Baseline Blocking

A reader reports his firm has blocked Internet access to, and his requests to change this policy have so far gone unheeded.

Access to our site has been blocked in the past by China – for reasons that should be obvious (if you want to pretend there is no global crisis).  But what kind of firm would not want its employees to access our macroeconomic analysis, Financial Crisis for Beginners, or your continuing debate about how to handle the world’s myriad financial sector problems?

Oh, yes…

Morgan Stanley.

No doubt there is a simple and reasonable explanation that has nothing to do with our views on banks, their executives, and the political power of the financial sector.  And it must be pure coincidence that Morgan Stanley was mentioned in a less than completely positive light during my February interview with Bill Moyers.

Other websites and blogs are routinely blocked by Morgan Stanley, and it surely makes sense for any firm to be careful about what its employees can look at during working hours or over the corporate network.  Still, here are the categories of sites that the firm explicitly blocks – which one includes us (or your comments)?

Abused Drugs

Adult Material

Freeware and Software Download



Illegal or Questionable

Instant Messaging Internet Communication


Malicious Web Sites

Military & Extremist

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

Personal Network Storage and Backup

Personals and Dating

Phishing & Other Frauds

Proxy Avoidance

Racism & Hate

Social Networking and Personal Sites



URL Translation Sites


Web Chat

Web-based Email

Update: This is James. In the interests of fairness to Morgan Stanley . . . There is one comment below from a Morgan Stanley employee who says that access to this blog is intermittent. There is also another comment from an MS employee on Seeking Alpha’s rebroadcast of this post saying that he or she can read the site. So it’s not clear if the blocking is according to policy or is some sort of IT glitch.

54 thoughts on “Baseline Blocking

  1. Tasteless sounds like a catch-all to me. I guess realistic commentary on our economic/financial disaster qualifies as tasteless to those in complete denial.

  2. JP Morgan’s kleptocrats have managed to avoid scrutiny so far. That won’t last, no matter whom they censor.

  3. What a terrific endorsement of your consistently keen insights!

    If the financial system is listening: Censor this! “All business sagacity reduces itself in the last analysis to a judicious use of sabotage.” (Thorstein Veblen)

  4. I would definitely call this site, “Adult Material,” though not in the sense this phrase usually has!

    I also agree with PK and e-veblen; this type of censorship is a badge of honor. Sort of like being on Nixon’s enemies list.

  5. Sorry for the double post, but I couldn’t resist this quote from Thomas Jefferson:

    Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.

    Clearly not an acceptable statement for the people at Morgan Stanley…

  6. The baseline scenario’s also blocked by BNP Paribas alongside Brad Delong(delong.typepad.Com), John Hempton ( as part of their no-blog or personnal site policy.
    Nothing personal I guess…

  7. HA, I forward posts from your site to co-workers all the time, executives included. I work for a financial institution. Of course we had our best year ever in 2008 so we are obviously run very different than Morgan Stanley.

  8. Clearly, Baseline Scenario “desires to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on” on the banking lobby. So you fit under “Malicious Web Sites.”

  9. Good for you! Morgan Stanley’s IT Department is pretty weak. I worked there for two years and found a web-based e-mail program they didn’t know about and used it the entire time. One of my proudest moments.

  10. It took me two weeks to get the WSJ back, and I am employed trade in foreign exchange and interest rate markets. Oftentimes companies block websites that receive frequent traffic that, to the IT department, may appear outside the scope of work. For instance, we have the college sports websites of common universities (Penn State, Maryland) but not my school (William & Mary – though you could argue it’s not really a “sports” site).

  11. It’s obvious: “Phishing & Other Frauds.” A computer program would probably find the word “fraud” in many articles and in numerous comments.

  12. Clearly, MS just neglected to include “Truth” on its banning list. An accidental oversight, I’m sure. Mistakes were made.

  13. Could it be that to many employee’s were on it and not getting their work done.

    I am retired now, but a couple of years ago, I had a employee who spent a lot of time on the web manageing his stocks and monitoring the financial webs.

    It gets to a point that not enough work is being done. you just really get tired of it when you have business objectives to meet.

  14. Im still a beginner at econmonics. Can anyone quickly summarize why china had blocked this website?

  15. Simon,

    I think your site fits into the “Military and Extremist Category.”

    Any site that doesn’t preach the Wall St. orthodoxy is by definition “extremist.”

  16. It’s probably your “Racism & Hate” of the key players in the financial industry today. Why do you hate MS so much? They have feelings just like every other multi-national conglomerate…

  17. I work for Morgan Stanley and have noticed intermittent issues accessing various pages on this site – e.g., clicking on the title link for a post may work, but clicking the “more” link will not; getting to the site from Google Reader may work, but typing “” into my browser may not.

    In my generous moments I attribute the problems to sloppy auto-blocking behavior, and I haven’t totally ruled that out since (a) there was a widespread change to blocked sites recently, including many, many blogs, and there may be (again, being generous here) some residual kinks; and (b) here I am, reading the site right now. But the idea of this being deliberate is fascinating – and troubling.

  18. often you can evade these restrictions by specifying “no proxy” in the browser

  19. Can I contribute a fresh idea? Instead of popping up old banks with toxic assets, why don’t fed and Treasury use this money to fund new banks. Yesterday a WSJ C1 article reports that there are enough people willing to open new banks, yet some of them cannot secure needed capital. On the other hand, consumers rush to deposit their money into new banks. Because, we, as consumers, know that new banks would have less probability of failing in this environment as they don’t have the baggage. How long does it take to register a bank if enough capital is in hand? How long does it take for all the TALF or TARP or whatever process to take off?

    Let old die naturally and slowly; let new grow and thrive; this is the only solution.

  20. Well done. This is terrific news. And to think I never realized I was reading the words of an insurgent. Perhaps a name change is is order: how does ‘Che’ work for you Simon?

  21. In light of recent market activity, that employee is probably paying for his/her indisretions.

  22. or, better yet, Credit Unions. If you just wnat someone to safeguard your deposits, this is the way to go, IMHO.

  23. I looked for “Hasn’t been approved for viewing by CNBC.” That category doesn’t exist. So “Tasteless” is my second choice because isn’t CNBC the Wall Street executive’s guide to good taste (and sense)?

  24. Nooo….It is just what Brad Setser said (Sunday, March 15th, 2009):

    ‘The monthly TIC data suggests that China started to buy large quantities of US equities through Hong Kong in the spring of 2007. The big rise in China’s equity holdings in the June 2007 survey (equities rose from $4 billion in June 2006 to $29 billion in June 2007) offered the first hint of this shift in strategy. The Hong Kong flows suggest that China kept on buying through the first stage of the subprime crisis. Large purchases through Hong Kong didn’t come to an end until July 2008.

    That, of course, implies that China bough a lot of equities just before the market fell sharply. Bad timing.

    Anderlini reports that SAFE may have had as much as 15% of its portfolio in global equities and corporate bonds at one point last year:

    “By that point Safe had moved well over 15 per cent of the country’s $1,800bn reserves into riskier assets, including equities and corporate bonds, according to people familiar with its strategy.”

    15% in global equities and corporate bonds is high for a traditional central bank reserve manager. 15% of $1.8 trillion (China’s end-June reserves) is also $270 billion. If most of that was in equities, only ADIA would have had a larger equity portfolio.

    The survey data also implies that SAFE has suffered far larger aggregate losses on its equity portfolio – should that portfolio ever be marked to market – than the CIC suffered on its investments in Blackstone and Morgan Stanley. The CIC put $3 billion into Blackstone and $5 billion into Morgan Stanley, far less than SAFE put into a more diversified equity portfolio.’

    Which is to say that Morgan Stanley is now protected by the Great Firewall….

  25. if you may be able to commiserate with the guardian, given barclay’s recent censorship of supporting documents in the guardian’s story about tax avoidance

  26. Did they just categorize you as tasteless?! Not sure what a keylogger is, but you didn’t seem to fit any of the other categories. What is keylogging? Is it exciting? Does it hurt? If I google it, will the FBI break down my door?

  27. It is said: “A reader reports his firm has blocked Internet access to, and his requests to change this policy have so far gone unheeded.”

    Boy you sure have got some helpless and frail readers with crazy imagination… or might he now be laughing his heart out?

    You have seen the responses and you have not answered any of them and so do you really want to imply that a Morgan Stanley would take its time to issue instructions to specifically block their employees from gaining access to the Baseline Scenario during work hours because the Baseline Scenario or Simon Johnson conform an especially dangerous treath to them? Come on… is it not a bit early for April fool’s day?

    This country is going to go through some very dangerous moments that require a lot of level headed thinking and it most definitely does not really need posts like this.

  28. Extremist. Telling the truth is practically sedition these days. Keep up the good work!

  29. Add another vote for ‘adult material.’ But I just come here for the articles. Really.

  30. The company I work for blocks some of the larger blog hosting sites. I’ll try this site tomorrow and see what happens.

  31. I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Twiner’s post. As far as I know credit unions haven’t had any problems with bad loans, or the percentage of capital on their books. I am surprised more people aren’t moving some money to credit unions now. They have rules for who can join, but if you have a government job, it’s pretty much a cinch to get in. I never had a government job and I got in because my father worked for the public school system. Maybe they figure with their bank deposits insured to $250,000 by the FDIC it doesn’t make any difference, but I tell you, in MY MIND I feel much safer with my money in a credit union. The interest rates on accounts are higher, the service is better, and the specific one I go to has an annual meeting for all depositors where every one gets a gift and a chance for a big prize like a savings bond.

  32. If Per Kurowski is right and this is just one silly misunderstanding between the force of Democracy and well…..Morgan Stanley, why not clear the water and send a signed petition demanding for an explanation and requesting access.

  33. That is pretty funny, actually–in that ‘you’ve got to be kidding way’. I wonder if the new MS recruits from Sloan know this?

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