Friday, March 21, 2008

A Modest Proposal (Financial Services Edition)

Wow. The New York Times finally noticed today that financial services CEOs are getting off without much in the way of consequences for messing everything up. Nice of them to catch up to, oh, 1997.

Molly Ivins liked to point out that modern capitalists wanted to "privatize profit and socialize risk". I'm not sure if she coined the phrase (which the NY Times Editorial Board sort of uses, but not quite) but she's the first person I first saw use it.

My Modest Proposal for fixing the insanely eff'd up incentives here ("let's take crazy risks with other people's money -- if we win, we're rich, if we lose, the Fed will bail us out" -- see also moral hazard) is this:

If the Federal Reserve or some Governmental Body bails out any company, then the CEO, President, CFO, Board of Directors, etc. (everyone who is listed in a 10-K filing) immediately forfeits all income, savings, property (which will be put toward paying off shareholders) and must file for personal bankruptcy. Without the help of any lawyers.

I think that'd be a strong dis-incentive to eff up the company and then beg for mercy at the public trough, don't you?

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