Financial Executives Discover Computing Technology

I haven’t had any particular insights to add to the fun around the Valukas report regarding the impressively mismanaged firm formerly known as Lehman Brothers Holdings, so I’ve been content reading other’s pieces and letting the chips fall where they may. I do admit to having a bit of sympathy for some of the former Lehman staff as they do have a point about there not being anything particularly unique to Lehman. We’re confronted with a systemic problem, not ‘a few bad apples’, to borrow a phrase often employed elsewhere. A similar report on The Goldman Sachs Group would likely yield even more fun than the 2,200 page expose on Lehman. I haven’t heard anyone explain with anything approaching clarity or coherence why Citigroup is still in business.

But having said that small caveat, obviously, the mismanagement team from Dick Fuld on down are complete nincompoops. Actually, that’s probably unfair to fools. They’re thieves, leaching off the real economy to take whatever they can get away with.

And sometimes the most fun ways of seeing that are little side-hand remarks meant to be sloughed off and forgotten after the moment has passed.

I was reading some commentary at the New York Observer from a couple weeks ago and this gem jumped out at me:

MR. FULD’S LAWYER, Patricia Hynes, has said he didn’t know about Repo 105. As for presentations about it that were emailed to his office before an executive committee meeting, she explained that he doesn’t use a computer, and isn’t able to open attachments on his BlackBerry.

Now, Repo 105 is the big accounting frou-frou garnering the headlines. It’s the classic tension between ‘everybody’s doing it’ and, well, um, being purposefully deceptive and misleading in statements made by a business that chose to incorporate as a public company to gain the benefits of limited liability rather than being, say, a private partnership where liability is not limited.

But I’m really fascinated by something else. In case your eyes don’t capture the same information mine do, let me highlight a snippet:

MR. FULD…doesn’t use a computer

That is funny. Gut-bustingly, laugh-til-you-cry hilarious. Now I don’t pretend to know that much about computing. Some of my family members are into higher level math and computer science so I know what I don’t know; mostly I hope just to follow the basic terms, like bioinformatics or neural networks or differential equations. I’m not expecting Dick Fuld here to be literally programming in-house databases or custom application software.

But using a computer?

The (former) head of a (former) global financial services firm doesn’t (didn’t) even use a computer?

Good Lord, I hope that’s not just jibberish from the lawyer trying to work in some wiggle room. I hope that’s the honest truth. I can’t think of much better perspective into the chasm between the rich and the rest of us, between the Best and the Brightest and the ill-informed and under-educated, than something like that.

Here I was thinking that addressing issues like the digital divide and computer literacy was about trying to educate our poorer citizens regarding a key tool of 21st century globalization.

Apparently, you can make enormous sums of money without even using a computer.

You can read these words all over again at Daily Kos.

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