Monday, February 01, 2010

Quotes of the day

The British screwed us.--Henry "Hank" Paulson

Tony Blair did not sit at the pinnacle of power for a double-digit stretch without having a first-class capacity to master any brief, however dodgy, mount any argument, however specious, slide past any question, however difficult, parry any critique, however piercing, and defend any case, however indefensible. The Iraq inquiry puts his historical legacy in the dock. So he had hired the slickest lawyer he could find. That would be himself.--Andrew Rawnsley

[New York is] dependent on Wall Street finance to do well.--Mayor Michael Bloomberg

In New York, Wall Street is Main Street. You don’t hear anybody in New England complaining about clam chowder. If you say anything about oil in Texas, they’ll string you up near the nearest tree. We need to stand behind the engine of our economy in New York, and that engine of economy is Wall Street.--Gov. David Paterson

The specific points at issue are ownership or sponsorship of hedge funds and private equity funds, and proprietary trading — that is, placing bank capital at risk in the search of speculative profit rather than in response to customer needs. Those activities are actively engaged in by only a handful of American mega-commercial banks, perhaps four or five. Only 25 or 30 may be significant internationally. Apart from the risks inherent in these activities, they also present virtually insolvable conflicts of interest with customer relationships, conflicts that simply cannot be escaped by an elaboration of so-called Chinese walls between different divisions of an institution. The further point is that the three activities at issue — which in themselves are legitimate and useful parts of our capital markets — are in no way dependent on commercial banks’ ownership. These days there are literally thousands of independent hedge funds and equity funds of widely varying size perfectly capable of maintaining innovative competitive markets. Individually, such independent capital market institutions, typically financed privately, are heavily dependent like other businesses upon commercial bank services, including in their case prime brokerage.--Paul Volcker

When the president hugs [Timothy Geithner] in front of every member of the US Senate and every member of the House, that's a signal that [Geithner] still [has] the power.--unnamed Senate staffer

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don’t understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn’t.--President Obama

I’m sorry, who was taking out all those subprime, adjustable-rate mortgages on which those Wall Street-created securities were created? I know there are more mortgage-holding voters than bankers, but could you please stop pinning it all on us [bankers]?--Gregory Corcoran

I’m normally too cool to write posts like this. I prefer to write the December 2010 post about what a great year I had. Somehow this is more honest. And the first 2 steps of achieving any goal are to set metrics (”you manage what you measure”) and to make your goals public (it’s easier to shame yourself into compliance than to be the only person holding yourself accountable).--Mark Suster

So I’d rather be on a team that has no bad people than a team with stars. There are certain people who you just know are not going to make a mistake, even if the other guy’s faster than them, or whatever. They’re just reliable. ... if you give people really big jobs to the point that they’re scared, they have way more fun and they improve their game much faster. She ended up running our whole office. ... I keep my eye out for someone who has achieved a lot, so they’ve been a great athlete or on a great team, but then something didn’t go quite right, and they’re still very hungry and want to be C.E.O. of something. I like to bet on people, especially those who have taken risks and failed in some way, because they have more real-world experience. And they’re humble. I also like to hire people into one position below where they ought to be, because only a certain kind of person will do that — somebody who is pretty humble and somebody who’s very confident. ... This is another thing I really, really value: being a true meritocracy. The only way people will have the trust to give their all to their job is if they feel like their contribution is recognized and valued. And if they see somebody else higher above them just because of a good résumé, or they see somebody else promoted who they don’t think deserves it, you’re done.--Mark Pincus

If I’m an investor, do I want Microsoft spending all those retained earnings trying to beat Google or Apple in areas where Microsoft has no advantage? No. I want those retained earnings paid to me, and if I want exposure to the web I’ll go buy Google or Apple stock (or any other company who I think is poised to dominate an important area). This is a classic agency problem.--Eric Wiesen

The claim of universality is indeed an important facet of American culture, rooted in the American Revolution and Protestant ethics. It is considered proper for a U.S. secretary of state to give voice to the ideal of universal human rights. Just so, a Chinese official sees it as his duty to assert the uniqueness, or even superiority, of Chinese culture. This was true of Confucian scholar-officials in the imperial past. It is still true today. Thought control, in terms of imposing an official orthodoxy, is a very old tradition. The official glue that has long been applied to hold Chinese society together is a kind of state dogma, loosely known as Confucianism, which is moral as well as political, stressing obedience to authority. This is what officials like to call Chinese culture.--Ian Buruma

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