This video from the USA says about itself:
Dec 13, 2012
DemocracyNow.org – The banking giant HSBC has escaped indictment for laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and groups linked to al-Qaeda. Despite evidence of wrongdoing, the U.S. Department of Justice has allowed the bank to avoid prosecution and pay a $1.9 billion fine. No top HSBC officials will face charges, either.
We’re joined by Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Matt Taibbi, author of “Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History.” “You can do real time in jail in America for all kinds of ridiculous offenses,” Taibbi says. “Here we have a bank that laundered $800 million dollars of drug money and they can’t find a way to put anybody in jail for that? That sends an incredible message, not just to the financial sector, but to everybody. It’s an obvious, clear double standard where one set of people gets to break the rules as much as they want and another set of people can’t break any rules at all without going to jail.”
‘It’s a proto-fascist ideology. Top bankers as predators and us as prey’
Nyla Nox worked in the graphics department of a major bank and talks of the abusive survival-of-the-fittest culture. Share your experiences in the thread below.
Are top investment banks “deliberate social Darwinist systems”? Quite a few interviewees on this blog have described investment banks as abusive environments. But they seem to consider this an outcome, not an act of design. Today’s interviewee thinks it’s deliberate. She goes by the name of Nyla Nox and for seven years, under a different name, she worked the “graveyard shift” (midnight-8am) in the graphics department of two major banks, one of which she refers to as “the most successful bank in the universe”. She says:
“It took me a while to figure this out but when [bankers] say ‘leader’ they mean ‘predator’. Senior bankers called themselves ‘top predators’, like sharks or lions. This made junior bankers the dogs, very afraid of them while fighting for dominance within their own group. We were prey.”
Nyla has an advanced degree in the humanities, as had many others in the graphics department (a design and layout job where you turn texts and figures supplied by bankers into documents with graphics). Applying her training to what she saw for seven years, she says:
“I don’t say this lightly but it is a proto-fascist ideology. This idea ‘I am the superior species’ and you, being losers, deserve to be brutalised. But by calling it ‘leadership’ they decouple the ideology from racism and sexism. It’s simply the ‘best and brightest’ and the rest of us are inferior. Have lunch or be lunch. And they’re so open about it! Not being successful is your own fault. It’s a super-Calvinist universe. Americans believed it the most.”
When Nyla got in touch with me, she wrote:
“Even in your interviews the banks seem too glamorous, home to the ‘best and brightest’. I closely observed thousands of bankers when they weren’t trying to sell themselves. Is it impossible to speak the truth or to believe it?”
At the time this struck me as perhaps extreme, but reading her experiences perhaps she did see the beast in the eye:
“Have you heard about ‘the cull’? It applies to everyone at the bank, including support functions, contractors, secretaries, etc. Up to 25% of staff is laid off every year, regardless of circumstances. ‘Weed out the weakest so the strong can lead.’ There we were, four colleagues sitting in a row, and I’d count: when the cull comes, one of us will go. Who?”
Now you may think that this is how a meritocracy works. But then listen to this:
“About every three months and without warning or preparation we’d be taken to the basement for a test: ‘best practice’ rules and skills. The test result sorted us into four groups. When the cull came we’d expect group 4 to be fired but often people from group 1 or 2 would go instead. People were scared for months because they were in group 4 … I saw many good operators being fired while less successful ones stayed on, so it clearly wasn’t about performance.”
So what was it about? Brutalising the effectively defenceless as part of a survival of the fittest culture? Read the full interview here for more context as well as many other goodies, for instance the contrast between how mega-banks present themselves to the outside world, and what goes on in its bowels.
There is also shocking stuff about the scope for insider trading: “I saw more secrets in a month than most bankers in a lifetime: upcoming deals, trade flows, projections, takeovers. I could have sold it all.”
And about incompetence at the most successful bank in the universe:
“Much of the astronomically expensive specialist ‘advice’ was copied from existing books for other clients. How do I know? Because in spite of the 300 revisions they had failed to replace all the names! Frequently they’d lift stuff straight from the client company’s own publications. I often saw emails going round – ‘stop feeding clients their own material’.”
• Nyla Nox will be answering your questions and comments in the comment thread below. It would be particularly interesting if readers working in support functions in mega-banks could talk about their experiences regarding the alleged culture of social Darwinism.
• This banking blog features interviews with more than 90 insiders across the world of finance. Here is a guide to help you find your way. For insiders there is this index of interviewees ranked by activity.
• This young former investment banker echoes Nyla’s points when she explains the reasons for leaving her job: “It’s not the long hours, though these are terrible. What got to me was the artificial stress.”
This senior equity sales banker has well over a decade of experience in a top bank: “The sector suffers from pervasive human capital destruction.”
Man Who Scrawled Chalk Protests on Sidewalk Against Big Banks Faces Possible Prison: here.
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