By David Weidner, MarketWatch
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”
It’s a line attributed to Mae West, but it’s a philosophy embraced by today’s modern financial system. “Bad” is an understatement when considering interest-rate fixing, mortgage fraud, research fraud, insider trading and reckless risk-taking — and that’s just the scandals of the last couple of months. See related commentary on why investors and consumers should be concerned bout the Libor scandal .
There are many good people on Wall Street, but given the institutional and cultural pressure to ignore rules and neglect responsibility, it’s a wonder they survive. When bankers brazenly manipulate interest rates in front of the regulators, or sometimes with their blessing, corruption is too weak a word.
It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago a fictional character by the name of Gordon Gekko shocked moviegoers by saying “greed is good.” The phrase almost sounds quaint these days. Greed good? Today, stealing is good. If Willie Sutton were alive he wouldn’t show up at a bank with tommy gun. He’d go to business school and get a job with a too-big-to-fail institution.