Every once in a while, you see a public figure say something and think to yourself, “I am almost certain that a historian fifty or a hundred years from now is going to be using that quote to capture the spirit of this moment”.
So last week, during testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, there was this statement, quoted in the New York Times:
“Of course you want to set up a system where an institution dreads the day it happens because management gets whacked, shareholders get whacked and the board gets whacked,” said Edward L. Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association. “But you don’t want to create a system that raises great uncertainty and changes what institutions, risk management executives and lawyers are used to.”
We got to the brink of a global financial meltdown that was demonstrably a result of the system that institutions, risk management executives and lawyers were “used to”. We’re still clinging to the edge of the abyss, in fact. But here we have the people whose practices got us all into that mess talking to the people who went ahead and allowed it to happen, and the resulting consensus seems to be a big thumb’s up to go ahead and do it again. So yeah, I have a sick, uneasy feeling that fifty years or a hundred years hence, that quote is going to be a great example of willful blindness to the icebergs dead ahead.