Saturday, September 12, 2009

After The Fall

The New York Times has a nifty little “where are they now” feature about some of the principle characters in last year’s financial meltdown. Ever lay awake wondering how your favorite Wall Street CEOs are doing in these tough times? I sure do. With me, it ranks right up there with, where the hell am I going to find a job and, how the hell am I going to survive when all my savings are gone on my list of major concerns.

Richard S. Fuld Jr. (Or, as I’ll always remember him, Dick):

THEN: As the long-time chief executive of Lehman Brothers, he made a big push to diversify the firm’s business mix. By 2007, it had accumulated a significant portfolio of risky real estate. When the credit crisis hit, the government refused to extend to Lehman the same aid it would later offer to other banks, like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Lehman declared bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008.

NOW: …During downtime, he commutes to vacation homes in Florida and Idaho. Friends say he plays golf and likes to hike up the mountain behind his house in Idaho.

E. Stanley O’Neal:

THEN: He was ousted as the chief executive of Merrill Lynch in 2007 after the firm built up a big portfolio of troubled mortgages.

NOW: … According to his friends, Mr. O’Neal puts a high priority on his workouts. He plays squash with his son at the New York Athletic Club and golfs in Purchase, N.Y., as well as on Martha’s Vineyard, where he owns a waterfront home.

Neel T. Kashkari:

THEN: His formal title was interim assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial stability, but Mr. Kashkari was better known as Treasury’s $700 billion man. He helped shape the bailout and headed the office that was created to buy troubled securities. “It felt like we were at war, and doing everything just to survive,” he recalls.

NOW: Since last May, he and his wife, Minal, have been enjoying a break at their cabin in Truckee, Calif., near Lake Tahoe. He spends his time reading, bicycling and trying to shed the 20 pounds he put on during the crisis. (He’s got five more to go.) The two even competed in the local chili cook-off. He will begin looking for a financial services job this fall.

Hiking, golfing, chili cook-offs, traveling back and forth between two or three homes. Gosh, how do these stoics take it? I think I would have split to Aruba by now, but that’s me. I must lack their grit. If I were in the same boat as these people, I’d be in Washington today marching with all of the other victims of Obama’s socialist coup d’etat.

Okay, so the the last guy isn’t a CEO. I include him merely for two reasons: He’s going to go down in conventional histories as one of the ‘Good Guys’ who helped prevent Great Depression II, when all he did was negotiate a deal to put our money into the hands of Wall Street bankers. That means he had to make sure the money didn’t come with any strings attached that they would find objectionable. He got them the best deal for our money. In other words, a great American hero.

Second, he’s trying to loose weight while competing in chili cook-offs. That’s like trying to give up drinking beer at Ocktoberfest, no? It’s either pointless and stupid, or hypocritical and dishonest. Take your pick, the end result is the same: They play golf at Martha’s Vineyard and take their workouts seriously, and we go broke.

And that pretty much sums the mentality of America’s ruling class, doesn’t it? Pointless, stupid, hypocritical and dishonest.

No comments: