The FT quotes Peer SteinbrÃ¼ck, Germany’s finance minister:
The â€œsnootyâ€ attitude of bankers and financiers who thought they were cleverer than everyone else is largely to blame for the global credit squeeze â€œdisasterâ€,
Ouch! These remarks come hot on the heels of reports that IKB has been bailed out to the tune of some $9bn. On the BBC, commentators were saying that IKB had stepped way outside its core business of lending to mid-size German companies by investing in securtized loans whose assets turn out to be a bunch of dodgy suprime mortgages. The words ‘greed’ and ‘transparency’ were liberally sprayed around.
On BBC TV, reporters were blaming the fact that many of these transactions are opaque and that as a result it is almost impossible to say where the next banking crisis will pop up. Some estimates put total global exposure at $500bn. This issue dovetails directly to the matter of geographic reporting and the fact there isn’t a workable accounting standard in place. Right now you can’t really tell where a global company is earning its corn (and paying its taxes) unless that company makes a positive decision to reveal the appropriate information.
As these tales of financial woe start to unravel, the very opaqueness with which companies traverse the globe, schlepping assets around for both greed and financial engineering purposes, it seems that sooner or later it comes back to bite them in the derriere.
I smell change in the air. The question is: will the profession recognize it as an opportunity to get real about transparency and ethics?