Beyond Animal Spirits

July 23rd, 2012
in Op Ed

by Edward Harrison, Credit Writedowns

Warning: This commentary is very DISTURBING – not for the faint of heart.

bunny-cuteTwo days ago, a friend of mine told me via email about a comment on a blog post about whether MBA schools were incubating criminals that was truly disturbing. I didn’t know what to think of it, honestly. When news of the Dark Knight Returns killing came out the next day, it crystallised for me at least that something was seriously wrong on multiple levels with our Zeitgeist here. I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I couldn’t exactly verbalise it. I still can’t, but let me tell you what this comment said and what it triggered in my own thinking.

Follow up:

First, from the e-mail comment:

I was driving through my suburbia, a couple summers back, when I approached two young male teens playing roller hockey in the middle of the street.

As I got closer, it was clear they weren’t playing with a ball or a plastic puck but with what appeared to be a dead rabbit.

When I drew up parallel I realized the sliced and bloody rabbit might not be dead.

In the next moment I was looming over the young teen and screaming inches from his face, “Learn how to play! Do you understand me? Learn…how…to…play!”

Then, looking into those terror filled eyes, a thought flashed, What the fuck is wrong with me? With that I stood up, walked back to my car, and drove away.

Disturbing, right?

First off, let’s remember the original post context here is MBA schools were incubating criminals – sociopaths in the executive suites, if you will. So, the comment is certainly relevant. But you have to wonder if this is a complete fabrication. What kind of person makes up a story like this? As one friend on the email thread said, "Male 6th graders may blow up the occasional frog with a cherry bomb or firecracker. Male teens don’t play hockey with live rabbits."  Or do they?

Here’s the problem: something about our recent past economic and financial history makes me believe this could be real. If it is fabricated, you have someone with a warped imagination. But, again, we are living in warped times, so it could be a real incident. And if it is real, the juxtaposition between the alleged driver’s questioning his own behavior for questioning their clearly depraved behavior and the teenagers’ behavior is entirely the point in context here. It goes to the normalcy of their manner, while doing something completely sociopathic.

My first thought was the LIBOR scandal. Here were these guys apparently cheating and manipulating the interest rate at the heart of hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial instruments as if it were no big deal.

Some sample email requests to rig the market:

  • "WE HAVE TO GET KICKED OUT OF THE FIXINGS TOMORROW! We need a 4.17 fix in 1m (low fix) We need a 4.41 fix in 3m (high fix)." – November 23, 2005
  • "You need to take a close look at the reset ladder. We need 3M to stay low for the next 3 sets and then I think that we will be completely out of our 3M position. Then it’s on." – February 1, 2006
  • "Your annoying colleague again… Would love to get a high 1m Also if poss a low 3m… if poss… thanks." – February 3, 2006

The email responses confirming the ‘fix’:

  • "For you… anything. I am going to go 78 and 92.5. It is difficult to go lower than that in threes." – March 16, 2006
  • "Always happy to help, leave it to me, Sir." – March 20, 2006
  • "Done… for you big boy…" – April 7, 2006


What else can I say, really?

This is how our financial system works – people openly discussing rigging the market for all to see and hear as if they were discussing where to buy a carton of milk. That’s how it works, folks. Don’t avert your eyes like it didn’t happen. What you saw was real. It happened and they WERE doing it. And it was WRONG.

And don’t say, "What the fuck is wrong with me?" and drive away. There’s nothing wrong with you. But there’s certainly something wrong with them.

Is anyone going to do anything about it?

Editor's note: The author originally posted this at his website, Credit Writedowns, with the title "What's Wrong With People?"


Related Articles

Other posts by Edward Harrison in Analysis and Opinion

Barclays Bank:  CFTC Complaint Details GEI News, 23 July 2012

About Edward Harrison

Edward-HarrisonEdward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.

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1 comment

  1. john warren says :

    are you?



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