Monday, Feb. 01, 2010

Bankers Are Not Repentant — Or Even Embarrassed

"Seldom have so few done damage to so many," said Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann. By "so few" he meant the financial institutions that had been bailed out by various national governments. But by "so many" he didn't mean taxpayers or people who had lost their jobs — he meant other bankers whose reputations had been sullied. Last year, in the wake of the Fall 2008 meltdown, a certain humility overtook Davos. This year it was gone. In one closed-door session financiers debated who was to blame for the financial crisis. One group fixated on the role of shareholders: it was an obsession with quarterly profits that drove firms to lever up their balance sheets, ignore sound underwriting standards, and suck the credit bubble for every drop it was worth. The guy sitting in the corner office, getting paid tens of millions of dollars, could hardly have been expected to stand in the way.