My favorite stock is in trouble. My favorite bank is in trouble. My favorite broker is in trouble. In the past several months, things have just gotten messier and more de-moralizing when it comes to investing in anything and everything. How did we get here? How do we get out of here? The ethical mandate for Wall Street, K Street, and Main Street is clear: straighten up and fly right or have the federal government take over capitalism and re-define American commerce forever. In the past several months it has been amazing to hear Alan Greenspan, Barney Frank, the boys of Fannie Mae ( FNM) & Freddie Mac ( FRE), together with Goldman Sachs ( GS) and others on the hill in front wiggle and whine. In the midst of all of this the revelation is that while no one accepts blame, culpability abounds in our current economic malaise. We are all so very guilty of not asking more questions as the sand castle of the housing and mortgage boom was being constructed of good intentions, soaring profits, and seemingly unstoppable momentum. Shame on us for not demanding higher standards from elected oversight representatives and not holding them accountable to impeachment due to their actions or lack thereof. Shame on those Ivy League business and financial masterminds who crafted the spurious schemes of scandal. Shame on the governing boards for compensating profits without principles and being complicit or complacent in their fiduciary charter. Shame on the accounting and legal professionals who compromised their oaths in pursuit of circumventing the spirit of rules and laws only to become handmaidens in the parsing of words and interpretations of finessing their clients into the depths of deceit. Shame on the deadbeats who knew they weren't worthy of the unearned dollars thrown their way by misguided housing mortgage policies, profiteering predatory lenders, and those who thought guaranteed home ownership was a good thing. Politicians beg us for our support prior to Election Day. On Election Day plus one, they change from public servants into public masters. Such was the case with decisions for bailout under Bush, bailout the sequel under Obama, and czar appointments ad nauseam stepping into governance affairs of banks, manufacturers, and others. And now we have Fannie Healthcare.
In spite of historical, empirical evidence of government sponsored, supported, and operated programs being the antithesis of efficiency, effectiveness, and profit, there is one irrefutable consequence of ethical misconduct in the marketplace: When caught, legislators and regulators will step in, take away, and re-distribute as much money and power as possible. We seem to have sacrificed decency and honorable business practices for disingenuous intellectual creativity and innovation. We have fostered a revolving door between K Street and Wall Street where it's only a matter of time before legislators, lobbyists, and partners all morph into a Hydra of unbridled wealth and influence. Whether the current anger over too many getting a P.A.S.S. (perverse acceptance of a special situation) while too many more suffer is a populist anger or common sense frustration, it is genuine. To be sure, there is an urgent plea to reduce fiscal complexity into practices of simple honor and decency. The best way is to have fiscal transactions worthy of your mother or grandmother's trust and benefit. Business, finance, and capitalism have always been about risk. With every upside there's a downside. With every deal done, every transaction placed, it is incumbent upon professionals and leaders to discern the possibilities and probabilities. The very essence of commerce and capital is trust. Wall Street, K Street, and Main Street must return to reason and responsible risk. Once trust is violated, whether in a personal, professional, or political relationship, far fewer possibilities exist. Recent history is unfolding to show us when things seem to get too far astray, and government steps in with the finesse of a wrestler, a chokehold is bound to happen. We must wrestle with our conscience prior to everyday decisions or wrestle with the everlasting consequences of the zealous Feds -- your choice.