Poetic License

Posted by on 05/27/10 in Creativity, Ethics, Governance, Literature, Markets, Risk

We understand that luminaries of the Great Recession recently gathered for a discreet poetry slam at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. This invitation-only event was intended to serve as an off-the-record cultural gathering of future history book notables, but more importantly, an opportunity for those present to work through their personal emotions around their roles (or lack thereof) in this global economic crisis.

Finding the attendees reluctant to share their hearts, conference facilitators invited them to distill their experiences into limericks, traditional Irish verse with a rollicking cadence and simple 2-2-1 rhyming pattern. Apparently, the joyful rhythm reminded too many participants of their more simple youth, causing untold weeping. As well, they found it difficult to identify financial instruments that rhymed with Nantucket.

Organizers then suggested a simple haiku-style poem, a Japanese approach that would challenge participants to distill their comments into succinct verse, thus reducing the amount of self-incriminating commentary and easing concerns of the legal/compliance teams that accompanied each of the participants. The haikus were to be three line verses with roughly 5-7-5 syllables in each line, no rhyming necessary.

After writing their verses, attendees gathered to hear them read aloud by Jim Cramer from CNBC. The poems were read anonymously so as to protect those who were not guilty of anything. Syntrinsic was fortunate, however, to find a list of attendees and a copy of the haikus. We have done our best to match the attendees with the haikus that we believe each might have written. Certainly, some of the sentiment is interchangeable.

Low interest rates
Made everyone feel better.
It is not my fault.
(Alan Greenspan, former Chairman, Federal Reserve)

Glass-Steagall I fought.
I feel sorry but will keep
My well-earned pay.
(John Reed, former Chairman and CEO, Citicorp, Citibank, Citigroup; former Chairman, NYSE)

I bought Goldman stock
On blind faith not inside fact.
A coincidence.
(Steven Freidman, Former Chairman, Goldman Sachs; Former Chair, Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Don’t blame us
For taking both sides.
You’re just jealous.
(Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs)

We made it easy
For citizens to buy homes
We could not afford.
(Franklin Raines, Former CEO, Fannie Mae)

I was not swayed
By those perks from Countrywide.
They made me take them.
(Senator Christopher Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee)

Don’t recall a thing,
Important bridge game to play.
It happened so fast.
(James Cayne, Former Chairman and CEO, Bear Stearns)

We thought Triple A
Was a reasonable guess.
They paid us quite well.
(Raymond McDaniel, CEO, Moody’s, Inc.)

My portfolio
Is on Wall Street; my image
Is on Main. Don’t tell.
(Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.)

I ask myself now,
Is Europe too big to fail?
The world grows smaller.
(Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany)

Certainly, there is more to be said about this crisis; thus, if you happen upon a haiku that you believe captures an aspect of this fascinating chapter in history, please let us know. In the meantime, we will leave you with a haiku from someone who lead long long ago when another republic was going through a crisis of its own. Food for thought in a tumultuous time.

 Regulate you try,
But if emotion you forget,
Again suffer you will.
(Yoda, former Jedi Master and CEO, Jedi Council)