Friday, September 19, 2008

Greed and Wall Street

The press (and the McCain campaign) are crying wolf about the "executive greed" to which they attribute the recent bank collapses. In view of last year's multimillion dollar giveaways on Wall Street, this story is easy to sell to an unsuspecting average Joe who has no idea how markets work.

The reality of course is not that people have somehow became greedier over the last 10 years. It is that with the transition to the public form of capitalism - where the financial markets are dominated by companies nominally owned by shareholders but ruled by the class of professional managers - the interests of the people who own the capital (AKA "public good") and the people who run the companies have considerably diverged.

Specifically, there exists a huge incentive for a manager to ignore the long term risk in favor of short-term reward. This is exactly what happened during the dot-com boom and more recently during the finance industry collapse.

I wrote about it last year:, and it seems to become more relevant by the minute.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Policy that encourages dividends would benefit the market quite a bit. As it stands there are considerable tax advantages for managers to plow money back into the company and pull the slot machine level to see if they can keep growth going at >10% year after year. As a result, you see people within industry sectors doing whatever they can to juice earnings.