Home > #OWS, finance, hedge funds > Two pieces of good news

Two pieces of good news

November 29, 2011

I love this New York Times article, first because it shows how much the Occupy Wall Street movement has resonated with young people, and second because my friend Chris Wiggins is featured in it making witty remarks. It’s about the investment bank recruiting machine on college campuses (Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, etc.) being met with resistance from protesters. My favorite lines:

Ms. Brodsky added that she had recently begun openly questioning the career choices of her finance-minded friends, because “these are people who could be doing better things with their energy.”

Kate Orazem, a senior in the student group, added that Yale students often go into finance expecting to leave after several years, but end up staying for their entire careers.

“People are naïve about how addictive the money is going to be,” she said.

Amen to that, and wise for you to know that! There are still plenty of my grown-up friends in finance who won’t admit that it’s a plain old addiction to money keeping them in a crappy job where they are unhappy, and where they end up buying themselves expensive trips and toys to try to combat their unhappiness.

And here’s my friend Chris:

“Zero percent of people show up at the Ivy League saying they want to be an I-banker, but 25 and 30 percent leave thinking that it’s their calling,” he said. “The banks have really perfected, over the last three decades, these large recruitment machines.”

Another piece of really excellent new: Judge Rakoff has come through big time, and rejected the settlement between the SEC and Citigroup. Woohoo!! From this Bloomberg article:

In its complaint against Citigroup, the SEC said the bank misled investors in a $1 billion fund that included assets the bank had projected would lose money. At the same time it was selling the fund to investors, Citigroup took a short position in many of the underlying assets, according to the agency.

“If the allegations of the complaint are true, this is a very good deal for Citigroup,” Rakoff wrote in today’s opinion. “Even if they are untrue, it is a mild and modest cost of doing business.”

A revised settlement would probably have to include “an agreement as to what the actual facts were,” said Darrin Robbins, who represents investors in securities fraud suits. Robbins’s firm, San Diego-based Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, was lead counsel in more settled securities class actions than any other firm in the past two years, according to Cornerstone Research, which tracks securities suits.

Investors could use any admissions by Citigroup against the bank in private litigation, he said.

This raises a few questions in my mind. First, do we really have to depend on a randomly chosen judge having balls to see any kind of justice around this kind of thing? Or am I allowed to be hopeful that Judge Rakoff has now set a precedent for other judges to follow, and will they?

Second, something that came up on Sunday’s Alt Banking group meeting. Namely, how many more cases are there that the SEC hasn’t even bothered with, even just with Citigroup? I’ve heard the SEC was only scratching the surface on this, since that’s their method.

Even if they only end up getting $285m, plus the admission that they did wrong by their clients, could the SEC go back and prosecute them for 30 other deals for 30x$285m = $8.55b? Would that give us enough leverage to break up Citigroup and start working on our “Too Big to Fail” problems? And how about the other banks? What would this litigation look like if the SEC were really trying to kick some ass?

Categories: #OWS, finance, hedge funds
  1. Aaron
    November 29, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Glad you wrote about the SEC vs Citi case. I saw that article and wanted to ask you what you thought. Although the settlement would have been easy on the bank, isn’t it also true that the lack of settlement is hard on the SEC? Do they have the resources (money and brains) to pursue this successfully? (Whatever that means, I’m not sure what the next steps are.) Or will Citi just lawyer up and get off scot free? (They’ll obviously try.)


  2. madalife
    November 29, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I’m not surprised why some of your friends still work on Wall St. It’s hard to get out once you’re in. A long time ago, one rich guy said: ” Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income”.


  3. FogOfWar
    November 30, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    The primary resource the SEC is lacking is a pair of balls.



  4. Sheila Vivonne
    July 8, 2012 at 5:16 am

    The University of Minnesota anthropologist Karen Ho once worked as an I-banker and wrote Liquidated, an excellent ethnography of the culture of Wall Street, which included a good discussion of the praise and puffery that fuels the recruitment machine that hoovers up graduates of New Haven, Princeton, and Cambridge, and deposits them directly into offices at GS, JPM, and MS.

    A must-read: http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?productid=13226


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