Why Aren't Thain And Fuld At Davos?

The economic collapse has meant that this is the year of Davos absentees. Many top leaders from past years are now out of a job, and the ones that are still working think they have a better way to spend their time. Besides, the visual of a CEO of a battered financial firm stepping walking around a ski resort isn’t good in this new populist age.

But if Davos were to have any use at all — and that’s debatable — it’d be great to hear from the guys who have fallen.

Eric Falkenstein: At Davos, several high profile finance executives are missing: John Thain (ex Merril CEO), Richard Fuld (Lehman ex-CEO), Martin Sullivan (ex AIG CEO), Marcel Ospel (ex UBS Chairman), Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman CEO). Now, these people used to go, and used to be listened to. I would think their stock of knowledge is now much greater after adversity than prior, and they have a much more interesting tale to tell. But many think these people have merely been exposed as having been lucky fools who seemed like geniuses because of the bull markets they presided over.

People want to hear from successful people at conferences. They hope to either get a job with him or his successful acolytes, or learn about how to be successful like them. But a successful person is probably not going to be totally forthright about their edge, even if they know it (after Bob Rubin stated that their subprime exposure was a detail outside his scope, clearly many titular leaders are merely figureheads). Failure, in contrast, leads to more particularized soul searching.

Davos aside, this is the problem with villifying and criminalizing failure. The fallen are too afraid to speak, and we continue to assume that the winners are the only ones with something of value to say.

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