Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, June 26, 2009 8:05 pm

Selling bull manure as Belgian chocolate


See, the investment bankers’ problem isn’t that they actually blew the economy all to hell, ruined a ton of people’s retirement or college savings and threw millions out of work. No, their problem is that there has been “populist overreaction”:

Wall Street’s largest trade group has started a campaign to counter the “populist” backlash against bankers, enlisting two former aides to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to spearhead the effort.

In memos of confidential meetings with top financial executives, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said it began this month the “execution phase” of the operation, which pledges to “embrace change” and accountability. The plan targets policy makers and the media in New York, London, Washington and Brussels and calls for a “city-by-city, grass roots” approach.

The securities industry “must be perceived as part of the solution, which will allow it to better defend against populist overreaction,” the documents, prepared for a June 17 meeting of SIFMA’s board, said.

The board meeting minutes and staff-written papers, obtained by Bloomberg News, outline the program crafted by polling, lobbying and public relations companies paid at least $85,000 a month. The memos provide a glimpse, in often candid language, into how Wall Street is grappling with its pariah status.

“It is imperative that in this historic period of reform, the industry be recognized as playing a positive role in seeking change and providing solutions to the problems we face,” one of the documents said. “There is currently widespread skepticism about the industry’s commitment to this needed change.”

“There is currently widespread skepticism.” Gee. I can’t imagine why that might be.

But wait! There’s more! (With these cheesemunches, there’s always more.) The guy who’s going to be leading this effort? Doesn’t exactly have a record of competence where the public’s welfare is concerned: “I’m not sure anyone in history has ever helped destroy a brand more thoroughly …”

Those smiles you see belong to lawyers who now understand that banker jokes are going to supersede lawyer jokes for a long time to come.

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