There are two diametrically opposed views of how the largest financial companies in our economy operate. On the one hand, there are those like Charles Ferguson, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary “Inside Job” and author of the new book, “Predator Nation.” Mr. Ferguson takes the view that greed and immorality now prevail to an excessive degree at the heart of Wall Street.
Academics and other experts have become corrupted, the responsible regulators have been intellectually captured, and law enforcement officials refuse to act – despite the accumulation of evidence before their eyes.
“Inside Job” was gripping and emotional; “Predator Nation” contains many more specific details and evidence, as this excerpt dealing with academics (one Republican and one Democrat) makes clear.
The second view is that the people in charge of large banks and bank holding companies have done nothing wrong. To see this view in action, look no further than this week’s debate about whether Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, should resign from the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The New York Fed oversees his organization, including assessing whether it is taking dangerous risks, so there are reasonable questions about whether this creates a potential conflict of interest.
A balanced account of this debate appeared in American Banker, which kindly agreed to bring the entire article out from behind its paywall. The strongest statement from the pro-Dimon corner comes from Ernest Patrikis, a partner with White & Case L.L.P. and former general counsel of the New York Federal Reserve:
“I don’t see Jamie Dimon’s conflict of interest. What’s the conflict? He’s expected to represent the banks’ view, the lenders’ view.”Yet even people who are generally sympathetic to banks feel that there is a perception problem with Mr. Dimon’s position. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said exactly that to the “PBS NewsHour” last week.