Wall Street

Not long ago, Goldman Sachs was Wall Street’s lightning rod, attracting bad publicity and interventions from regulators. Its place has been taken by JPMorgan Chase.

When Goldman Sachs bought the commodity trading house J Aron in 1981, it also took on Lloyd Blankfein, then a salesman of silver coins. Thirty-two years later, Mr Blankfein is Goldman’s chairman and chief executive and the bank owns, among other commodity assets, some aluminium warehouses near the ailing city of Detroit.

Andrew Hill

The contrast between the rhetoric of James Gorman, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, and that of his Barclays counterpart Antony Jenkins – in interviews with, respectively, the FT and the BBC – underlines differing attitudes to the future of banking in the US and Europe.

In remarks squarely addressed to shareholders, Mr Gorman suggests jobs must be cut and pay curbed at Morgan Stanley; Mr Jenkins’ comments, on the other hand, are aimed directly at regulators, politicians and the general public.

That’s partly down to context – the BBC interview was filmed during a visit by the new Barclays chief executive to a UK glass manufacturer, part of Barclays’ campaign to show it is helping customers to export more. Here’s Mr Jenkins:

Barclays has a significant job to rebuild trust, but I’m also confident that we can. It goes back to what we do: if we serve customers and clients, day in and day out, in a way that people perceive as socially useful, then we will rebuild that trust.

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John Gapper

Occupy Wall Street protestors rally in front of the New York Stock Exchange on March 30, 2012. Image by Getty

Occupy Wall Street protestors rally in front of the New York Stock Exchange on March 30, 2012. Image by Getty

Perception tends to lag events, a phenomenon from which a lot of Wall Street bankers are suffering at the moment. While the general public believes they are still living it up on borrowed money, the reality – for many of them at least – is different.

The squeeze on investment banks, which took some time to occur following the 2008 financial crisis, is now kicking in. As Tony Jackson writes in his FT column, the glory days of easy money for bankers are over (for the time being, at least):

Across the western world, the public rhetoric about bankers is proving oddly durable. They caused our troubles, but are not sharing them. We suffer privations, they get bonuses.

That is somewhat behind events. Investment banking, at least, is in a slow-motion train wreck. The fact that some bankers are still in the buffet car squabbling over the last bottles of champagne is a distraction.

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Tony Tassell

It is hard to believe now but there was a time before the credit crisis that the culture of investment banks had not always been linked to reckless greed and buccaneering.

Yes their darker dealings, regulatory failings and rising conflicts of interest were apparent to anyone with a passing familiarity with Wall Street or even the film of the same name. But there was also a positive side. Read more

Tony Tassell

Good, clear analysis from author Michael Lewis on last night on 60 Minutes on how Wall Street is currently coining it, taking advantage of the largesse of government support for markets.

This is hardly new for FT readers but as always, but the writer of Liar’s Poker was in typically trenchant form on the banks:  Read more