not my dog."

— The Pink Panther Strikes Again

Well, I suppose now that you're here, having arrived via direct or circuitous paths connected with John Cassidy's modestly incendiary article in The New Yorker, I should probably tender some sort of lukewarm welcome.

Yes, I am that self-styled Epicurean Dealmaker whom Mr. Cassidy quotes toward the end of his measured assault against my industry. I am indeed an investment banker, of more than 20 years experience, all of which I have spent advising corporate clients on mergers and acquisitions and helping them raise financing in various capital markets. I am one of the good guys, if you please, or so I contend. (You, of course, are free to draw your own conclusions.)

Since you are here, you may have many questions about who I am, what I believe, and how the hell I have the nerve to take potshots at the business which has put varying amounts of bread on my table for lo these many years. Who I am is simple, mercifully brief, and—you will readily understand, given my temerity—likely to stay that way. Mr. Cassidy is correct to identify me as a "mid-level banker." While I am senior enough to be a Managing Director, with all the experience, battle scars, and inside understanding of the workings of the sausage factory that entails, I am not a senior executive, with vast numbers of minions at my command or a huge P&L to tend. Were I so, I would not be writing this blog, since whatever spark of independent or critical thought I might possess would have been beaten out of me—or, more likely, discarded by Yours Truly out of an instinct for intellectual and vocational self-preservation—long ago.

I have seen the inside of a wide range of investment banks, from small to very large indeed, so I have a reasonably well-informed opinion of the things which ail us or which cause us to inflict our ailments on others. I am not a denizen of the capital markets—a salesman or trader, in the argot—but I know many of these wretches charming individuals by their works, and by the damage they have periodically inflicted on my own pocketbook with all-too-predictable blow-ups on the trading floor. You have heard of the merry war between Corporate Finance and Capital Markets? It has existed since the first cavemen partnered up to syndicate a mammoth hunt, and it has been chronicled by such luminaries as Ken Auletta (Greed and Glory on Wall Street) for donkey's years. News flash: the traders won. It is the traders' Wall Street which blew up in our faces and which looks likely to sashay away from the crisis with little more than some mustard on its Saville Row suit and a disapproving glance or two at cocktail parties this holiday season.

What I believe can be found scattered about this site, usually enveloped within my signature all-too-copious verbiage. I have, I readily admit, rather eclectic tastes and interests, so there is a corresponding range of opinion here guaranteed to offend or irritate almost everyone. A previous introduction is probably as good a place as any to start if you want a general overview. A glossary of post topics should be useful, as well. I should also use this opportunity to warn the casual reader that I express myself in profane and unguarded language, often. Those who don't like such talk should leave, now.

For those of you who would like a deeper view of my perspective on the history, nature, and prospects of investment banking, you could do far worse that to start with The K-T Boundary and the epic four-part treatise Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, beginning here. Additional related ruminations on the business can be found scattered about the site under the rubric The Life.1

As far as how I have the balls to bite the hand that feeds me, well, chalk it up to an abominable sort of conceited independence. I have sacrificed a great deal in my life to pursue my profession—a profession, mind you, which I still enjoy and take pride and satisfaction in. But I will not sacrifice my mind, nor my sight, nor my integrity for anyone or anything.

I am nobody's fucking dog.

1 I have written little to update these opinions over the past many months. This is because 1) I am once again, thank heavens, too busy to natter away on stuff which few people have any interest in (except, like now, when it blows up in everyone's faces), and 2) nothing has changed since I wrote it. You may correctly accept this latter point as my judgment of the likely effect and success of the much ballyhooed financial reform legislation currently being neutered in the back rooms and halls of Congress, as well.

© 2010 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.