Want a Soft Landing – Be a Bad Bank or a Pretend Startup

ACORN International Banks Corruption India United States

Mumbai           The Adani Group is huge in India. They run ports, airports, construction, and more.  ACORN and many others are toe-to-toe with them over their plans to develop Dharavi, the megaslum in the city center where we have worked for the last more than fifteen years.  Recently, they were in the news for some accounting sleight of hand to buoy their stock prices.  I have no idea whether this is legal or not.  Reading a book now about General Electric a similar kind of “profit management,” i.e., moving money between subsidiaries to report profits, seems to have been the go-to-playbook every quarter for Jack Welsh, its one-time vaunted CEO. It sure seems similar, and it’s no wonder investors and SEC regulators are taking notice.  In India, Adani seems to have gotten the blessing of regulators, such as they are, once the government claimed that questions about Modi-buddy Adani were an attack on the country and an assault on India’s development.

At least in Adani case, there were regulators and regulations to consider in trying to sort out method from mischief.  Reading the news from the US about the banking collapses in tech money suppliers like Silicon Valley Bank and crypto favorite Signature makes the need for aggressive regulation of these money machines very important.  The obvious questions are where were they, and why didn’t they catch this?  Incredibly, the pitiful answer is that these guys, the banking industry, and those who play their games convinced Congress to lighten their load and amend the Dodd-Frank restrictions and stress tests passed after the 2007-8 meltdown.  SVB claimed it could handle the risk internally and didn’t need the “burden” of more oversight.  Turns out they had even left the risk manager’s job vacant for eight months.

It also turns out that if you’re a big bank with a bunch of squealing techie complainers, this whole line about “moral hazard” is just something for the rest of us, the old “it depends on whose ox is getting gored” thing.  All the tech libertarian, Any Rand acolytes singing “keep the government away from me and let me master the world,” had another tune when it comes to their money and were crying for their Uncle Sam to save their ass like grade school children who fell in the playground.

Given the fear that their mess in the playpen might also be a problem for the rest of us, the government did the job that they couldn’t handle and stepped in.  It’s part of why we have government, but I find it a bitter irony that we have to listen to Musks, the Thiels, and the rest of them badmouth government on one hand, while their other hand is stretched out for handouts.

Times are tough.  Inflation is real.  Rents are rising.  What does it take for all of them to understand that we all need a safety net that works, even if we’re not bad bankers and techie pretend entrepreneurs?