Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Wall Street poker faces hiding humility?

Jeremy Hobson Jul 21, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Wall Street poker faces hiding humility?

Jeremy Hobson Jul 21, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: We’re set to hear from more financial institutions this week about their earnings. Morgan Stanley reports tomorrow. American Express follows on Thursday. At this point, you’ve probably heard JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs did pretty well in the second quarter. And that Goldman is set to hand out billions of dollars in bonuses this year. That’s all a little too much for President Obama, as he explained on NBC’s Today Show this morning.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: What you haven’t seen is a change in culture. A certain humility where they kinda step back and they say, “Gosh, you know, we really messed things up.”

Humility? From Wall Street? An interesting concept, but maybe we shouldn’t hold our breath. Here’s Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson.


JEREMY HOBSON: It may not look like humility, but what you don’t see from Wall Streeters might be more telling than what you do.

DOUG ELLIOT: They know they screwed up.

That’s former investment banker Doug Elliot, now with the Brookings Institution in Washington. He says just consider that the big banks aren’t trying very hard to stop the president’s plans for regulatory reform.

If the Obama administration and Congress don’t see that as humility, Elliot says, it could be because of a culture clash that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

ELLIOT: Certainly people in Washington, who do have their own brand of arrogance, have a different approach to things and communications between New York and Washington can be very difficult at times.

David Shulman worked on Wall Street for 20 years. But now, his Canelli suit’s in the closet, and he walks around in a windbreaker and a baseball cap. He’s senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast. He agrees Wall Streeters are exhibiting humility to the extent they can, given their day jobs.

DAVID SHULMAN: It’s a very tough game, and to do well against extraordinary competition in very, very fiercely competitive markets is just as ego gratifying as pitching a no-hitter in the World Series.

Shulman says they can’t take off their game face if they’re to keep making money to pay back us taxpayers. Even if they’re forced to take huge bonuses while they do it.

Shulman: It wouldn’t surprise me that at the end of the year, you’ll see extraordinarily large charitable contributions coming from people who’ve received huge bonuses this year.

Hobson: That’s how they’ll show their remorse.

Shulman: That may be one way of showing remorse.

In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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