Outrageous! Shame on you! - Views on News from Equitymaster

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Outrageous! Shame on you!

Jan 30, 2009

That’s what US President Barack Obama had to say after yesterday’s report that Wall Street bankers paid themselves bonuses to the tune of US$ 18.4 bn in 2008. He said, "That is the height of irresponsibility, it is shameful, and part of what we're going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility."

He also referred to Citigroup’s attempt to buy a plane at a time when it was receiving US tax payers’ assistance to stay afloat. It may be noted that the government had to ask the company cancel the purchase. "We shouldn't have to do that, because they should know better", Obama lamented. It is not hard to understand his reaction given the fact that billions are being spent to bail financial firms out of a disaster of their own making. But like common sense, responsible behavior seems to have become highly uncommon.

India heading for deflation?
After having declined for 10 weeks in a row, inflation has risen for the second consecutive week. The wholesale price index (WPI) based inflation touched 5.6% for the week ended January 17. However, experts have dubbed this reversal as a temporary spike - the lag effect of the truckers’ strike. In fact, some believe that the recent fuel price cuts will bring about a decline in overall prices, i.e. deflation, in a month’s time.

How to survive turbulence
Jim Collins, the noted author of insightful books like ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Built to Last’, is currently studying how companies prevail through turbulent times. In an interview on CNNMoney, he identified 2 factors that define the survivors:

  • Core values: Survivors have a reason for being, their core values, that they preserve over time. P&G for example has ‘quality’ at its core.
  • People of high caliber: The kind of people in the company is more important than any plans. Hence, companies should acquire people of high quality. That requires long term thinking, which Mr. Collins defines as 25 years. Great companies manage with a 25 year horizon in mind. What is high caliber talent? They don’t need to be managed. If you need to manage someone closely, he says, "You've made a hiring mistake."

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