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John Mack Almost “Comes to Jesus”

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 30, 2009 11:22 AM |

Wall Street has never been known to embrace humility. The rough and tumble world of ‘the street’ ultimately prizes profit over principle. Not that the titans on Wall Street would ever admit it, but make no mistake, Wall Street was and always will be about one thing…the bottom line. Nobody was more aggressive in pursuing those bottom line results than Morgan Stanley’s John Mack. His moniker “Mack the Knife” speaks volumes about his ruthless nature and aggressive cost-cutting to drive results.

Against that backdrop, I find it particularly interesting to see Mack present a fairly introspective interview with Bloomberg’s Judy Woodruff.  All other assertions aside, Mack was recently unceremoniously pushed aside at Morgan Stanley. As I watched this short interview a few different times, I sensed a man entering a confessional as he tries to ‘come to Jesus.’

Mack initially provides insights on the following:

1. his view that the U.S. and European economies will have a long, slow recovery

2. his view that emerging economies will rebound in stronger fashion

3. the need for a systemic risk regulator on Wall Street

4. the need for one global financial regulatory system with one set of rules

5. the need for clawbacks in the Wall Street compensation process (clawback meaning the ability for the firm to pull back compensation from employees)

6. he admits that Wall Street needs to change. He tries to provide a mea culpa by offering an explanation that Wall Street firms tried to compete with private equity funds and hedge funds by developing those businesses internally. At this juncture in the interview, I felt that he was almost about to say, “Dear Lord, we lost our way and our moral compass. Please forgive us.”

Mack has been humbled both inside Morgan Stanley and across Wall Street. This Bloomberg interview exemplifies how “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”


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