Five years removed from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, our tentative economic recovery is marred by the nagging sense that nothing has really changed, that the same people who got us into this mess are still running the show, that no one has been held accountable and, as the shock wears off, that we are back to business as usual. Worryingly, while there is no shortage of answers — journalistic accounts of the financial crisis are one of the few growth areas in publishing — it remains to be seen whether we are asking the right questions. In the face of such uncertainty, it falls to writers like Aifric Campbell and Alan Glynn to take up the challenge of representing the world of finance by reducing it to human scale.
The only employee of Goldman Sachs to go to jail in the aftermath of the financial crisis was the employee Goldman Sachs wanted sent to jail, for taking something from Goldman Sachs.
The initial promise of computer technology was to remove the intermediary from the financial market, or at least reduce the amount he could scalp from that market. The reality has turned out to be a boom in financial intermediation and an estimated take for Wall Street of somewhere between $10 and $20 billion a year, depending on whose estimates you wish to believe. As high-frequency-trading firms aren’t required to disclose their profits (with the exception of public firms, like Knight, which have disclosed profits in the past), and big banks like Goldman that engage in the practice are assumed to hide their own profits on their balance sheets, no one really knows just how much money is being made. But when a single high-frequency trader is paid $75 million in cash for a single year of trading (as was Misha Malyshev in 2008, when he worked at Citadel) and then quits because he is ‘dissatisfied,’ a new beast is afoot.
Talking to a programmer type about the trading business was a bit like talking to the house plumber at work in the basement about the card game the Mafia don was running upstairs.
"Alien-themed butler trays! Shocking mergers! Bizarrely profitable weight-loss products! Yes, SkyMall's business story is as wild and wide-ranging as its offerings.”
"We are ablaze!—ablaze with excitement, burning, yearning for a glimpse of the John Jacob Astor, the Andrew Carnegie, the E.H. Harriman, the John D. Rockefeller, the Henry Ford, the Bill Gates of our century… and that’s him! Look at him! He’s not wearing Astor’s wing collar debouching a silk four-in-hand or John D.’s stiff silk topper and morning coat with a red carnation in the buttonhole of the left lapel and a pair of striped pants, nor even Bill Gates’s off-the-Joseph A. Bank—rack sack suit. No, our man is only 27 years old and attired as a tycoon of our time… His shirt is a gray T-shirt, one of the 30-some gray T-shirts he has on hand in order to make sure he is clad in the same rebelliously fashion-defying teenager garb every day… and over it, a dark-gray sweatshirt with a hood, a garment known familiarly as a hoodie. From this day, May 7, 2012, forward, the hoodie becomes his symbol, his trademark, his battle standard."
- “Eunuchs of the Universe: Tom Wolfe on Wall Street Today,” Tom Wolfe