Wall Street is a bizarre place. It masquerades as a sober center of finance, but it operates as a wide-open bazaar of anything-goes gambling games.
Recently, the biggest casino player of them all, Goldman Sachs, made a bizarre effort to strike a sober public pose by imposing a new ethical standard on its bankers/gamblers. Were they instructed to stop rigging the game to profit themselves at the expense of everyone else? No, no, Nanette — Goldman never lets ethics get in the way of raking in more money.
Rather, the bank's sudden outburst of morality was directed at the language used by its bankers. Henceforth, decreed the higher-ups, Goldman employees must refrain from using profanity in their e-mails.
Sheesh — like it was expletive-filled e-mails that crashed our economy, not Wall Street banksters gaming the system!
Meanwhile, Goldman's pious moralists have already plotted an end run around new regulatory reforms that Congress passed in July. One of the most important reforms was a ban on what's called "proprietary trading," a convoluted form of casino gambling by bankers that led to Wall Street's meltdown and America's ongoing economic catastrophe. Goldman has simply had these proprietary traders change hats, moving them into its "asset management" division, which does not come under the new regulation.
So — Hocus-Pocus! — the reckless gamblers slip through a definitional loophole and keep playing the same old game. This slick perversion of the law will be hugely profitable for the bank and hugely risky for our economy.
But at least we can take comfort in the fact that no profane e-mails were exchanged by Goldman's ethically impaired bankers as they conspired to put themselves above the law. And they wonder why the phrase "Wall Street Banker" is now an expletive in our country.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow. He will be speaking in Colorado Springs on Friday, Sept. 17. Details in next week's Independent.
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