Tag Archive: Bank of America


The Christianized Jesus

Photo by Sophie Molins

The Christianized Jesus – the turning of a radical into a conservative shadow of his former self – explains our problem of establishing and celebrating freedom fighters today. It is important that our progressive heroes be given a deserved fame, an accurately reported fame. This is crucial in ways that impact our own activism.

Jesus of Nazareth was not a Peak Performance Strategist as the prosperity preachers would have it. Nor was he an foreigner-hating patriot as the Tea Party would argue. Obviously American politicians and their lobbyists pursue so many policies that are against the teachings of Jesus but are supported by mainstream Christian opinion. In fact, Jesus’ parables and sayings push the spiritual revolution of gift economies, and of justice through radical forgiveness.

The Hallmark-carding of Dr. King’s life is what gave Glenn Beck the opening to disrespect his Lincoln Center speech. King’s basic differences with our present corporate economy needs to be a presence in our lives, especially in the educational materials and media of the young. Malcolm X’s spirited defense against the violence of entrenched power – this would help us now, as the security state begins to define 1st Amendment-protected protest as a form of terrorism. Cesar Chavez’s creativity and steady hand in unionizing the California farmworkers could be useful now as state employees face labor busting by governors and their wealthy tax-dodging sponsors. These three progressive heroes must be known for what they actually were.

It was believed that Jesus could be saved from the distortions of right-wing apocalyptic Christianity by researching the historical man. That hasn’t worked, despite the Newsweek (“Jesus – who was he really?”) cover story every Easter. I am writing from the Mayan region of southern Mexico, in the city of Chiapas, where another defense against the predations of the Christianized Jesus has been a success. Here, some of the people subjugated by the brutal conquistadors undermined the Spaniard’s god by concentrating their prayers on San Juan Bautista – John the Baptist.

San Juan stood in the flowing spirit of the River Jordan as he repeated again and again, “I am not He. I am not the One.” The Holy Spirit flowed through him as he baptized new believers in the water. John was in the river, in motion, always becoming. He offered his blessing to the act of belief, the creative power of the individual who approached him. As a result his personality is not so easily used to enforce hardened, violent fundamentalism. The Mayans have outmaneuvered fundamentalism to free themselves from those who rode toward them with the swords of Christ. Chiapas and Chamula, Mexico are far healthier and less consumerized then your average American suburb. This brilliant adjustment on their religion forced on them by the Spanish has a lot to do with it. What the Mayan did to the Spanish God is what we all need to do to the Bank of America.

Better approaches to the figures that we revere (and worship) are needed in this time of permanent war, economic piracy, and most of all the Earth’s crisis. Let’s find ways to be honest about radicals’ lives – so that we have clearer courage for our own activism.

 

From his humble beginnings preaching outside the Disney Store in Times Square,Reverend Billy has spent the last decade toggling between community activism and theatrical spectacle. He even became the subject of “Supersize Me” director Morgan Spurlock‘s sophomore documentary, “What Would Jesus Buy?” A logical extension of his anti-consumerism gospel, Reverend Billy now tackles the growing environmental crisis with “The Church of Earthalujah!” Backed by a 35-voice gospel choir, Reverend Billy and The Church of Earthalujah transcends parody in favor of a passionate humanism that speaks to growing public anxiety in the face of the ever-growing climate emergency and impotent leadership from politicians, NGOs and corporate CEOs.

 

Goldman Traders

 

NEW YORK, July 28 (Lauren Tara LaCapra) – More than a dozen traders have quit Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s (GS.N) North American government bonds and derivatives trading desk in New York in recent months as the bank takes fewer risks and big bonuses for ambitious traders dry up.

Goldman has been handing out promotions and better pay to its salespeople, rather than the traders who manage the bank’s inventory of securities and derivatives, people familiar with the bank’s operations said.

The changes reflect Goldman’s shift toward client trading and away from making money by betting for its own account, those sources said. Weak trading in general has compounded Goldman’s difficulties as it struggles to earn profits from clients without the help of its market bets, analysts said.

It makes sense for Goldman management to reward sales staff over traders these days, said Susquehanna Financial Group analyst David Hilder.

“The client franchise is paramount,” said Hilder. “You need sales people to deal with and talk to the clients. Over the long term, that’s more important than a few guys trading bonds.”

Among the recent departures is Brian Mooney, an interest-rate derivatives trader who spent 22 years at Goldman before joining Bank of America Corp‘s (BAC.N) Merrill Lynch this week, according to three sources who know about the move.

Mooney’s exit follows that of Glenn Hadden, the former head of Goldman’s U.S. Treasury bond trading desk, who left last year to run Morgan Stanley’s (MS.N) global rates trading group in January.

At least nine other traders from the rates desk have left for jobs at competitors this year, including UBS AG (UBSN.VX), Nomura Holdings Inc (8604.T), Jefferies Group Inc (JEF.N) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), or hedge funds like Stark Investments near Milwaukee. Among their ranks were more junior traders, some of whom were seen as rising stars at Goldman.

Goldman has been laying off traders since March, but there has also been a flood of voluntary exits that began late last year and continued through the second quarter, sources said.

Colin Corgan, a respected partner on the rates desk, retired in late 2010. In March, Craig Reynolds, a former top interest-rate swaps trader at Goldman, left to become head of Bank of America-Merrill Lynch‘s North American interest-rate trading desk.

Some traders that have left the bank said they fear Goldman may turn into just another investment bank, and they wanted to leave while it was still seen as prestigious on Wall Street.

“Working for Goldman is no longer different than working for anybody else,” said one former Goldman trader who left this year. “At the same time, if you have Goldman on your resume, that’s still a premium. People are monetizing the Goldman premium now because two years from now you won’t be able to.”

“Goldman Sachs is totally committed to the interest rate products business,” said spokesman Michael DuVally. The bank is staffed appropriately for the business, he added.

SPECTER OF THE VOLCKER RULE

Goldman’s North American rates-trading desk handles some of the most actively traded markets in the world, including U.S. Treasury bonds and U.S. dollar interest-rate swaps.

The desk is to some degree shielded from a financial reform provision called the Volcker rule that will prevent banks from gambling on market direction.

The rule is not in effect yet, but even once it is implemented, banks will still be allowed to take proprietary positions in the Treasury market and hedge against risk using related derivatives.

Nonetheless, traders who left Goldman’s rates desk complained they were hamstrung by aggressive risk managers who limited position sizes and second-guessed trades. They also said they were being asked to take on more responsibilities with less pay as Goldman tries to cut costs.

In announcing quarterly results last week, Chief Financial Officer David Viniar said Goldman plans to lay off about 1,000 people this year to reduce expenses by $1.2 billion and may slash employee pay if business doesn’t pick up.

The rates-trading desk is among the largest in Goldman’s enormous fixed income, currency and commodities trading business, known as FICC. Over the last six quarters, FICC trading has suffered as clients pulled back from the market.

Goldman detailed a 53 percent decline in second-quarter FICC revenue last week. Revenue there has dropped by 46 percent, on average, in each of the past four quarters.

Goldman does not break out rates trading numbers, but said revenue there dropped “significantly.”

Goldman’s client business has gained traction in some rates-trading areas — for example, the bank boosted market share in U.S. Treasury trading this year to 12.2 percent from 10.7 percent, according to a Greenwich Associates survey.

Yet higher market share does not always amount to better profits, Greenwich said. Narrowing bid-ask spreads, increasing use of electronic trading and competition for big institutional clients’ business are pressuring rates-trading profits.

“The market’s shift in emphasis from structured products to rates products has already reduced the profitability of fixed income for sell-side firms,” said Greenwich Associates consultant Woody Canaday. (Editing by Dan Wilchins and Robert MacMillan)

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