In the current ferocious news cycle, in which every swing of the Dow or treasury secretary hiccup spawns its own infinitely expanding universe of high-strung commentary, spending two or three days not paying close attention to economic developments puts one at a serious disadvantage when the time comes to catch up.
So while I try to come up with an opinion on the new details released today on the Treasury's "bad bank" and housing plans, the latest reading of the Tim Geithner tea leaves, and the incredible $61 billion quarterly loss suffered by AIG, let's amuse ourselves with some comments on Geithner made by the longtime CEO of Bear Stearns, Jimmy Cayne, as reported in a forthcoming book by William D. Cohan, "House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street."
The Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal has the exclusive excerpt. Here is an excerpt of the excerpt:
"The audacity of that p- in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan ... This guy thinks he's got a big d-. He's got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend ... Who the f- asked you? You're not an elected officer. You're a clerk. Believe me, you're a clerk. I want to open up on this f--r, that's all I can tell you."
Cayne, of course, was a guy who seemed far more interested in playing bridge tournaments than keeping a sound eye on the level of risk inherent in his company's operations. You kind of wonder whether the country would have been better off if more clerks had been running the show, instead of raging, chest-thumping alpha males like Cayne.
(A side note on AIG: I think Justin Fox cuts right to the point. If your business boils down to insuring the rest of the global financial system against the possibility of a global economic collapse, then you're going to lose an awful lot of money if the global economy does indeed collapse.)