5 years after the financial crisis of 2008, Wall Street is still involved in many of the same destructive activities that they were involved with before the crash. What's more, they still have the explicit backing of government officials in Washington D.C.
Here are a few simple solutions each citizen can take to help remedy this problem:
1) Invest in passively managed retirement funds instead of actively managed
2) Refuse to vote for politicians who've sold themselves to Wall Street.
3) Support local lenders (community banks and credit unions).
"A crucial change in the way financial derivatives are packaged and sold on Wall Street is enabling traders to bypass new regulations aimed at limiting reckless speculation, enhancing the prospect of another derivatives crisis, warn some market participants."
The Dodd-Frank financial reform law came into effect in 2010 in response to the financial crisis- it required safeguards for investors to cover losses on their derivatives trades. But what if investors found another, risky, way around that? That's what's happening now. Is it time to start the financial Armageddon clock? Cenk Uygur breaks it down.
In 2008, the United States economy experienced a nearly unprecedented crisis, due to a perfect storm involving banking deregulation, complex derivatives, financial mismanagement, and larger systemic causes, including an inadequate educational system. Three years later, people rose up in protest—an organic national movement called Occupy Wall Street, its members chanting "we are the 99%" and saying that our system was broken, gamed by the wealthy and powerful.
The movement brought an entire nation's frustration with a runaway banking and financial sector, student debt, and unequal educational opportunities to the forefront of public debate. And thoughtful institutions responded, investing time and money to look into the phenomenon. On April 17th and 18th of 2012, the Rockefeller Foundation funded two panel discussions to address these urgent questions. The panels were sponsored by the New School and were held at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC, and the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Moderator John Cassidy of The New Yorker perhaps summed up the issues best when he noted that the 1960s and 1970s had discredited the idea of an all-efficient government, and the 90s and zeros had done a very good job of discrediting the idea of an all-efficient market. "What's to replace both of those ideologies?" Cassidy asked. "That remains to be seen--Occupy Wall Street is obviously a part of the discussion."
Panelists included, among others, Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow; Pulitzer Prize-winning financial journalist David Cay Johnston; world-class international economists Jeffrey Sachs, Raghu Rajan, Carmen Reinhart, and Robin Wells; the Financial Times's Martin Wolf, and Bethany McLean of Vanity Fair.
Both panels grew out of The Occupy Handbook, a compendium of articles, edited by Janet Byrne, featuring leading economists and others on the causes and implications of the Occupy movement. This video features selections from the two panel discussions as well as public remarks by contributors to the Handbook.
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
The author, Greg Smith is - for a few more hours today - Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.