Arnold Kling  

Suits, Geeks, and Lehman

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From a New York Times story:


He recalls vividly the days in early 2007 at Lehman when his financial models began to throw up more warnings showing delinquencies and defaults, and he remembers colleagues on his desk raising questions about loan quality.

But he said the firm's ranking as the top loan originator on Wall Street, not to mention the pressures put on the desk by Lehman's growth-obsessed leadership, made it difficult for even the most senior executives to raise questions, even a senior vice president like Mr. Linton.

He says he has no qualms about his work at Lehman or its economic aftereffects. "Anyone at our level who had a different view from senior management would find themselves going somewhere else quick," he says. "You are not paid to rock the boat."

Of course, the suits might tell the their side of the story differently.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
RobM1981 writes:

"You are not paid to rock the boat..."

Classic.

$500,000 Ivy League educations and MBA's, not worth the toilet paper they were written on. All they really needed was to remember kindergarten.

"Your majesty looks spectacular this fine day! Emperor, is that a new outfit?"

Fools. And the administration that bailed them out, without completely decapitating the leadership, has simply sown the seeds for the next - worse - debacle.

richard writes:

This is completely unrelated but I was wondering if you were aware of any studies that looked the interaction between spending and dental care and the proliferation of dental plans.

Walt French writes:

This shows how America has run away from capitalism. Those of us who provide the capital are effectively out of control of the firms.

These anecdotes are matched by the comp schemes for Management that the Boards of firms have set unknowingly. As a result, our investments are at 100% risk, with staff encouraged to gamble with our funds, taking the winnings and walking if the bets come up sour.

“Investors” who do not have control over the events they push their money at, are actually simply gamblers. Hope we get a seven, as we so often do!

The economic losses to America are huge: investors are not able to direct their money to firms that have the highest reasonably expected returns, leading to an economy levered to non-disclosed risks. With the limited imagination of investment bankers (herding), our society puts a huge fraction of our eggs in a single basket, bringing back the bad old days before effective money/banking regulation, in which the economy was convulsed by banking and money crises every decade.

RIP, capitalism. We've been taken over by Suits.

Patrick writes:

"Of course, the suits might tell the their side of the story differently."


Well of course the suits will tell their side of the story differently. Most of them aren't self-aware enough to realize that they've created a culture that discourages dissent.

As someone who has consulted for dozens of Fortune 500 companies, let me assure you that the story in question is not unique. I see lack of interest in rigorous debate at every client I've spent time with.

Thomas DeMeo writes:

I think we need to accept the idea that human beings are running these corporations, and these failings are inevitable.

At the core of almost every discussion here is the same dilemma. Our society has reached the point where people are in a position to make staggering mistakes. And, unfortunately, a strong argument can be made that any attempts to prevent such mistakes only make things worse in the long run.

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