Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Goldman bankers arming selves for fear of ‘populist uprising’

Goldman bankers arming selves for fear of ‘populist uprising’

Bankers like to think of themselves as 'Clint Eastwood' types: reporter

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Senior executives at Goldman Sachs are so afraid that they could be the targets of a "populist uprising" against banks that they have taken to arming themselves, says an unconfirmed report at Bloomberg News.

Citing only an unnamed "friend" at the New York-based investment bank, columnist Alice Schroeder alleged that "senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank."

"They're concerned about social unrest, they're concerned about the fact that we've got a country where a quarter of the kids are on food stamps and they've become a symbol of greed," Schroeder said in an interview at Bloomberg TV.

Schroeder, a former insurance analyst known for her biography of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, reported that the New York Police Department responded "preliminarily" to a freedom-of-information request by saying the names of some Goldman executives appear on the list of people licensed to carry firearms.

"I don't think this should lead people to think that there are a bunch of pin-striped bankers hunkered down with Uzis, protecting themselves from the populace," Schroeder said, adding that the trend among Goldman bankers started before the controversy over Goldman's huge bonuses exploded earlier this year.

Schroeder says she was half-joking when she wrote in her column that "this is the kind of foresight that Goldman Sachs is justly famous for. [Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd] Blankfein somehow anticipated the persecution complex his fellow bankers would soon suffer."

Schroeder also suggested that Goldman employees may well want to cultivate this sort of image, as gun-toting tough guys:

Talk of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall- Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other. The last thing they want is to be so reasonably paid that the peasants have no interest in lynching them.

Dan Carter at Air America speculates that the alleged Goldman gun rush may be a sign that the company is preparing for another round of controversial bonuses:

It seems patently obvious: Goldman is preparing to unload another monstrous round of bonuses. Instead of scaling back on their multi-million dollar end-of-the-year wads of cash in an effort to quell a bit of the outrage, Wall St. executives are challenging the public to pry their bonuses from their cold dead hands. The cowboys of finance have taken that title literally and are preparing--no daring--any would-be vigilantes to make a move.

"It’s never good when anyone buys guns, particularly not rich weenies with persecution complexes," Matt Taibbi half-jokes on his True/Slant blog. Taibbi is credited with focusing the public's anger over the bank bailout at Goldman Sachs with his Rolling Stone article "Inside the Great American Bubble Machine," which alleges that Goldman played a pivotal role in every asset bubble that has plagued the US economy over the past 80 years.

Taibbi sees some humor in Goldman employees' alleged gun frenzy.

"There’s even the impossible-to-resist image of a future accidental shooting of some innocent hot dog vendor on Park Avenue, followed by the inevitable P.R. response from Goldman in which the bank claims that the only thing its employees are guilty of is 'being really good at shooting people,'" Taibbi quips.

If the Bloomberg report is accurate, it would hardly mark the first time that America has seen armed bankers. "Before bank insurance, before the FDIC, a bank's vault cash was its sole source of funds to cover its customers' withdrawals," write Beverly and Curtis Wayne in the ABA Banking Journal:

[In the 19th century] at the National Iron Bank in Falls Village, Conn., tellers were held accountable for the funds they handled. The bank took pains to help them protect those funds; bank robbers were mostly deterred by the elaborate bronze teller cages.

Upon completion of his teller's course, each National Iron Bank teller was issued a Colt .44 revolver. Confronted by a robber, the teller was trained to reach forward into a specially made recess, grab the .44, and deter the robber.

Watch Schroeder's interview at Bloomberg TV here.

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