Friday, March 16, 2012

Wall Street Meets Casablanca

This new Barron's article explains ex-Goldman Sachs vice president Greg Smith's recent "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs" op-ed with a famous scene from the movie Casablanca.

In the scene, French prefect Louis Renault expresses surprise that there's any gambling going on in Rick's Cafe then, of course, proceeds to collect his winnings.

Captain Louis Renault: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" 
(then a croupier hands Renault a pile of money)

I'm shocked, shocked to find that there's been less than admirable behavior on Wall Street!

The Barron's article makes the following points:

- Wall Street selling stuff that blows up isn't a new thing
- What's relatively new is trading against customers instead of mostly executing trades on behalf customers

So what's at the root of this change in behavior over the years by some Wall Street firms?

In the article, Joan McCullough of East Shore Partners explains, as she calls it, "when the whole freakin' Street went rogue."

Yet another voice that reinforces, in a compelling way, the idea that Wall Street's culture went south quite a while ago and the reasons why.

That there are excesses on Wall Street isn't exactly breaking news at this point. Just as most, including Captain Renault, were well aware of the gambling at Rick's Cafe those who've followed Wall Street's evolution know there's been some fairly egregious excesses.

Obviously, it's best to not paint with too broad a brush. Some operate more admirably than others and there are very talented and high quality people at many of these firms. Yet, there seems little doubt most Wall Street firms would be more useful to the world if some intelligent changes were made.

These days, being a trusted source for companies (new and old) to raise new capital and wisely allocate their capital takes a back seat to many less vital activities. In order to evolve back into something more useful again, aspects of the current model and culture seem to need meaningful modification.

Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine the situation changing materially for the better anytime soon.

It's a shame because there's plenty of important contributions to be made by a high quality investment bank.

Check out the Barron's article in its entirety.

Adam

This site does not provide investing recommendations as that comes down to individual circumstances. Instead, it is for generalized informational, educational, and entertainment purposes. Visitors should always do their own research and consult, as needed, with a financial adviser that's familiar with the individual circumstances before making any investment decisions. Bottom line: The opinions found here should never be considered specific individualized investment advice and are never a recommendation to buy or sell anything.
 
Site Meter