06 January 2009

Financial crime vs. bank robbery

In another excellent posting on the New Yorker, James Surowiecki (author of Wisdom of the crowds), talks about how getting caught doing financial crime (and doing the crime itself) is inversely proportionate to how well the markets are doing. Here are excerpts:

"Along with slashed payrolls, rising foreclosures, and plummeting stock prices, 2008 brought another unwelcome development: a surge in bank robberies, which were up more than fifty per cent in New York. This wasn’t shocking: we typically expect property crimes to rise in hard economic times. There is, though, one crime against property which bucks this trend: defrauding investors. On Wall Street, fraudulent schemes tend to thrive during economic booms, and to blow up when times turn tough. While bank robbers are getting busier, the Bernard Madoffs are starting to get caught.


This culture of credulity did plenty of damage to the economy, but now it has given way to something even more corrosive; namely, endemic mistrust. Because if there’s one thing worse than too much confidence it’s not enough. Fraud impoverishes a few; fear impoverishes the many. As long as mistrust prevails, people will keeping pulling money out of the system—sometimes even at gunpoint."

Here is the full post.

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