Meanderings

What? Greed Is a Sin?

I don’t know much about the world of our financial markets, but the recent months have brought attention to the fact that human beings commit sin.  Somehow this comes as a shock to some people, but not to me.  As a pastor I meet all kinds of people, in all stations of life, in all kinds of situations.  The following are several links to articles that have appeared recently in Tina Brown’s eclectic news site, The Daily Beast.

  • Alexandra Penney describes in “The Bag Lady Papers” the shock to her system to discover that her life savings disappeared on Thursday of last week as the Bernard Madoff scandal unfolded.  I share with some commenters their uncomfortableness of Penney’s dispair at possibly selling her cottage in West Palm Beach, her studio in New York city, and releasing her maid.  More importantly, here is someone who “made it” the city as an artist and author and is seeing that go away.  The pain of a broken trust is real.
  • Annette Tappert on the other hand, is grateful that she “Survived Hurricane Bernie.”  Tappert reveals the weekend angst in Palm Beach at the revelation of the betraying news.  Angry comments directed toward a “recruiter” for Madoff, condos going up for sale on Monday morning, and her quiet relief that she had nothing invested with Madoff.
  • Charlie Gasparino’s piece entitled “How the SEC Got in Bed with Madoff. Literally” provides a good background to why Madoff got by with his Ponzi Scheme for so long.  But the best quote in the piece is from the commenter who stated: “You say the SEC “literally” got in bed with the Madoffs, which piqued my interest. How many of the SEC members could you possibly fit into a bed. even a king-size one, and yet after a three page story, I can’t find ANY mention of ANY kind of furniture at all, much less beds. Does anyone at The Daily Beast know what the word “literally” means?” Priceless!
  • I reached back a few weeks to recover this piece from Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street and Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity.  Mort Zuckerman noted on The Daily Beast’s Buzz Board an article Lewis wrote at Portfolio.com.  In “The End” Michael traces the journey of Meredith Whitman and her mentor Steve Eisman who both saw the train wreck of the mortgage crisis looming.  Whitman posted her concerns about mortgage securities in October of 2007.  Eisman had been on the case since 2005 and seems to know the mortgage brokering industry better than it knows itself.  How smart do you have to be to see the insanity of loaning a strawberry picker making $14,000 a year a loan on a $750,000 home in southern California and then bundling that loan in with others and saying “its all good.”
  • Of course, the most revealing moment for me was when Alan Greenspan stated in a congressional hearing: “As I wrote last March, those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief… Such counter-party surveillance is a central pillar of our financial markets’ state of balance. If it fails, as occurred this year, market stability is undermined.” Come on Mr. Greenspan, the notion that people will put themselves first is a shock?!