Archive for the ‘depression’ Category
We have all wondered how the financial wizards down on Wall Street managed to help tank the economy. No doubt creative accounting played a substantial role. This clip will explain to you, in a straightforward and easily accessible fashion, just how simple creative accounting can be.
In thinking about the financial crisis—Wall Street, brokers and bankers, and their supporters in Congress, those who have promised us so much in return for so little these past few decades—I remembered hearing the words, “We ask only that you trust us.”
But I was not trusting. I was suspicious. I was ill at ease. Yet, who was I to question the wonders that they produced, the capital that they created, the products they financed, the fortunes they made.
But now I recall. We had been warned. They would come bearing gifts. And then…. Here is that warning (in abridged form), drifting over the air waves for almost fifty years.
It begins with an introduction by Rod Serling, “Respectfully submitted for your perusal: a Kanamit. Height: a little over nine feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin: unknown. Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment we’re going to ask you to shake hands, figuratively, with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone.”
Consider as you watch that “a Kanamit” may have been a clever way to say “a Capitalist” back in Serling’s day. For as Wikipedia tells us, “Throughout the 1950s, Rod Serling had established himself as one of the hottest names in television, equally famous for his success in writing televised drama as he was for criticizing the medium’s limitations. His most vocal complaints concerned the censorship frequently practiced by sponsors and networks. ‘I was not permitted to have my Senators discuss any current or pressing problem,’ he said of his 1957 production The Arena, intended to be an involving look into contemporary politics. ‘To talk of tariff was to align oneself with the Republicans; to talk of labor was to suggest control by the Democrats. To say a single thing germane to the current political scene was absolutely prohibited.’ Twilight Zone’s writers frequently used science fiction as a vehicle for social comment; networks and sponsors who had infamously censored all potentially ‘inflammatory’ material from the then predominant live dramas were ignorant of the methods developed by writers such as Ray Bradbury for dealing with important issues through seemingly innocuous fantasy.” The Twilight Zone
1934 movie poster, United Artists
For reasons that you might easily be able to infer from our present collective financial woes, I recently had an urge to read (and listen to) a book that I have never read, The Count of Monte Cristo. My more philosophical side says, avoid revenge. No good will come of it. My gut says, go, go, go.
Here is a short passage you might enjoy. The Count is speaking to the banker Danglars, one of the guys who “done him wrong,” but is unaware of the Count’s actual identity.
“But what is the matter with you? You look careworn; really, you alarm me; for a capitalist to be sad, like the appearance of a comet, presages some misfortune to the world.” The Count of Monte Cristo, Modern Library Edition, 2002, p. 887.
Music to the rescue in the face of economic troubles….In this case some saxophonists.
Another reason to support the arts, even in times of trouble.
The word is out. Unless AIG pays their executives millions more in bonuses, they might lose the best and the brightest of their employees. Corporate raiders will swoop out of the clouds and plunder their human capital. And then where would AIG be? And then where would we be? (According to FOX, if AIG cannot retain their top execs, it has threatened to morph into a black hole and take the inner planets with it.)
But wait. We may have nothing to fear but fear itself. Let us not forget that AIG is in the business of insuring companies against their own incompetence. The solution is simple. AIG should insure itself against its own incompetence through one of its products, for example, FinancialGuard (see below). So, even if it were to lose its best and brightest by not paying out the bonuses, AIG could still survive through the miricle of insurance.
Here is AIG/Australia hawking one “product” that can help save it (and us):
What is it?
Professional indemnity insurance on a civil liability basis
Why do you need it?
The activities of regulators, the changing distribution of financial institutions products and a more informed and litigious consumer environment lie behind the increase in the frequency of civil liability claims against financial institutions….
Our Civil Liability product provides blanket protection against the financial consequences of a legally enforceable obligation in which a civil liability is incurred arising from services provided. Covers includes defence costs and civil penalties.
Who needs it?
All Financial Institutions including Banks, Building Societies, Investment Management Companies, Insurance Companies and Stockbrokers.
And under a discussion of assets on the AIG site we find the following pitch:
A company’s assets are vital to its operations. And protecting those assets is essential to the well being of a business. Assets can be tangible and intangible and can include a company’s corporate reputation, as well as physical assets such as property or goods. We offer standard or customised programmes on a domestic or global scale as well as a wide range of products covering more demanding and specialist risks.
Protection of assets!! Protection for corporate reputation!! Protection from the activities of regulators!! AIG can save itself (and us).
Up until now little beside blind greed and gross incompetence have been offered to explain AIG’s behavior. Here is an alternative hypothesis: Someone inside AIG decided that the best way to stimulate the market for its financial insurance products was to come up with an example (AIG’s own failure) that would scare the daylights out of even the most confident of finance people, pushing them right into the arms of AIG’s financial insurance sales force. Insanely diabolical, wouldn’t you say?
And if this hypothesis is incorrect, I have another: AIG is a corporate comic genius.
P.S. Here’s five bucks. Feel free to buy yourself half a dozen shares of AIG.