Banks Back in Control of the Situation

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Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Like a sports star or a politician after a sex scandal, after the financial industry was caught in flagrante delicto doing filthy things to the subprime mortgage market, the public and the federal government really had it by the testicles. It was touch-and-go there for a while, as it seemed there was nothing the financial industry could do to appease the rage that gripped the land. "This is what you're giving me?" the public shrieked shrilly whenever the financial industry made an effort by presenting them with a bauble, a small token of their appreciation for standing by them after they had been treated, the financial industry admitted while shuffling its feet and directing its gaze to the floor, with terrible disrespect. "You think this makes up for what you did? You bastard." And the financial industry sighed wearily, wondering how long this period of penury and misery and no sex whatsoever would last. For it wouldn't last, the financial industry was sure of that much. Because, like a trophy wife with a rock-solid prenup, the public didn't really have any leverage over the banks. The economy needed the industry, needed the jobs. It could not afford to just sit around being pissed.

Nor would it want to, because who can live like that? So the financial industry agreed to whatever the public wanted. It would go to rehab and counseling and live by new rules. And eventually, the public began to relax. Things started to be normal again. That is, they began to revert back to the way they were. From Bloomberg:

Five of the largest banks on Wall Street -- Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley -- increased their total headcount in the first quarter, the first three-month jump since the start of 2009, when Bank of America purchased Merrill Lynch & Co. The five banks posted combined net income of $16.2 billion in the first quarter, and three reported record fixed-income trading revenue. It was the highest combined profit for the banks since the second quarter of 2007.


This is not to say that the financial industry didn't learn anything from the past two terrible years. It did! It learned, for instance, that it doesn't need to stop behaving badly, it just needs to cover its tracks better. Like with bonuses, for instance. It's not that they're not giving them out from now on. They're just not going to be so obvious about it this time.

“There are firms that don’t have the ability to make a guarantee or are adamantly against guaranteeing compensation,” Baltic said. “Instead, they’re giving verbal guidance on what compensation may be. They’re just not tying themselves down by putting something in writing.”


Also, from now on, the financial industry will not be sexting anyone.

Wall Street Hiring Jumps Most Since 2008 as Guarantees Return [Bloomberg]