Thursday, March 26, 2009

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Well, kudos to Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times for having the cojones to take a crack at defining an agenda to reform the financial system. I admire his courage, at least, because I am sure he will be the target of innumerable brickbats and sniping from the commentariat (including, natch, Yours Truly), who will cumulatively find fault with almost everything he says.

He is fooling himself, however, if he thinks any sitting Wall Street chieftain will step forward to propose a plan of his own at this juncture. Certainly Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan has the intelligence and stature—as defined by emerging from the recent financial shitstorm with the smallest quantity of ordure smeared over his person—to pull it off. But Jamie is first and foremost a street-fighting son of a bitch. He has absolutely no interest in magnanimously proposing any set of solutions which might benefit his current or future competitors. Nor does he appear to give a flying fuck in a rolling doughnut about helping Congress or the US Treasury find their way out of the respective paper bags they seem to have wandered into. No, Jamie is the kind of person who says give me the rules, then get the hell out of my way. No statesman, he.

Likewise, Mr. Sorkin's other candidate for Churchillian leadership, John Mack of Morgan Stanley, is also a bust. Having been the only Wall Street head to apologize publicly before Congress during the industry's recently televised proctology exam on C-SPAN, Mr. Mack is unlikely to seek an encore. He has done his good deed for the decade, you see.

The rest of the field falls away pretty quickly. Citigroup's Vikram Pandit has the moral gravitas and public stature of Alvin the Chipmunk, having conspired with LOLFed and his own witless bumblings to transform himself into a punchline. Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein registers even lower on the personal charisma scale than colorless technocrat Tim Geithner, which is saying something. If he weren't head of the largest and most successful evil empire since Genghis Khan, I'm sure no-one would even know who he was. And don't get me started on red-faced and sputtering Ken Lewis, who grips the helm at Bank of America. Every time I see him on TV I expect his head to explode, like one of those guys in the movie Scanners.

After those five, no-one outside of the FDIC even knows who the clowns are who run our banking system (which I bet is just fine with them). A full-page editorial in The Wall Street Journal by Bob Kelly of BoNY Mellon or John Stumpf of Wells Fargo would have all the impact of a damp squib in a thunderstorm: Who?

That's just fine by me, by the way. I think all of these knuckleheads are far better advised to focus intently and exclusively on their own knitting for a while, rather than pontificating at length about the appropriate outlines of global finance's brave new world. As I can personally attest, pontificating takes a lot of time and energy (and delivers uncertain results). For now, I prefer that anyone in a position of executive authority on the Street skip policy making and focus instead on pulling his own firm's chestnuts out of the fire and paying my fellow taxpayers and me the fuck back. And quickly.

© 2009 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.