The scene that intrigued me the most, was when Henry Paulsen invited all the CEO’s of the big banks to come together and meet at a round table to try and save Lehman Brothers. That room was full of people who together controlled a ridiculous sum of money. Yet, all I kept thinking about was how they are just human beings weighing their options and trying to make decisions that are either best for their companies, themselves or both. The CEO’s in the room included: John Mack (Morgan Stanley), John Thain (Merrill Lynch), Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan), Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs), and Vikram Pandit (Citigroup).
I will now try to write a dialogue as if I was at this round table discussion, and had the undivided attention of these CEO’s.
Justin: Although it does not mention the greater economy and society as one of your goals/concerns on your mission statement, when making decisions for your company, do you weigh the implications that your actions have on society as a whole?
Jamie Dimon: (This an actual quote from their website) “We have always been deeply committed to being good corporate citizens. It is an essential part of what we do-and who we are-as a firm.”
Vikram Pandit: “Citi works tirelessly to serve individuals, communities, institutions and nations. With 200 years of experience meeting the world’s toughest challenges and seizing its greatest opportunities, we strive to create the best outcomes for our clients and customers with financial solutions that are simple, creative and responsible. ”
I would expect cookie cutter answers like the above from all of the CEO’s, which is to be expected with such an important reputation at stake. Unfortunately, I feel that it would be almost impossible for someone outside of the company to get a truthful answer about the true priorities of these giant corporations. The sad part is that almost all of the above companies practiced shareholderism, which can be directly linked to our economy’s decline around 2008. If these companies, especially Lehman Brothers and Dick Fuld (who was not present in this scene), had taken more social responsibility and looked at the bigger picture from the beginning, this disaster may have been avoided. But, in the end thousands of people had to lose their jobs, and thousands more lost millions and billions of dollars.
Me: How often do you all, being the heads of giant wealthy corporations communicate with each other than regarding direct business deals? Do you think this is enough?
Lloyd Blankfein: We communicate when it is necessary we are all very busy people.
John Mack: It is not my job to keep track of what Citigroup or Freddie Mac is doing on a day to day basis, I have my own business to run, with thousands of people depending on me.
I would expect defensive answers like the above from the CEO’s. I would assume that they do not talk about the bigger picture with each other in regards to the economy. Yet, I believe that this is part of the responsibility as financial tycoons. They have the ability to affect so many American and even global lives, that I think they should be held responsible for more than just their business as an entity. They should be held accountable for how they effect the community as a whole.