Saturday, 3 July 2010

"My bank's evil and wants to take over the world" - Really?

Not going to happen

First, a disclaimer. I like to think of myself as an economic liberal. I dig competition, the invisible hand, laissez-faire, and I detest things like the Common Agricultural Policy and the speeches of Nicolas Sarkozy. I'm not one of these hippies who think finance is immoral or that the banks are evil. Conveniently enough in my case, ideology and self-interest are bound together, as my job is rather dependent on financial services.

I just don't see the sense in demonising banks. To me, caricaturing Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money" is sensationalist crap. However, it is a juicy metaphor and mind sappingly simplistic enough to get anti-capitalist protesters jumping up and down on their fair trade bean bags. But for those of us who aren't high on catnip and don't believe the Da Vinci Code is a true story, it's pretty silly.

However, while we're on caricatures, I was tickled recently to learn that someone within Goldman had suggested that the firm's CEO Lloyd Blankfein should appear on Oprah. Personally I think it would make for dull viewing. Would Oprah ask some insightful questions on corporate governance or probe him on CDO issuance with respect to the SEC's ongoing fraud case? It would be some anticlimax for Joe Public should the dastardly face of demon finance turn out to be smart, middle-aged, middle-class, mild-mannered and bald.

"Well Oprah, first let me explain to folks at home how a CDO works."

Now - and I know this is whimsical so please bear with me - in an imperfect light, Blankfein could be said to bear a very slight, passing resemblance to Dr Evil, comic creation of Mike Myers and nemesis to spoof super-spy Austin Powers. Stay with me. Putting two and two together in my own innumerate way, I was instantly transported back to Dr Evil's appearance on Jerry Springer in The Spy Who Shagged Me. This is more what the public wants! Cue hilarity.

"I'm the head of an evil organisation. I don't share."
Dr Evil.

Oh, and it was revealed in January that the (very evil) North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has actually had a Dr Evil-esque secret lair built within a hollowed-out mountain. I don't think Blankfein has one.

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