One hundred and one years ago, 70 one year old J.P. Morgan could lock the doors on the red room of his library and issue orders to the gathering of Wall Street titans about exactly how much they would each contribute to his plan to rescue American finance. Things are a bit different now, and our own Wall Street titans seem more like ineffectual dwarfs.
This morning Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Silver Lake Partners co-founder Glenn Hutchins gathered in the luncheon room on the seventh floor of the New York Stock Exchange for a panel moderated by Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson. Heidi Moore of Deal Journal sneaked in, and her description of the conversation makes it all too clear these guys see panic in the market and no easy way out.
Dimon: “Clearly we’re in the panic stage of unreasonable behaviour.”
Blankfein: “In the past few days, the pessimism is total.”
Fink: “I don’t know any institution that will buy more than overnight money.”
Schwarzman called the financial system disfunctional, and expressed disbelief at Morgan Stanley’s mounting borrowing costs.
Maybe these guys need to start smoking big Havana cigars before they can get the steely gaze of Old Man Morgan and find a way out of this crisis.