Brilliant, financially savvy minds have pondered the events that led to the credit market meltdown and wondered: How could this happen?
Here’s my take non-financial observer. My analysis comes from looking through the lens of my understanding of how human dynamics affects how things do and/or don’t get accomplished. At the risk of dating myself (again), I’m reminiscing about a parody from my childhood, Alan Sherman’s Camp Granada and his description of summer camp conflict.
“All the counselors hate the waiters And the lake has alligators” – Parody Performer Allan Sherman from Camp Granada (link to lyrics)
I don’t know if this makes me a counselor or a waiter. I admit to being one of those people who’s able to get things done despite the rules, not because of them. When I have encountered people of the opposite persuasion, I admit to occasionally losing my patience and naturally finding ways to circumvent these highly compliant, regulation loving types. I’d prefer not to work with those who I consider bottle necking naysayers. I suspect that the feelings are mutual.
And so it was with those highly educated financiers who developed a creative new product they called Credit Default Swaps. These financial instruments were designed to indemnify the shaky, shell game sub-prime mortgage products that investment bankers also created. As I understand it from the video below, Credit Default Swaps were represented to be “like” insurance policies while designed to avoid the scrutiny of the highly regulated insurance industry. Unlike insurance policies, there are no reserves created to pay the claims. Now those claims are due and taxpayers are footing the bill for this Enron Déjà Vu. So the savvy financiers avoided the scrutiny for those bottle-necking naysaying federal regulators. The rest is history.
Lessons for Rule Benders and Breakers: New Tolerance for Style Diversity
We say this about both customers and the opposite gender: Can’t live with ’em and can’t live without ’em. Now that we’ve again see what can happen when the rule breakers prevail without restraint, perhaps we should add those highly compliant rule mongers to the “can’t live without ’em” category. Wherever your sympathies might side in the ongoing case of Rule Lovers vs. Rule Breakers, try to think of it in the same light as customers vs. suppliers or men vs. women. Despite some inherent conflict, we need to improve our tolerance and understanding of each other and find ways to work together. What better example do we need than a global financial meltdown?
I heard a former regulator said that “blaming the credit crisis on Wall Street greed is like blaming gravity for a plane crash.” Like gravity, greed is ever present. In language of DISC, those rule monger High Cs play an important role in any system of checks and balances. Their value to the system should not be ignored.