The Fourteenth Banker

By James Kwak

I wanted to bring your attention to a new blog that could turn out to be very important. It’s called The Fourteenth Banker (here’s why) and it’s hosted and written by a current banker who wants to see real change in the industry. This is from the About page:

“Despite being with a big bank, I support reform legislation ending TBTF, separation of Commercial and Investment banking, an independent consumer protection agency and other meaningful reforms.    Why?    I have seen first hand the perversions that happen because of some who believe that the an institution exists for them and the stockholders primarily.    Countless others have been hypnotized by this illusion as well.       Free market idealism is conveniently permissive of unbridled self interest.  I believe in the free market.   In fact, this blog is a free market of ideas and is meant to lead to a free market in banking where institutions self police as a matter of competitiveness.    I have hopes of a free market where being in community in a responsible and consistent way is the path to prosperity, a free market where we recognize that if we take care of the community, the community will take care of us.    It takes a sort of faith.    Or does it?     Is not all successful business enterprise based on providing more value than is consumed?

“That is why we are here.   I invite other bankers to engage in discussion about issues and excesses in our industry and possible solutions.”

The goal of the blog is to provide a forum for people within the industry who are dissatisfied with both its behavior over the past decade and its stubborn refusal to change its ways in the wake of the financial crisis. Posts include coverage of misdeeds by the financial sector, as well as an inside perspective on issues such as breaking up banks.

Banks are very large organizations that include many different people with different political, moral, and business ideas. I am sure there are many bankers who are upset with the way their companies have taken advantage of customers, investors, creditors, and taxpayers, and who want the industry to change. However, many banks have attempted to suppress any attempt at real dialogue by issuing blanket gag orders for their employees. The Fourteenth Banker could help make it possible for bankers to engage in that debate.

19 thoughts on “The Fourteenth Banker

  1. An alternate title: “The Conscience of a Banker.” Unfortunately that sounds to Krugmanlike.

  2. Does my best Rodney Dangerfield voice:
    “My wife told me to rename my blog—14 readers. Cause that’s all who ever shows up.”

  3. Reposted from 14th Banker comments:

    A forum for people within the industry.

    Well. Here I am. Now what?

    I agree with Johnson/Kwak on financial regulation/legislation.

    I’ve spoken personally with the CEO of my TBTF employer on these issues; he is not amenable to breaking up the banks or giving up access to the Fed’s discount window.

    It’s a good question: What should we “self-aware” finance drones do? Quitting in righteous indignation solves nothing. Working up the ladder until one gains enough clout to actually do something about it? Temerity I’ve got, but that kind of perseverance is beyond me.

    I’d take a day off to march in D.C., but I’m not sure how many of our comrades would join us.

  4. The prisoner’s dilemma (dancing while the music plays) will end this communitarian fantasy very soon.

  5. “Master of None wrote:”

    “Well. Here I am. Now what? What should we “self-aware” finance drones do?”

    Keep posting and expressing your perspective.


  6. It will be very interesting to see if the 14th Banker site is able to sustain itself. I would guess that even visiting the site (let alone posting a comment) from the bank office computer will turn out to be a career-ending move.

  7. CBS from the West wrote:

    “It will be very interesting to see if the 14th Banker site is able to sustain itself. ”

    I think what is more important is, that the concept is more sustainable than the site.

    CBS from the West wrote:

    “It will be very interesting to see if the 14th Banker site is able to sustain itself. I would guess that even visiting the site (let alone posting a comment) from the bank office computer will turn out to be a career-ending move.”

    I’ve been there and done that, from the perspective of a corporate whistle-blower, there are ways around corporate I.T. (Information Technology) and their Slamhounds (my apology to William Gibson).

    It ain’t rocket-science – nor a vacation to Club Med.

  8. Great idea I just wonder how long it will be before the “first 13” decide this is tantamount to insurrection and move to put an end to it.

  9. Sorry, but I don’t see the connection btw TBTF and believing “that the an institution exists for them and the stockholders primarily.” There are lots of companies that aren’t too big to fail that have managers that believe that the company exists for them primarily.

    As for whether the institution exists “primarily” for the stockholders, well, the law actually has something to say about that.

  10. “I’ll tell ya, my wife and I, we don’t think alike. She donates money to the homeless, and I donate money to the xxxless! ”

    Rodney Dangerfield

  11. Noo.. well, I shouldn’t joke about my wife. She’s attached to a machine that keeps her alive.

    The refrigerator.

  12. And what is that? I’ve heard that the CEO has a fiduciary responsibility to maximize benefits for the shareholder. But I’ve also heard that corporate charters dedicated them to serving society – they can be de-chartered if they are a malignancy.

  13. I wonder what subterfuge the TBTF’s will use to undermine this site. It’s such an incredible idea, but subject to countermeasures. We will know if bogus arguments against the posts are a part of the commentary. It will be interesting, and I am definitely checking it daily. Everyone, be sure to send a link to this blog to your representatives in Washington, and, of course, the Baseline Scenario as well, if you haven’t already.

  14. The 14th Banker’s knowledge of economics sounds rather sketchy. Here’s a comment I posted there in response to his March 29 comment on the productivity numbers:

    Please explain how your conclusions about the meaning of productivity follow from the actual methods used to compile the official productivity data (as presented here: ).

    I find your logic confusing, to say the least. For instance: “Add a dollar of sales and cut pension contributions and you get productivity growth. Raise prescription co pays and you get productivity growth.”

    That quote not only doesn’t seem to reflect an understanding of what productivity growth really is – whether as defined by the government, or as defined by the economics teachers you probably studied with while earning your MBA – it actually seems to contradict the true definition (at least as I read it).

  15. I would like to thank the Baseline Scenario for the promo. Hits are running 2,500 per day. There are a couple responses to Mr. Jacobs on the blog. I’m pleased with the comments and there will be new content every day or two. After all, I do have a day job. I believe there will be some guest posts as well.

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