06 November 2010

The Blundering Herd

Two fine finance reporters, Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, collaborated on a Merrill Lynch-centric re-working of the story of the financial crisis of 2008, and the result appears in the November issue of Vanity Fair.

McLean has previously distinguished herself by getting the Enron story right before anyone else. She wrote "Is Enron Overpriced," which ran in FORTUNE on March 2001.

That story began with a meditation on the term "it," as in the It Girl in Hollywood talk, or "the It Stock" for Enron at the turn of the millennium. The story proceeded to this:

And the numbers that Enron does present are often extremely complicated. Even quantitatively minded Wall Streeters who scrutinize the company for a living think so. "If you figure it out, let me know," laughs credit analyst Todd Shipman at S&P. "Do you have a year?" asks Ralph Pellecchia, Fitch's credit analyst, in response to the same question.

Nocera? Well, I wrote of him in this very space quite recently and before I knew anything of his collaboration with McLean.

Anyway, you can use the first link above to click on their Vanity Fair article. Please do.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.