Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday quotes: the lingering scandal over Barclays and the reason to transcend "bank-scandal fatigue"

John Brennan in the Record's Meadowlands Matters, What’s in a name: problems for The Barclays or for The Barclays Center?:
The entire Atlantic Yards development plan has been a source of controversy since 2004, with the unusual use of eminent domain to aid the development project and the intensity of construction near downtown Brooklyn among the gripes. But I concur with the analysts cited here that this scandal is not going to lead to a repeat of the Houston Astros’ playing in a place renamed from Enron Field to Minute Maid Park.

The relevant comparison is to the Mets’ CitiField, named after Citigroup, which did not change its name after its own high-finance issues in recent years.

I think it’s just a harsh fact that to the extent that the public is aware of misdeeds by financial institutions, there is little surprise about it since the collapse of 2008.
I agree, the name won't change (though there likely is and will be more dismay toward the renaming of the Atlantic Av-Pacific St station as Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr). And no, it's not Enron. It's not even CitiField, for which the issue was "Bailout Ballpark."

The Barclays controversy goes deeper. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote yesterday, in Libor's Dirty Laundry:
Even now, Barclays justifies the latter rationale as being a kind of emergency measure brought on by the financial crisis. But the bank is wrong about this. Submitting false data, for whatever reason, is a violation of the law — not to mention a fundamental abuse of trust. Once again, it leads one to believe that bankers feel neither the constraints of the law nor of morality.

Which brings me to the second big surprise. Britain and America have reacted to the Libor scandal in completely different ways. Britain is in an utter frenzy over it, with wall-to-wall coverage, and the most respectable, pro-business publications expressing outrage. Yes, Barclays is a British bank, and the first word in Libor is “London.” But still: The Economist ran a headline about the scandal that read, in its entirety, “Banksters.”

Yet, on these shores, the reaction has been mainly a shrug. Perhaps we’re suffering from bank-scandal fatigue, having lived through Bank of America’s various travails, and the Goldman Sachs revelations, and, most recently, the big JPMorgan Chase trading loss. Or maybe Libor is just hard to gets one’s head around.

But the Brits have this one right. They may not understand the intricacies of Libor any better than we do, but they sense, powerfully, that banks have once again made a mockery of the role that society entrusts to them.
Also worth noting, from New York magazine, The Money-Empathy Gap:
“While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” [psychologist Paul] Piff says, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”

...“People higher up on the socioeconomic ladder are about three times more likely to cheat than people on the lower rungs,” he says. Piff’s research also suggests that people who yearn to be richer or more prominent make different choices than those more content with their present level of material comfort. No matter how much money you actually have, you’re likelier to behave unethically if you check the “agree” box next to the following statement: “In order to be a successful person in this society, it is important to make use of every opportunity.”

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