For those of us who have for 30 or so years been watching the take-over of the economy by drunken psychotics whose only touchstone is bottomless greed and a vicious drive for the power money buys to create more money, it is mildly amusing to notice that in the last few weeks the same media that spent those 30 years boosting, protecting, defending and admiring Wall Street greedheads and Corporate America Moloch-followers busily swallowing their own tails once they'd devoured everybody else's, have now begun to acknowledge that the Masters of the Universe are, like, crazy . I mean, like, clinical crazy.
Regulators have yet to pinpoint the cause of Wall Street's white-knuckle plunge May 6, when the Dow Jones industrial average sank 700 points in less than five minutes. High-frequency trading isn't believed to have sparked the sell-off but may have contributed to it.
To critics, that's evidence of the threat they say is posed by high-speed trading.
Detractors argue that high-frequency firms gain an edge through predatory trading tactics that harm other investors. Worse, they say, split-second trading has the potential to destabilize the market at turbulent moments. Given the speed and huge sums involved, one errant trade could wreak havoc, critics say.
"They're destroying the market from which they're making so much money," said Joe Saluzzi of Themis Trading in Chatham, N.J. "They're like locusts. They come in, swarm the market, squeeze as much as they can, and when they're done they'll just move on to a new market."
How well do you know your colleagues' personalities? Researchers warn some of them may have psychopathic traits.
But they say this is nothing to be worried about.
They will not be violent, but their psychopathic traits will allow them to climb the career ladder, New Scientist magazine reports.
Professor Robert Hare, of the University of British Columbia says "corporate psychopaths'" arrogance and focus helps them succeed.
They may also be superficially charming, prone to fly into rages and likely to take credit for colleague's achievements.
Sound like anybody you know? If you work on Wall Street or in the upper management levels of Corporate America, it probably sounds like everybody you know.
Paul Corry, of the mental health charity Rethink...said there was also lots of evidence that people who were highly motivated and highly successful - particularly in finance and business - had some psychopathic traits.
"These are people who are extremely focussed on achieving their goals, and who are not too concerned about other people's feelings.
"There are other people who have very narcissistic traits; they want to be centre-stage and their needs have to be put first."
He added: "People do say that you're a psychopath if you're violent and a successful businessman if you're not."
Psychopathy is defined as a lack of empathy for others, or a conscience, and can be associated with extreme and manipulative behaviour.
I would say that a lack of empathy for anyone except themselves and those whose boots they lick so assiduously with slavering tongue and lots of passionate moans is a fairly accurate description of people who are prepared to ruin the global economy and destroy the lives of hundreds of millions if that will put a few more golden shekels in their silk-lined pockets.
The signs of their craziness are everywhere. Norwegianity's Mark G came up with a series of links from a recent LAT edition that will give you an idea just how nuts they are. For instance, abandoning all pretense that the stock market is anything other than a high-stakes gambling parlor, stock trading firms are now hiring not financial experts but successful poker players.
Chris Fargis thought his big job interview was over. But when the partners at Wall Street upstart Toro Trading finished with their questions, they broke out a deck of cards and a green-felt card table. Mind playing a few hands of poker?
It was a final test, and Fargis was relieved. The 30-year-old never went to business school or even took a finance class. But he knew poker. He had made a living playing the game online for six years from his Manhattan apartment, betting on up to eight hands at a time.
Within a few days, Fargis - with no Wall Street experience - was offered a position trading stock options, a job that entails making multimillion-dollar gambles. His poker skills sealed the deal.
So forget that expensive MBA and spend your time - and money - at online poker sites learning important skills like when to bet on an inside straight. Or derivatives. They're the same thing, after all.
Then there is the sudden necessity for a law that tells investment banks that they have to put their clients' interests before their own.
Investment bankers and their professional cousins, broker-dealers, don't generally owe what's known as a "fiduciary duty" to their clients under federal or state laws (New York's state law is what normally applies).
Efforts in Washington to expand the fiduciary rule beyond its existing application to registered investment advisors have been consistently fought off by Wall Street and the insurance industry. But a new effort to add it to the financial reform bill now being debated by Congress is being mounted by Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), among others.
Acting in a client's best interest wasn't a burning issue in simpler times, when investment bankers raised capital for their clients through stock or bond offerings, and brokers brought buyers and sellers together for deals in conventional securities. Everyone knew where the dividing line ran between the client's interest and the firm's interest, and how to stay on the right side.
Those days are past. In 2001, Goldman Sachs reported pre-tax earnings of $719 million from investment banking (helping clients raise capital), $2.1 billion from providing brokerage services and $1.2 billion from trading.
Last year, it reported $1.3 billion from investment banking, $1.3 billion from brokerage and $17.3 billion from trading. Anyone detect a trend line there?
What do you suppose goosed the media which has spent the last 3 decades smooching business butts to deign to report on what it has been ignoring since Reagan told them to look the other way? A hint: It ain't because they finally looked or found a conscience or any of that malarkey. It's because they're scared they'll get tarred and feathered right along with Baer.
Huge raucous crowds converged outside bank employees' houses on Sunday afternoon to demand banks stop lobbying against Wall Street reform.
"Bank of America: bad for America!" shouted community leaders outside the house of Bank of America general counsel Gregory Baer.
The Chicago-based grassroots organization National People's Action, in coordination with the SEIU, bused more than 700 workers from 20 states to Baer's neighborhood, one of the wealthiest corners of Washington. The action kicks off several days of protests targeting K Street for lobbyists' role in financial reform.
Baer himself apparently tried to blend in with the crowd until a neighbor outed him. The mob booed loudly as he walked into his house. "I don't have time for you," he said, according to Trenda Kennedy of Springfield, Ill. who used a bullhorn to tell the crowd about her trouble getting a mortgage modification from Baer's bank.
Kennedy told HuffPost she'd been making reduced monthly payments thanks to a trial modification via the Home Affordable Modification Program. She said that when the bank turned her down for a permanent mod, she was told she still owed all the money she'd been paying during the trial.
Both Kennedy's story and Baer's reaction are typical. The "raucous" crowd outside Baer's house isn't but soon will be. Can the pitchforks be far behind?
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