Sunday, February 27, 2011
A tale of two abuses.
OK, look at Joe Nocera's column in yesterday's New York Times (here) ("Biggest Fish Face Little Risk of Being Caught"), and then look at Gretchen Morgenson's column today (here) ("Waiting Seven Years for Two Answers"). My own conclusion is that there's no downside risk to overreaching in ways that hurt consumers. (Mozilo, no jail time? Wells Fargo Bank, with three different stories about the reasons behind its inability to demonstrate proof of holding a note on a house?) Of course things aren't going to change. Not until there's some real, personal, honest-to-goodness, scary consequences for executives who tolerate obscenely bad behavior. And I'm not counting on there being any, unless Elizabeth Warren's Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection actually figures out a way to get the incentives for (1) punishing bad behavior and (2) allowing innovation right. If anyone can, she can; but I'm not sure it's possible.
And I come back to the same question, time and again: where are the boards? How do those independent directors get the information that they need to ensure that their officers are behaving appropriately? And how do those directors fight the urge to get along by playing along?