Gustavo Ballvé on March 15th, 2012
Banks, Corporate Governance, Diversified financials, Food for thought, Home, Industries, Mental models, Portfolio Management, Risk management, Signal or Noise

A few days ago, a Goldman Sachs executive quit the company in an innovative manner: with a New York Times op-ed stating that he’s leaving because the bank’s “moral fiber” is severely damaged and the culture is one that invites conflict of interests in dealing with clients. As expected, it generated all sorts of reactions. In all very public/emotional outcries, one always has to question the many nuances and issues involved (election period, new regulations being implemented etc.) and keep one’s head cool. The point of this post is not to doubt either side’s story, nor is it to judge the behavior of banks in general before, during and after the financial crisis – we’ve already reminded our readers that there’s plenty of blame to go around for every player in that game. The point is: there are, and there always will be, conflicts of interests in all dealings in the market – some more obvious, some less so but no less relevant. Make sure you know what level of confidence you can live with when dealing with each counterparty in your business and personal dealings, and don’t depend on anyone’s “moral fiber” in all occasions. You can never know what pushes people’s buttons now and tomorrow. If you can avoid “testing” people’s limits, do it (it’s hard enough to know your own limits).

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