Bill Black Slams New York Times for Wink and Nod Endorsement of Criminal Conduct

Bill Black is so steamed about a recent New York Times story on the indictment of former partners of the failed law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf that he’s written two posts about it.

The title of the article telegraphs the reason for his ire: 4 Accused in Law Firm Fraud Ignored a Maxim: Don’t Email.

Thus, the big message of the piece that Dewey & LeBoeuf got caught because they were dumb crooks. And as Black stresses, the story is more perplexed by than critical of their behavior. Worse, its opening paragraph states that covering up misconduct, including criminality, is a normal part of a lawyer’s job:

Several former leaders of the once-high-flying law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf apparently violated a cardinal rule that lawyers always tell their clients: Don’t put anything incriminating into an email.

As Black argues:

The lead sets the bemused tone of the article. The article’s hook is the ironic failure of top lawyers to follow their own advice that they purportedly “always tell their clients” on how to commit fraud with impunity by ensuring that there is no paper (or electronic) trail of “incriminating” evidence of their crime. The “crim” root of the word “incriminating” comes from the Latin word for “crime.” The word “incriminating” means that it provides evidence that one has committed a crime.

What the Deal Book describes as corporate lawyers’ “cardinal rule” is clearly unethical and often a crime. A corporate lawyer who counsels a “client” on how to commit a crime without being prosecuted by using fraud mechanisms that prevent the FBI from finding the “incriminating” evidence establishing the crime has made himself a co-conspirator who is aiding and abetting the fraud. The lawyer has also breached his legal ethical duties and his duties to the client. This is an area with which I have particular experience. I was an attorney at a large law firm and the general counsel of a very large bank. In my regulatory capacity I brought cases and made criminal referrals against several prominent law firms and their partners.

If Deal Book were correct in its purported statement of our “cardinal rule” as corporate counsel, then Deal Book had the financial news scoop of the decade. It should have written a series of articles as soon as it discovered the purported “cardinal rule.”

Now someone might argue that the piece eventually treats the alleged crimes as serious. It does state that the e-mails are “the kind of rogue language that one might expect to find in emails unearthed during a corporate fraud case from the Enron era” but that again simply underscored the “dumb crooks” thesis: a savvy law firm should know not to leave a paper or digital trail of its foul deeds.

One could also argue that Black is unduly exercised, and here I disagree. The rise in corruption in the American elites is due in part to the media giving it a free pass. And that comes about not just via Big Lie declarations that the press parrots uncritically (like Jamie Dimon’s defenses of JP Morgan’s conduct during the London Whale scandal, and their lack of interest in potentially criminal Sarbanes Oxley violation) but via the faux sophistication of “nothing to see here, everyone does it.”

Recall, when billionaire Tom Perkins, after ludicrously comparing the occasional criticism of super rich men like him to Kristallnacht, then doubled down by later arguing that voting rights should be based on wealth levels. Some people treated that remark as a sign that Perkins was insanely out of touch, and Perkins said his suggestion was just a joke.

But one astute reader figured out what Perkins was really up to: that injecting an otherwise unacceptable idea into the discourse, even by pretending to diminish it (claiming it wan’t a serious idea) still legitimates it. Get the otherwise toxic notion enough of an airing, and suddenly it becomes a legitimate subject for discussion.

And here is the real value of DealBook to its backers and advertisers, pretty much all of which hail from the financial services industry. It isn’t simply that DealBook can be relied upon to give the most industry-favoring gloss possible to news on its beat. It is that it also over time undermines what little is left of the old norms of propriety that a mere couple of generations ago were important curbs on bad conduct (being ostracized by many people in your social circle, which is what used to take place, was a very serious punishment. What good is being rich and successful if you get no respect?). And mind you, it does so by taking advantage of the imprimatur of the New York Times, which makes these declarations about norms seem even more authoritative.

As former Lehman Brothers partner* Michael M. Thomas said, the New York Times was over as an institution when Punch Salzberger joined the board of the Met in the early 1980s. That meant he had to do fundraising. As Thomas tartly deserved, “He had to dine with people he should have been dining on.”

So a great paper was sold out for the personal ambitions of its publisher. The erosion has been slow but still noticeable for those paying attention. But so many have become insensitive to this and other evidence of social decay that clear cases like the Dewey & LeBoeuf article don’t attract the attention they warrant.

___

* This was long before the Dick Fuld era, when pound for pound, Lehman had the best investment bankers on the Street.

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64 comments

  1. JGordon

    “One could also argue that Black is unduly exercised, and here I disagree. The rise in corruption in the American elites is due in part to the media giving it a free pass.”

    The media in America gives the elites a free pass because in one form or another the elites own the media. Just as the elites own the political system, judiciary and Big Business. This is true for most other places on the planet as well.

    In all likelihood, it is probably impossible to have a complex societal system that is not controlled by the elites. Therefore any progress towards decentralizing political and economic systems is progress towards depowering the sociopaths who operate these systems.

    I view things like advocating for gun control legislation and centralized fiat money systems (just to pick two random examples) as advocating for the empowerment of elites and de facto endorsement of their activities. It’s really impossible to untangle your favored methods/reasons for exerting control over other people from the methods elite sociopaths will also be using.

    1. OMF

      In all likelihood, it is probably impossible to have a complex societal system that is not controlled by the elites. Therefore any progress towards decentralizing political and economic systems is progress towards depowering the sociopaths who operate these systems.

      Too fatalistic; it all depends on how you define “elites”.

      If you define elites — as some would like to do — as people who are good at their job, then it may seem like an impossibility. But if you instead define an elite, as most now are, as someone is is good at getting into their job, then the situation changes markedly.

      Our present “eliites” (I prefer the term ascendancy) are very, very good at getting into important positions from which they exert much control over institutions and even society. However, out elites are actually pretty terrible at their jobs. Even if one accepts corruption as part of their task — I don’t — their performance at simple holding the ship together or even afloat is abysmal. They have both moral and competency issues which warrant their immediate removal. The final difficulty with our elites is that they are notoriously difficult to dislodge.

      One way of solving this problem si to instutite a permanent and regimented set of open examinations for entry into and maintenance of position in the civil service. While thse can be gamed too, I think exams are far less gameble than the system of networking which constitutes the main method of entry nowadays.

      1. hunkerdown

        Even if one accepts corruption as part of their task — I don’t — their performance at simple holding the ship together or even afloat is abysmal.

        But whose vision of “their task” is to prevail? Maybe, to them, holding the ship together *for everyone* isn’t part of their task. I mean, what’s their incentive to do so, once it’s been looted? What if they’re getting as tired of having numbers mediating their agency as we are and just want the damn divine right of lords already?

        One way of solving this problem si to instutite a permanent and regimented set of open examinations for entry into and maintenance of position in the civil service. While thse can be gamed too, I think exams are far less gameble than the system of networking which constitutes the main method of entry nowadays.

        Lotteries can’t quite as easily be gamed, at least not without leaving evidence. Besides, those who *want* the position are historically those least equipped to do it well.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Criminality filters down from the top.

      Pervasive NSA spying means that nothing sensitive should be put in emails — not to hide criminality, but to deter official thievery.

      Fight crime with crime.

  2. Ben Johannson

    Yeah, elites were like, soooooooo in their place when we had the gold standard. Gee, if only we get rid of government, those elite dudes will be living in 2500 square-foot homes and eating at Zaxby’s.

    Do you really think people don’t know you’re a right-libertarian?

    1. skippy

      Probably not, which begs the question, why not just come straight out about it and dependence with all the subterfuge.

    2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      All that fin de siècle stuff about Free Silver and “Cross of Gold” has been utterly forgotten, hasn’t it? Williams Jenning Bryan labored in vain. As did Jesus and all the rest of them.

    3. hunkerdown

      What matters is what he writes, not the state of his soul. That romantic onanism is a good chunk of why we’re in this mess.

  3. big ed

    I haven’t chimed in here before, but Bill Black is being disingenuous. Old Ambrose Bierce defined lawyer as ‘one skilled in evading the law’. Does Black really think these overdressed white shoe mouthpieces get the big bucks for counseling on compliance? If he thinks they ever did, that the ‘old days’ were better, he doesn’t know much history. And Black is upset about the lack of standards in the New York Times? The NYT is entertainment wrapped around advertising. If any news appears there it is first sprayed with Lysol. As for Michael M Thomas, he is just upset about his class being pushed aside on Wall Street by a bunch of arrivistes.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You must be under 40. There really was such a thing as standards and propriety not all that long ago and big firm lawyers were vastly more careful. That is why Black is angry. The Times has been one of the forces that has helped grease the skids of the decline of what passes for our elites. Your ire is really uninformed.

      And the Times was a much better paper too. There really was a time (and I remember it) when it didn’t have all those lifestyle sections, and the coverage was a hell of a lot better too.

      1. big ed

        I wish I was under forty (and fifty). My ire is informed by considerable experience in the world of big time law, when the sharks wore thousand dollar suits and before they wore yellow ties. I am afraid you are taking bar association rectitude too seriously. Do you remember the National Student Marketing case? It was 1970. I forget which high and mighty firm was involved. One of the household names.

        1. James Levy

          My father got a job as a page boy in 1940 at Banker’s Trust. After Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for the Navy and when he got back in November of 1945 went back to work at Banker’s Trust. He worked his way up the ladder without benefit of a college education, bought a house in the suburbs, and sent three boys to college. The idea that he or most of the men and women he worked with in retail banking were connivers or crooks is a base calumny and totally false. They were men (and a few women) who valued caution, sobriety, and only ever heard about the “bottom line” (as opposed to giving excellent service to their clients) in the late 1970s, and they found the new attitude troubling and demoralizing. Between 1980 and 1985 they all cashed in their chips and retired rather than conform to the new ethos.

          It’s easy to be cynical. But although crooked practices have always existed, there was a time when they were exercised by a minority and many people didn’t dare cross certain lines because it simply was not done. Crooked practices are like CEO pay, a manifestation of a generational shift and a gradual realization that such behavior will not be punished or lead to ostracism. The fact that the media doesn’t call for the punishment of these people or assail the culture that winks and nods at this behavior abets the process of debasement of our society. It is not a joke.

            1. Trent

              Soooo it’s all the baby boomers fault? Seeing that they came into prime earning years in the 80’s? Fraud and crime is generally learned, who did they learn from?

          1. big ed

            I was talking about law, but banking began changing in the Sixties. David Rockefeller and Walter Wriston were the principal architects. A fish rots from the head.

          2. Lord Koos

            There was also a time when both bankruptcy and divorced were considered shameful. Unfortunately in another 10-15 years there will be few left who can recall anything but corruption.

      2. OMF

        When did the slide begin? I’m unclear on this point. I could name a range of dates from the Nixon ear to Clinton, but the source of the decline is not clear to me. (At times, I suspect that it is the result of the 1960 “counter culture” movement. I note that many former hippies and beatniks are now running the world and it has made me question the sincerity of the original motives.)

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Erosions like this are gradual.

          And I’ve also noticed that strategically placed people with bad intent can do remarkable damage. I can tell the story long form, but you can attribute the conversion of the ratings agencies from sleepy quasi academic organizations where the staff took pride in its work to the current corrupt, profit-driven bank enablers to one guy. One. Similarly, look at all the damage Bob Rubin has done. Oh, and Rubin was most assuredly not part of the 60s generation rebellion, he’s too old for that. Born 1938.

          1. annie

            i love that bob rubin’s daughter-in-law (wife of son jamie who collected obama’s first finance cabinet), gretchen rubin, has a blog called ‘the happiness project’ as well as two (more?) best-sellers on, i guess (not having read them), the art of achieving…happiness. the old ‘born on third base’ syndrome.

      3. DolleyMadison

        THANK YOU. Sick of folks pretending that “everyone does it and always has.” Yes there have always been crooks but they were not aided and abetted by the three branches of government AND by the “4th estate” as they are now. The editor of the Charlotte Observer became incensed when I suggested that he had abidicated the papers role of societal conscious but in fact, all newspapers have. The sad thing is they aren’t even “in on” the looting…they kow tow to these sociopaths just to be in the “in crowd.” Its repulsive. To add insult to injury, I sit behind his smug head every Sunday in Church and then watch the MINISTER kiss his butt and all the other investment banker types as they file out into the recessional line because, alas, even the CHURCH has dropped all pretense of morality.

      4. Robert Sadin

        I wonder about those good old corporate days.
        I don’t know as much about the banks….but—
        the cigarette companies, the drug companies (Thalidomide), the car companies (unsafe at any speed) the chemical companies (silent spring). JP Manville, Love Canal, Agent Orange.

        What standards of propriety were they upholding?

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          You make a perfectly valid point and your skepticism is legitimate. It illustrates how difficult it is to put one’s finger on the exact difference between today and back then. Corruption did exist. People with few or no scruples were in high places. Companies sold poison to adults and children alike. Government spied on it’s citizens. Wars were waged for vile reasons. And yet it was different. Perhaps it’s the pervasiveness of it today, the corruption I mean; in every institution, from the legislative to the executive, from the legal to the complicity of the ‘fourth estate’. I don’t know, but the difference is real.

          1. big ed

            I think the main difference is in the identity of today’s victims. They tend to be outspoken, more articulate, more middle class. And today’s business and professional hoods are more brazen, flashy. The stock exchange was a den of thieves in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties. But it was run as a club for the benefit of the members. With the advent of real competition for institutional business the white gloves came off. Scions of the old line firms were left in the dust. That, IMHO, is Michael M. Thomas’s complaint in his novel, Hanover Place. I’m generalizing here, but you get the idea.

              1. Trent

                Prediction: Without a cheap supply of energy to replace oil, slavery makes a comeback in developed countries

                1. hunkerdown

                  With the energy of 38000 slave-days of labor in every gallon of petrol, I wouldn’t bet against it.

          2. hunkerdown

            If there were only one (and I’m not convinced there was), “Action at a distance”. Instantaneous, basically secure communications and millions of computations per second, for example, make for a great force multiplier.

            The other thing, I think, is the shrinking of the sphere of acceptable recourse. One can scarcely talk about physically tarring and feathering an elected official without people shushing one and/or a note in one’s FBI file.

            Combine all that and more with way too many jobs for ex-officials inside the Beltway, and there’s really no reason whatsoever to expect recourse against elitist assholes when they’ve got a one-way trip to Washington and can’t be fired by us without their consent.

        2. Jess

          Yes, but as Yves has pointed out, in those days there was still outrage and penalties and corrective legislation and at least some enforcement. Hell, Nixon was hounded from office over things now seen — correctly — as far less egregious and damaging as what Bush 43 and Bush 44 (Zero) have done with impunity. (Impunity? Hell, now they often get praise!)

      5. MaroonBulldog

        Big Law is dominated by big egos who are led into temptations by big money. To get the big money, they have to serve the interests of persons who can hand it over to them. Thus they have to learn to see the world from those clients’ point of view. And over time, Big Law lawyers will adopt the ethics of those clients.

        Lawyers are licensed and disciplined to serve as professional fiduciaries. State bars are regulatory consumer protection agencies designed to protect individual clients from overreaching by unethical small-time lawyers. Lawyers who operate honestly within the limits of their licenses and state bar regulations may be able to make a middle class living, if they have business acumen and a little luck, but they are not likely to grow very rich at it. Few or none of them will command the CEO-like compensation that Big Law partners demand.

        State bars seldom bother Big Law. By design, they aren’t financed or staffedto take Big Law on, rather they are left to rationalize that Big Law’s Big Clients are Big Enough to Take Care of themselves.

        Is it any wonder there’s a problem?

        1. big ed

          Big firms are now loose collections of powerful partners controlling the business of important clients. The partners always have one foot out the door looking for a better offer at another firm. Conversely, a partner losing the business of an important client can suddenly find himself on the street. The firms gobble up one another, and the firm history of Dewey & LeBoeuf was a case in point. I don’t think the lawyers are so much more unethical today, but they are much less secure in their privileged position.

          They now all seem to act like Finley Kumble, which was thirty years ahead of its time until it exploded in the late Eighties.

    2. Larry Headlund

      Ambrose Bierce was being both shocking and funny with that remark. It was in The Devil’s Dictionary after all. If it really was common and accepted behavior for lawyers then the definition would be neither shocking nor funny.

      Would you dismiss a NYT endorsement of Celtic infantiphage by noting that Jonathon Swift was all for it?

        1. James Levy

          He was exaggerating for effect. And getting around the law is different in kind and degree from blatantly breaking it. I don’t like sharp practices but the system allows for them. Deliberately breaking a law with malice aforethought is another matter entirely. And joking about destroying evidence of deliberately breaking the law is reprehensible.

        2. Larry Headlund

          He was commiting satire. Which is different from ‘just kidding’. It is also different from plain observation. And it seems it can be too subtle for some people.

      1. Winston Smith

        In honor of Bill Black, here is another example of shifting mores reflected in shifting perceptions of humor. It used to be funny to say “a banker is someone who will lend you money provided you can prove you don’t need to borrow it”. That this used to funny goes a long way toward explaining why in the housing bubble leading to the GFC people would accept loans they couldn’t afford — the banker’s willingness to lend was perceived as having the credibility of a declaration against interest.

        The modern version would have to be something like “a banker is someone who will lend you money provided his perception of the enforcement climate is such that he believes that even if the teacher’s pension fund he sloughs the loan off on proves he knew you couldn’t pay the loan back, he still won’t go to jail but will only pay a penalty representing a fraction of his ill gotten gains and will incur no loss in social standing because This American Life can be counted on to portray him as the victim of a giant pool of money on one side and deadbeat borrowers on the other.”

        Improvements welcome. Bonus points for working in cat food.

  4. Arnold Lockshin

    Black is a good guy and he’s definitely trying.
    But the very system is crooked to the core. Wailing won’t do the trick
    Real correction would start with the Federal Reserve, a closed private corporation entirely owned by the banksters. When that happens, wake me up.

    Arnold Lockshin, political exile from the US living in Moscow

    1. diptherio

      Sounds like a pretty defeatist attitude to me. Nothing difficult ever gets done without people making a stink about the problems. I’m sure there were times when ending segregation seemed like an awful long shot, too.

      1. DolleyMadison

        True, but the way we used to “make a stink” was via a free press. Even that is gone now…

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Exactly! The MSM is hugely responsible. It’s the extent of the corruption, the depth and pervasiveness of it in virtually all institutions, that is so difficult to grasp, and if grasped, to keep in mind.

  5. Chauncey Gardiner

    Re: … “It is that it also over time undermines what little is left of the old norms of propriety that a mere couple of generations ago were important curbs on bad conduct (being ostracized by many people in your social circle, which is what used to take place, was a very serious punishment…”)

    Maybe the pendulum of acceptable social norms is beginning to swing back. Based on article posted on former Reagan OMB Director David Stockman’s blog, appears to me that Puerto Rico and its current bondholders are “being Greece’d”:

    Has “all the magic”: Priority under NYS law for new bondholders in event of default (which would likely be beyond any preference period). “Extends & Pretends” until current administration is past 2016 pull date. Template for other U.S. jurisdictions? And, of course, huge up-front fees:
    http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/2014/03/10/wall-street-to-the-rescue/
    Particular elements are to me depressing to see at this late stage; but maybe there’s some upside in that perhaps some of the lights are being directed by those who know and evidently care.

  6. OMF

    The Times is basically offering public advice to would-be fraudsters. This is absolutely promotion of public indecency and the Times should be held to account over it.

  7. Doug Terpstra

    Bill Black can forget about his cushy sinecure as NYT columnist a la Paul Krugman. And no fat retainer as MSDNC consultant either. No milk baths or caviar facials pour vous, Bill.

    1. hunkerdown

      See what happens when there isn’t enough time outside of the workday to develop a social life? One starts living out one’s social life through work.

      I wonder if the length of the standard professional workday (permanent) isn’t part of what drove the “personalization of the bureaucracy” at the bottom end.

  8. Chauncey Gardiner

    NY Times, other mainstream media outlets, and those who have engaged in the types of conduct discussed here by Yves and Bill Black might consider this graphic of how the Millennials feel about the subject behavior (h/t Barry Ritholtz). Politics have a way of reflecting the demographics, will and values of a society despite the best-laid plans of mice and men:
    http://a.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/inline-large/inline/2014/03/3027197-inline-millennial-index-banks-2.jpg

  9. Brooklin Bridge


    And here is the real value of DealBook to its backers and advertisers, pretty much all of which hail from the financial services industry. It isn’t simply that DealBook can be relied upon to give the most industry-favoring gloss possible to news on its beat. It is that it also over time undermines what little is left of the old norms of propriety that a mere couple of generations ago were important curbs on bad conduct

    This puts one’s finger on it so nicely! To me, it ties in with your article some time ago about a sea-change that can be felt by most but which is nonetheless subtle like sensing a shift in a massive weather pattern. In this case an ugly change that happened so gradually as to take most everyone by considerable surprise when the “sense of it” could no longer be ignored. It’s not that there were not crooked lawyers back then, it’s that there was a subtle but very significant difference in the outlook of “reputable firms” and the lawyers within.

    The wrongness of torture is another example. It’s not that torture didn’t exist back then nor that it wasn’t surreptitiously practiced by agents of state (though it was rare and viewed as wrong/extreme even by the practitioners), but rather it was again an unspoken but very generally shared sense that the use of torture distinguished a non civilized society from a civilized one. The Bridge Over The River Kwai was made around that theme and was hugely popular precisely because of it. The argument about whether or not torture was effective would have been grotesque and embarrassing.

    Of course the list goes on and on. It would have been unthinkable back then for anyone, much less a sitting American President to kill an American citizens with no highly formal judicial review. Presidents couldn’t make up the rules as they went along and DOJ’s were not simply extensions of Presidential whim. Again, it was an attitude deeply felt at most levels of society, not an iron clad rule of behavior (examples of Presidents killing American citizens right and left by whim will no doubt be forthcoming – but uncovered, they would have been major scandals back then, not occasions for collective public yawns).

    To me it is both remarkable and inspiring that Mr. Black would go after this reporter and that main stream propaganda complicit rag with its exasperatingly tenacious “reputation” with the same fresh sense of indigence as if fifty years of decline and slime had never occurred. And he is not entirely alone. There are still firms that -by in large- share Bill Black’s views on ethical corporate behavior. But as Yves has pointed out, it is becoming harder and harder to be both ethical and successful, not just in business success, but in social circles as well.

    1. JTFaraday

      “To me it is both remarkable and inspiring that Mr. Black would go after this reporter and that main stream propaganda complicit rag”

      Really? I can never get excited about it. I always think of it as BB reduced to sniping at journalists. Isn’t that what bloggers are for?

      It also must remind me of “The Bobs,” Reich and Kuttner. I really did appreciate the way that Reich came out and relayed to the public what it was like to become marginalized within the Clinton Administration as Labor Secretary while Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan worked over Billy Jeff, making deregulation worth his while.

      Reich really did make the deals in back rooms aspect of this palpable. I wish I could google the essay I read and find it, but I can’t.

      I think Reich eventually resigned, tattled on the Administration– which probably didn’t do much for his “revolving door” resume or his bid to work for Obama– and now The Bobs publicly mope and whine on a regular basis, and then turn around and railroad everyone into voting D when the time comes. It’s their appointed role.

      I keep thinking that’s about where Bill Black is on the road to collective defeat.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Fair enough, but It’s the fact that he is “steamed” that gets my admiration. And the fact that he goes after journalists, and doesn’t stop, particularly if he is reduced to it, if it’s drudgery. I would be curious to hear from Yves just how much of this blogging exercise is drudgery. I imagine a whole lot. Yves could chuck it and go for the gold. So could Mr. Black.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Interesting comments about Reich. I believe he is somewhat of a mixed bag yet I also found him more interesting than many/most of the other guest pundits I saw when I used to watch the cable-lies.

          I could be wrong, but I don’t believe Bill Black tries to rope anyone into voting Democrat. Do you have any source for that or were you only referring to the “Bobs”?

        2. JTFaraday

          It’s not that it’s drudgery. And there are people who “like to write,” and it’s a choice. It’s that it’s a sign of involuntary institutional marginalization by someone, Black, who used to have a position of (at least some) institutional power and wanted someone to have that power again.

          I also don’t think Black has much of a support system. He seems to be immediately surrounded by people who seem to be not particularly exercised by what the financial sector has gotten away with in the years since the Clinton era incident I cited above– so long as the fiscal policy is brought in line to keep the economy chugging along. Like this is some normal Lord Keynesian fiscal adjustment.

          Indeed, some of these people go apesh*t spastic if you say anything they construe to be “bad” about the government at all. Frankly, I think that kind of bid for normality and re-legitimization of a thoroughly corrupted government in the wake of something like this is not the right thing to do.

          It is going to be very difficult to try to raise the bar again from here.

          I do think that the public was cleverly led by the criminal class to change the subject from what they themselves did to the deficit, whereupon the criminal class effectively layed the crisis they themselves created off on the public. This also very cleverly maximized cultural fault lines amongst the public, which has primarily been fighting with itself ever since.

          For awhile Black himself was even on that same– already deafening– anti-deficit beat, which is not his beat. His beat is the crime beat.

          So, okay, I’ll give you that much. It is preferable to see Black on the crime beat. But it also seems a little late now, by design.

          Thus, my reference to The Bobs and the road to collective defeat.

    2. Ed S.

      it is becoming harder and harder to be both ethical and successful, not just in business success, but in social circles as well.

      In 1960 (or 70 or even 80) an individual whose fortune was gained unethically or through borderline fraud would be acknowledged but left in societal purgatory; today society explains away their behavior as “savvy” and salivates over their pile.

      The tenor of the NYT article that BB wrote about: it’s how STUPID the lawyers were to email their plans for fraud. No sense of outrage about the fraud in the article (indeed, it has the tone of a “bunch of guys just trying to keep their heads above water in these tough economic times).

  10. Gentlemutt

    The journalist who wrote this piece deserves proper credit for his role in the NY Times’ greasy machine. Wonder who wrote the headline — Andrew Sorkin?

    4 Accused in Law Firm Fraud Ignored a Maxim: Don’t Email
    By MATTHEW GOLDSTEIN

  11. McWatt

    Please don’t forget Bill Black is never wrong. He only speaks on those things he knows about and has extensive experience in. Some of you seem too upset about Bill’s passion for what he knows about.

    I, for one, find Bill’s passion on the page entirely refreshing and needed in a passionless government and banking sector.

    Long live the Professor!

    “Catch-22 says they can do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”

  12. narayankpl

    This is a classic case of you are a thief ONLY if you are caught! So NYT is effectively saying stealing is legitimate as long as you can do it without being caught. Like our banksters! With this standard it is no wonder that banksters and lawyers are the ones laughing all the way to the bank. Banksters steal without getting caught and even if they get caught they pay off a percent of the loot as fine and move on with the aid of the lawyer who in turn gets a bigger percent of the loot. This is a hallmark of a decadent society that revers accumulation of wealth to the exclusion of everything else including how it is made, does not punish scamsters (jail term for banksters for what they did ?), does not hold regulators responsible for any debacle (rather they are prematurely praised for having saved us from the debacle they had created), where regulators and overseers are hand-in-glove with the actors they are supposed to regulate/oversee and lobbying is treated as a competitive advantage. As Jawarharlal Nehru said if character is lost everything is lost. A complete cleansing is in order and that it would happen would be wishful thinking!

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