Leader Blues

Friday, January 16, 2009

TOP STORY > >When your Stockbroker ignores you

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor-in-chief

In some cultures, people who have betrayed others are so ashamed that in extreme cases they will end their lives for doing you wrong.

A French stockbroker who was involved with the notorious Bernard Madoff slit his own wrists in his office. A German financier who made bad bets on the stock market jumped in front of a moving train.

B. Ramalinga Raju, chairman of Satyam, an Indian outsourcing firm, after admitting to cooking the company’s books, resigned and is ready to face the consequences.

He said the fraud had grown to “unmanageable proportions.”

In India, like in other societies, you can’t lie and say you did nothing wrong, like those charlatans at Enron and WorldCom and on Wall Street.

“I am now prepared to subject myself to the laws of the land and face the consequences thereof,” Raju said, describing how he added $1 billion in fake assets to his company’s books.

“It was like riding a tiger, not knowing when to get off without being eaten,” said Raju before he was led off to prison.

While in other societies wrongdoers will apologize before they fall on their sword, here it’s business as usual. It’s partying as if we’re still in the 1990s.

But it’s too bad if your stockbroker has made himself unavailable because he won’t discuss the beating you took in the financial markets.

Most Americans have participated in the stock market, even if only through their 401Ks, and now they can’t even find their broker, who’s probably gone on a permanent vacation or faked his own death.

They could have warned their clients back in the summer that things would get worse and they should have put their money under the mattress, but no such advice was offered.

Americans hate to apologize when they do something bad. President Bush can’t think of any mistakes he may have committed while in office, other than maybe putting up that “Mission Accomplished” banner on that aircraft carrier a little prematurely.

We might apologize for ancient wrongs, like slavery, but nothing that we might have done ourselves. In Europe, stockbrokers who have let their clients down have committed suicide, and in Japan, they still commit Hara-kiri if they’ve done wrong. They still have a sense of honor there. Over here, it’s more bailout money for the thieves.

The devastation is almost unbelievable: The stock market has declined about 40 percent, wiping out about $7 trillion in assets.

The U.S. government now has stock in more than 200 banks while the fat cats still draw bonuses.

The so-called experts knew very little, except how to steal. Perhaps the Obama administration will make it a top order of business to pursue these criminals at least until the economy rebounds, which could be a very long time.