Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A New Magazine Gets It Right
Yesterday I dropped in on my neighborhood Kroger’s to buy some Gala apples. I love fresh fruit, but it usually is so expensive; however, apples at $1.69 a pound are well within my budget. I pushed a small cart around the store and eventually decided to check out the magazine rack to see if anything caught my eye. There on the rack at the top was Conde Nast Portfolio. I had seen this magazine before, but I was turned off by its glitzy cover and really never seriously checked it out. This time the words greed, stupidity and the writer of financial articles, Michael Lewis, caught my eye. I took the magazine off the shelf and flipped through the pages until I came to his article. After looking through the rest of the magazine, I decided to buy it. Michael Lewis was no stranger to me. I had read his little “tell all” book about his experiences at Salomon Brother’s that he wrote around 1989. It is a nice little book titled Liar’s Poker, that rang true to me when I read it some 20 years ago. Anyone that really wants to know what kind of assholes ran Wall Street should read this book. It is dead on.
Last night I read the article Michael Lewis wrote titled THE END. I recommend the article and the magazine to anyone that is looking for a magazine that seems to get it right. I am only sorry that I did not take a closer look at it when it first came out in April 2007. I had seen it on the magazine racks at Supermarkets and book stores, but just thought the cover was too glitzy to hold any valuable information. I guess the old saying that you should not judge a book by its cover can apply to magazines too. Well, for $12 a year, I plan to subscribe. There are a number of good articles in this December/January 2009 issue. There is even an article about Paul Krugman the economics professor who recently won a Nobel Prize in economics and also writes for the New York Times, and teaches at Princeton University. The article about Krugman is also worth reading.
One more thing, as we are all adults, I guess I should mention that it is not uncommon for any article or book about Wall Street to be sprinkled with four letter words, and usually the worst ones, so don’t be surprised when they show up. Use of profanity is no excuse for a poor vocabulary, but if you want to know how these guys felt and the language they used, then you just have to accept that this is the way they talked.
The article THE END is well written. I wish I wrote as well as Michael Lewis. I have a lot of stories about the investment business that I have not shared in this blog because I thought I would some day put them down in a little book, but that is another story. This article, in addition to being well written, is on the mark. Some of you out there after reading this article will not believe what you have read, but let me tell you, as someone who has worked in the investment business for 35 years, Michael lewis did not have to embellish one bit. These are the facts and this was the state of the industry. After you read this article, you will understand why I have been beating the drum about the need for regulation, oversight and transparency. The other drum I have been beating is the one to move the rating of all bonds to the responsibility of the Federal Government. The rating companies, known as the rating agencies, suck. They have failed the industry and the investing public. So little time has been spent on this point about the role the rating companies played in the financial meltdown. While they are not responsible for all the greed and abuses by individuals in the business, they played an important role. Look at it this way, they were not the bomb, they were the trigger that set off the bomb. Without the AAA ratings on the mortgage bonds that were nothing more than junk repackaged, the huge meltdown would never have occurred.
Conte Nast Portfolio should send a copy of the Dec/Jan 2009 issue to every member of Congress. Better yet, they should just send them Michael Lewis’ article THE END. If, after reading this article, they do not see the need for more regulation, oversight and transparency in the investment securities industry, then we all better start rethinking where we want to live.