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July 23, 2012 8:17 AM Age: 8 yrs

Bankers Gone Wild

Category: Larry Checco
Source:  Larry Checco, president, Checco Communications

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Question:  What’s the difference between many of today’s bankers and HBO's program star, the fictional mafia boss, "Tony Soprano?"

Answer:  The HBO character Tony Soprano appears to have some scruples.

For instance, we have just learned that Capital One Bank deceived literally millions of its customers by pressuring or misleading them “into buying credit card products they didn’t understand, didn’t want, or, in some cases, couldn’t use,” according to Richard Cordray, director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (created as part of federal banking reforms after the 2008 crisis)

Capital One, says the CFPB, took responsibility and will pay out US$210 million. However, the bank settled the charges without admitting or denying any wrongdoing. 

 Mafioso Tony Soprano would have at least taken pride in committing the crime—then given that charming, crooked little grin of his to the press.

Had Capital One been a one-off situation, we’d probably throw up our hands and admit that every industry has its bad apple or two, and move on.

But wait -- earlier this week it was revealed that global banking giant HSBC had for years been a haven for foreign money laundering, drug-trafficking money transfers and potential terrorist financing activities.  (Now, here’s something our boy Tony could get in on big time—except for the terrorist stuff.  Even Tony Soprano knows when to draw a line in the sand.)

And on it goes.

Just before that, Britain's banking giant Barclays admitted that -- in the midst of the global financial crisis -- it rigged the London interbank offered rate, or "Libor" which is a very important global benchmark for US$500 trillion of worldwide financial products--  from leveraged derivatives to home mortgages in the USA..  (Cream a couple of basis points off the top and you could make some good bread here, Tony.)

According to press reports, Barclays says that other banks may soon turn out to be more culpable in the scandal than themselves.  Surprise, surprise.  We already see the pattern here, guys.

Need I even begin to parse the shoddy business practices of our too-big-to-fail   US financial institutions and how, through less than ethical activities and business practices they helped create a housing crisis and the Great Recession the likes of which we haven’t seen since the days of the Great Depression --and which continues even today to decimate the American middle class.

I mean, really, would you do business with a bank that created and sold you millions of dollars worth of sure-to-fail bond holdings—then bet against you, as apparently did Goldman Sachs to some of its customers.?  The customers? Goldman claimed they were sophisticated investors and should have known what they were getting into?!  Now there’s a new twist on ethics for ya! 

BTW, Goldman Sachs —I loved when your boy Fabrice Tourre, better known to some in the game as “The Fabulous Fab,” was quoted as saying, "I managed to sell a few abacus bonds (nearly worthless default swaps) to widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport.”  Sounds like God’s work to me.  How about you, Tony?

And let’s not forget JPMorgan’s latest US$6 billion trading fiasco, which its leadership described  as “an accident.”.

Precious.  Just precious.  The accident  may not have been a bank buster, but it sure busted my gut.  Think of it—a $6 billion “accident” and no major heads roll. I accidently overdraw $20 on my checking account and you hit me with a $35 service fee. You bankers just live right.  I love you, man!

Who are these guys?!

Who are these guys, anyway?  And how have they managed to convince us they deserve to be paid obscene amounts of money for nearly bringing the entire US  and world economies to their  knees? 

They must be very smart—or we must be very dumb.  In which case, they’re laughing all the way to the bank. 

Hey, wait a sec.  They are the bank!

As a consultant, I advise my clients that if they want to run a successful operation, the first question they need to ask themselves is:  What do we need to do to earn—and keep—the trust of those, both inside and outside of our organization, that will enable us to form the kinds of relationships we need to achieve our goals and objectives.

Fact is many of today’s bankers don’t deserve to be trusted with a peanut butter sandwich, let alone our hard-earned money.

Money talks!  Nobody walks!

There’s a saying I learned when I lived in New York.  “Money talks!  Nobody walks!”  It probably originated on Wall Street.

As a society, we’ll throw a kid in jail for years for trying to hold up a corner convenience store.  Yet the more-than-questionable business practices of our leading financial institutions have resulted in trillions of dollars of wealth assets vanishing into thin air.  Still, I haven’t seen one of these highly-paid, leading banking scoundrels do a perp walk. Not one.

Hey, Tony, ever think about going into banking as an encore career?  It’s a lot safer, a lot more profitable-- and with little, if any, risk of doing jail time.  

Bada Bing!

Larry Checco

Contents © 2012 by Larry Cheeco

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Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications. His latest book is entitled Aha! Moments in Brand Management: Commonsense Insights to a Stronger, Healthier Brand. Checco Communications is a consulting firm that specializes in branding. It helps organizations clearly define who they are, what they do, how they do it and, most importantly, why anyone should care enough to support them.. Click here for full bio.



Published by: Corporate Governance & Accountability Advisors, Inc. Content & Concepts ©2008 by CG&AA, Inc. All rights reserved