A four-star shit hole.
Time was, working on Wall Street meant going to great lengths to lavishly entertain clients whose business you wanted to win or keep. Client wanted to party on a yacht with forty Brazilian hookers? You made it happen. Client wanted Jay-Z to perform at his son’s Bar Mitzvah? You were on it. Client wanted you to manipulate Libor while simultaneously hand feeding him grapes? All you wanted to know was red or green.
Whatever they wanted you delivered and then some and the best part was nobody said anything about it. Nobody judged, nobody protested, nobody wondered if flying to Hyōgo Prefecture to personally slaughter a cow and bring it back with you in business class so the client’s dinner would be fresh was the best use of company money. Then you nearly take down the global financial system and have to be bailed out by the government and all of a sudden it’s like people think they have the right to count your (or in the case of banks still partially owned by the UK, their) money.
So you scale back the big outings. You make less of a spectacle. Should’ve be enough to get ‘em off your backs, only it’s never enough with these people. They’re not happy until you’re taking clients to Applebee’s and suggesting getting one appetizer and splitting an entrée, or inviting them to major international sporting events and then denying them black car service, putting them up in relative dumps, and making them drink malt liquor. Which is more or less what one bank is doing. Read more »
There’s a thing called socially responsible investing where
(1) you invest other people’s money,
(3) but it’s okay because you’re doing it not to make them money but to save the whales, er, penguins, and they like penguins, so they keep paying your fees. This is a good racket as rackets go but it turns out that people mostly don’t like penguins as much as they like money so it is sort of a limited racket. The trick if you can manage it is to appeal to people who like penguins to give you other people’s money, because people typically like penguins more than they like other people having money. This can be great for you and also for penguins, and for the right value of “you” and “penguins” can be a diabolical way to achieve real social good, which is my favorite.
Two great recent stories in that vein. One is a proposal to use eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages and refloat them. The idea, schematically, is (1) seize property,* (2) sell it back to homeowner at fair value, and (3) lend money to the homeowner to pay for the house, which the municipality then uses to pay fair value to the mortgage lender whose collateral was seized in step (1). Any dope of a municipality could presumably get their act together to do (1) and (2), but the problem is (3) coming up with the money for new mortgages to pay fair value to the old mortgagee. You could see why oh I don’t know BANKS would not like this scheme – it will cost them in servicing rights and refinancing fees and second-lien writedowns** – and so the money has to come from non-banks. Some folks think they can find the money, for a small fee of course, and so are roadshowing the idea to municipalities. It seems to be popular in California, go figure.
The other is this gloriously cynical play from TCI to try to extract some value out of Lloyds Bank while also improving the stability of the British financial system, maybe. Read more »
Until recently, Stephanie Bon, pictured, was working as an HR assistant for Lloyds, making £7/hour. The Chief Executive officer of the bank, António Horta-Osório, makes £4,000/hour (or £13.5million annually). Is this pay disparity fair? Stephanie didn’t think so! Read more »
Perhaps rightfully so, British bankers have had it up to here [here] with their government. The anger stems from freaky ass rules officials would like to impose on financial services chippies (for instance, rules that would cap top execs’ cash bonuses at 20 percent of total total compensation and proposals to tax the shit out of them) and the general feeling that the government is too mean to bankers. So sick are they that enough is enough. Led by Barclays chief John Varley and British Bankers Association head Angela Knight, a “fresh effort” has been waged to say “we’re not going to take this anymore.” How serious is this thing? Serious enough to warrant a code name involving wizards. Read more »
The City is not a happy place today: The U.K.’s two biggest banks both reported lower earnings thanks to the credit crisis, while Lloyds Banking Group announced a new round of job cuts.
First, Barclays and HSBC. The former said its third-quarter profit fell by half. Worse, its profit was actually lower than its write-downs and impairment charges, which doubled to £1.4 billion.
The latter was a little bit more coy, but the news was worse. HSBC said its third-quarter performance was lower than a year earlier, but didn’t specify. It did say it took a US$3.5 billion hit on its own debt; without it, the bank would be doing better than it did in the third quarter last year. But it isn’t.
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The British Treasury is pouring another £39.2 billion into the country’s two largest banks. And even though it may saddle the U.K. itself with another £13 billion in debt, Prime Minister Gordon Brown–in an electorally-suicidal game of three-card bailout monte–calls the deal with RBS and Lloyds Banking Group a boon for the taxpayer.
“At the end of the day, banks will be paying more to the British public, not the other way round,” Brown assured a country itching to toss him out of office at the first opportunity, one they’ll get by June.
According to Brown, the new bailout will reduce the Treasury’s risk exposure by as much as £300 billion and wean RBS and Lloyds from their newfound dependency on taxpayer pounds. It will certainly be interesting to hear him mumbling, stumbling and stuttering that on the campaign trail.
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