Saturday, March 31, 2012

So, Where Have You Been?

Taking care of business, thank you for asking.  It just so happens that business took me to New York City briefly, which is always ... different.

There's a lot I could say about the city, or nothing at all.  Suffice it to say that NYC is sui generis.

I'll restrict myself to commenting on a few of my favorite things, and one of my least.

Most enjoyable meal: roast beef sandwich at the Carnegie Deli.  I love the place for its garishly opulent sandwiches, which nobody is expected to eat in one sitting.  The waitress even brought extra bread on the side to break it up into several smaller sandwiches.

Least enjoyable meal: a hamburger and fries in a bar at the Four Seasons Hotel.  It's not that the hamburger was bad; it wasn't.  It just wasn't worth $50, despite the little chrome basket in which the shoestring fries were incarcerated.  The hotel stay and service, however, more than compensated.

Favorite view this time: the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings at night from the hotel room.  Majestic.

Favorite stroll: from Columbus Circle to St. Patrick's Cathedral down 5th Avenue.  While on the topic of St. Patrick's Cathedral, it's the most beautiful Gothic structure in the US, at least that I've seen.

I love the way it's surrounded by office towers, as if to indicate that after all these centuries, millennia, the Church is still in the middle of the world, still struggling to lift everyone's sights to higher things.  Masses and confessions are plentiful throughout the day.

Teaching was enjoyable.  I gave a full day on Corporate Governance & Ethics to senior executives.

Subject matter included Citigroup from the merger between Citibank and Travelers to the financial crisis, with a special emphasis on Jack Grubman (pictured above); the Securities Analyst Settlement between various regulators and the ten largest Wall Street firms; Morgan Stanley from its merger with Dean Witter to the financial crisis, with a special emphasis on the power struggle between Phil Purcell and John Mack (pictured below, Mack on the viewer's left, Purcell on the right); and the conclusions of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which highlighted failures in corporate governance.

The Morgan Stanley story is one of my favorites for all of the twists and turns it takes before and after Mack's ousting. His triumphant return in 2005, and public abdication of responsibility in 2009 for bankers' self-control, are especially poignant.

"We cannot control ourselves," indeed.  These are the words that no free society can afford to have its businessman, or citizens, take to heart, as external control necessarily proliferates where self-control fails.


  1. Who's the first guy in the red tie?

    1. Jack Grubman, the Pied Piper of Wall Street. He was fined $15 million for fraudulent research and barred from the industry for life. Don't worry about him, though; he made $20 million per year before that.