This morning, while I was on-line, Sandy read Gretchen Morgenson's piece in the NY Times, (They’re Shocked, Shocked, About the Mess) which is well worth sharing.
MY hypocrisy meter konked out last week.
Mr. Greenspan was shocked, shocked to find that there was gambling going on in the casino.
Like the boy who cried wolf, corporate and regulatory officials have issued a lot of hogwash over the years. Until recently, investors were willing to believe it. Now they may not be so easily gulled.
Companies, even those in cyclical businesses, routinely told investors that the reason they so regularly beat their earnings forecasts was honest hard work — and not cookie-jar accounting. They were believed.
Politicians proclaiming that the economy was strong and that the crisis would not spread kept our trust.
Brokerage firms insisting that auction-rate securities were as good as cash won over investors — and, as we all know now, that market froze up.
Wall Street dealmakers were fawned over like all-knowing superstars, their comings and goings celebrated. No one doubted them.
Banks engaging in anything-goes lending practices assured shareholders that safety and soundness was their mantra. They, too, got a pass.
Directors who didn’t begin to understand the operational complexities of the companies they were charged with overseeing told stockholders that they were vigilant fiduciaries. Investors suspended their disbelief.
And regulators, asserting that they were policing the markets, convinced investors that there was a level playing field.
Is it any surprise that virulent mistrust seems to own the markets now?
“It is not enough to throw money at a problem; you also have to use honesty and common sense,” Ms. Tavakoli said. “In fact, if you leave out the last two, you are wasting taxpayers’ money.”
and the close:
“If I were queen of the world, I would wade in there with a small army of people and just start straightening out these books,” she said. “Start stripping them down and simplifying contracts so people can start to understand what they own. It would be unprecedented, but so is everything else we are doing.”
THAT move, which would begin the much-needed healing process for investors, would be unprecedented in another way. It might get the people who run our companies and our regulatory agencies into the business of telling the truth.
Naïve, I know. But something to wish for — I’d like to give my hypocrisy meter a breather.