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Joe Nocera seminar in review…

So I go to a seminar on ethics in which this year’s speaker is Joe Nocera. This first really odd thing is that I find out it was endowed by a guy I’ve know for almost 40 years. He is very ethical, but poorly behaved!

Nocera stands up and it is clear he hasn’t prepared more than a couple of notes–a total ad lib. For an academic, I find this a little disquieting. He tells a few stories we all know describing bad behavior. The theme of the chat is why nobody is in jail. He makes a credible case as to why it is hard to get the big guys. While sitting there the phrase came to me: “too big to jail”. The questions were generic for the most part, although it is clear that the audience is still deeply troubled by the injustice of it all. I sensed an arrogance that I did not expect.

I ask basically two questions:

(1) I pointed out that the Feds found time and money to prosecute Aleynikov and Armstrong and that they would not likely go after Gross (for front running the MBS purchases) because they didn’t even go after Steve Friedman for front running the GS bailout. I then noted the Gary Cone handed them a lob pitch by hurling a huge lie to Congress while under oath. I asked whether he thought they would be forced to prosecute him. Answer: “no”. Big ouch.

(2) At the end I asked whether the financialization common at the end of empires (see Phillips and Ferguson) and the highly distorted wealth distribution were symptomatic of economies that “are working very poorly”? (It was clear that he thought I was heading for some diatribe about wealth distribution.) His answer to this one was “most definitely”.

Here was the nugget that I did not know (maybe you guys did): they are trying to get Elizabeth Warren on some trumped up perjury charge to get her out of the way. My heart sank. There is no hope.

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