Thursday, May 19, 2011

Criminality or stupidity?

The question that is being asked for Pakistan's security agencies in the wake of the Osama bin Laden killing could also be asked of bankers and investment bankers in the sub-prime crisis. Hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, has been convicted on charges of insider trading but no banker of stature has even faced charges for the turmoil caused by banks in the crisis.

It's plausible that poor judgement, rather than mala fide intent, underlay most of the problems at the banks, combined with such factors as poor regulation, lax monetary policy and current account imbalances. But can the bankers entirely escape blame, including the ones at the top at Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers? John Gapper, writing in the FT, feels that investigations must continue in the hope of pinning blame on at least some people:
What is clear is that, both on the way up and in the panic on the way down, many banks valued and traded such assets for their own purposes and did their best to hunt out gullible buyers. The Senate inquiry report quotes a Goldman executive exulting that “I think I found a white elephant, flying pig and unicorn all at once” on finding an investor that would buy one of its collateralised debt obligations.

It beggars belief that somewhere on Wall Street, in the last days of the mortgage bubble, crimes were not committed. They are still worth finding.

Sure they are, but it's gonna be tough. Not only are some of these crimes difficult to prove but one has to reckon with the clout of Wall Street in these matters and the old boy's network among finance honchos that extends to the highest levels of goernment.


Aditya said...

is it really worth going the trouble to find someone to just place the burden of guilt on? Wouldn't the effort on finding the faultlines be more fruitful?

Anonymous said...