Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 15th Principle

Consider for a moment the climactic scene in The 5th Element when Milla Jovovich rears her head back, opens her mouth and emits a stream of galactic energy straight into the cosmos. I'm sure it had significant ramifications, but I can't actually remember the movie well enough to tell you what they were.

This would, of course, be her:

Besides, she is so much cooler in Ultraviolet, one of the most interesting looking movies of all time--and not just because she's in it (although I do find her compelling on a number of levels).

This would, of course, be her again:


All of which, of course, leads us inexorably to Fabrice Tourre (the hapless French VP at Goldman who has, some would say, been selected as the lamb whose sacrifice will atone for the sins of Wall Street) and the 15th Principle.

Although no Jovovich, he's a nice looking man. This would, of course, be him:

There was a fun article in The Times the other day about Goldman. It mentions the 14 published principles under which the firm operates. Virtually everybody knows them already, but for you laggards, they are published, cut and pasted directly from the GS web site, here:
Our clients' interests always come first.

Our assets are our people, capital and reputation.

Our goal is to provide superior returns to our shareholders.

We take great pride in the professional quality of our work.

We stress creativity and imagination in everything we do.

We make an unusual effort to identify and recruit the very best person for every job.

We offer our people the opportunity to move ahead more rapidly than is possible at most other places.

We stress teamwork in everything we do.

The dedication of our people to the firm and the intense effort they give their jobs are greater than one finds in most other organizations.

We consider our size an asset that we try hard to preserve.

We constantly strive to anticipate the rapidly changing needs of our clients and to develop new services to meet those needs.

We regularly receive confidential information as part of our normal client relationships.

Our business is highly competitive, and we aggressively seek to expand our client relationships.

Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business.
And before we go any farther, allow me the briefest of asides--one man's opinion, if you will: First, I can imagine, in a parallel universe, being the guy charged with generating this copy. As pablum it is no more nor less benignly meaningless than what I'm sure JP Morgan has on it's web site. It's just stuff. Window dressing. Accurate to the degree it needs to be.

And truth be told, it's far less offensive than the complete load of shit that is Johnson & Johnson's revered credo. Which goes, if I remember it correctly, something like this:

We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality.

We must constantly strive to reduce our costs in order to maintain reasonable prices.
Customers’ orders must be serviced promptly and accurately. Our suppliers and distributors must have an opportunity to make a fair profit.

We are responsible to our employees, the men and women who work with us throughout the world. Everyone must be considered as an individual. We must respect their dignity and recognize their merit. They must have a sense of security in their jobs.

Compensation must be fair and adequate, and working conditions clean, orderly and safe. We must be mindful of ways to help our employees fulfill their family responsibilities.

Employees must feel free to make suggestions and complaints. There must be equal opportunity for employment, development and advancement for those qualified.

We must provide competent management, and their actions must be just and ethical.

We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well. We must be good citizens – support good works and charities and bear our fair share of taxes. We must encourage civic improvements and better health and education.

We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.

Our final responsibility is to our stockholders. Business must make a sound profit. We must experiment with new ideas. Research must be carried on, innovative programs developed and mistakes paid for.

New equipment must be purchased, new facilities provided and new products launched. Reserves must be created to provide for adverse times. When we operate according to these principles, the stockholders should realize a fair return.

The flush-right formatting is what you call typographical irony.

I spent years inside the DarkStar and I can tell you this is all well and good. But I suspect it would be more accurate with what one might, within the context of this post, term J&J's own version of the 15th Principle. Which would go something like this:

Disregard all of the above other than when flashing it around to the unsuspecting public.
The fact of the matter is that stockholder return is paramount.
Let the screwing of the sick people begin.


It's like haiku in its spare, elegant beauty, except a bit longer.

Anyway, Goldman is neither better, ethically, nor worse than any of it's competitors. It's just better at doing what it does than anybody else. And when they enact new regulations for Wall Street, it's gonna still do better than anybody else.

In a way, it reminds me of Formula 1. Not so long ago Formula 1 cars had v12 engines. Magnificent things to behold, aurally. Then, in an effort to slow the damned things down (plus save some money), they switched to significantly less powerful v8s. Net net? They are just about as fast today as they used to be. Technology evolves.

Somebody once wrote on one of my paintings that "Organized greed will always prevail over disorganized regulation", or something to that effect.

Anyway, the point of the article, in part, was to suggest that the evolved Goldman Sachs sports an unwritten 15th Principle. According to The Times:

But some former insiders, who requested anonymity because of concerns about retribution from the firm, say Goldman has a 15th, unwritten principle that employees openly discuss.

It urges Goldman workers to embrace conflicts and argues that they are evidence of a healthy tension between the firm and its customers. If you are not embracing conflicts, the argument holds, you are not being aggressive enough in generating business.

(Note to Chris Dodd: Good luck reining these boys in.)

I, for one, don't have any problem with writing down the 15th Principle. I'd move #3 up to the 2-slot, drop the current #2 to 4th position, and insert the 15th Principle at 3rd and word it in such a way that acknowledges the tension, in these complicated times with these complicated companies, between Client return and Shareholder return. As my friend Stan's shrink used to tell him: "Embrace your discomfort!"

Of course that's just me.

(Note to Mets fans: After re-shuffling the lineup, I would then send David Wright to bat clean-up for the Brooklyn Cyclones. This way we could still see him whenever we wanted, but it would be less painful to watch him strike out with men in scoring position.)

So the fun idea is to paint Fabrice Tourre, title the painting "The 15th Principle", inscribe the 14 accepted principles by which GS does business, and then let the world comment.

I wouldn't use that photo of the Fabulous Fab, however. I would use this one (shot by me from my television):

And just while we're on the topic of shots I've taken off the television, look at this one of Smokin' Joe Frazier, watching, as a much older man, the 14th (and pivotal) round of his last fight with Ali.

Whatta shot.

The smart money says that if Frazier had gotten up for the 15th Round, Ali would have stayed seated.


Blogger davidlefool said...

The Fab Tourre story was the last piece in the jigsaw for creating The Credit Crisis Film.


Marine & Fatiha: Crucial love interests whom Fab just can't resist showing off to in print.

Fab: romantic anti-hero who was "just following orders".

John Paulson: evil genius sewing his polka-dot shorts of mass destruction.

Clueless European Investors: lambs to the slaughter.

Lloyd Vader: Demented risk-manager masterminding the whole sordid mess from his lair.

End credits: five minutes of Jamie Dimon laughing.

3:26 PM  

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