Last week we left off with a brief, but very good summary of the 2008 financial crash from the book Swimming with Sharks: Inside the World of the Bankers. As you may recall from last week, our focus within the world of finance is narrowing down to a closer analysis of investment banking, as author of Joris Lujendijk identified investment banking as having “played a key role in the crash.”[i] This week we will touch on what author Joris Lujendijk highlighted as the “Code of Silence.”
Lujendijk wrote his book based on a series of about 200 interviews he conducted with individuals who worked in the financial and banking sector of London, England, and these interviews revealed much about the sector. He initially had difficulty in getting people who worked in the financial sector to give him an interview, and even when he did get people to sit down and talk with him, they were often very uncomfortable during the interview. They looked around to see if anyone they knew was coming into the coffee shop. They carefully considered their responses to his questions before answering. Before signing off on the text of the interview, these individuals would require Lujendijk to delete any details from the interview that might possibly reveal their identity to their co-workers or employees. Some contacted him to give an interview, only to cancel before their meeting. Others told Lujendijk later after the interview that they had reconsidered, and didn’t want him to use their interview. Lujendijk promised his interviewees anonymity, but many of them were simply scared.
He realized during one of his early interviews, and it became more apparent in subsequent interviews, that “…the world of finance is governed by a code of silence.”[i]
Violating the code of silence by giving an interview or speaking to the press is very dangerous for employees in the financial sector. They are often bound to silence contractually, and could be sued for violation of the contract. Their reputation would suffer greatly if they became known as someone who spoke to the press. Surely they would lose their job. Getting another job after being exposed as one who spoke to the press would be nearly impossible.
But why this code of silence? Why so much fear? The interviews revealed there are many things going on inside of investment banks that, if revealed, would look bad for and be damaging to the banks. Revelation of this information would bring them under much public scrutiny.
There are several major aspects within investment banking revealed by these interviews that we will highlight in the coming weeks. But to sum up this part of the series, it is enough for one to ponder why many of these employees were terrified they would be “found out” for giving an interview. Is what’s going on inside investment banks so bad? And can what’s going on inside the investment banks really directly affect you, your investments, your money in the bank?
We look forward to next week. We are here to serve you.
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