Is there any doubt that people who work on Wall St acquire a Wall St culture? No. But the idea that Wall St firms adopted MAFIA culture and techniques, as claimed ... wow, that's new. (pic: - see below)

Dave Pell’s Next Draft recommended weekend read was Matt Taibbi’s The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia in Rolling Stone magazine. I agree. It’s a fascinating read, but kind of sickening too.

USA v. Carollo marks the first time we actually got incontrovertible evidence that Wall Street has moved into this cartel-type brand of criminality. It also offered a disgusting glimpse into the enabling and grossly cynical role played by politicians, who took Super Bowl tickets and bribe-stuffed envelopes to look the other way while gangsters raided the public kitty. And though the punishments that were ultimately handed down in the trial – minor convictions of three bit players – felt deeply unsatisfying, it was still a watershed moment in the ongoing story of America’s gradual awakening to the realities of financial corruption.

Earlier, Matt Taibbi’s article says

In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business.

How that relates to the SkyCity Casino deal to build a convention centre in Auckland “at no cost to the taxpayer” in exchange for a law change allowing hundreds of extra pokie machines: Well, certainly NOT the criminality aspect, in my view — that’s probably a step too far.

But the cynicism and what looks like demonstrable manipulation of a supposedly public tender process may — possibly — have some relevance. viz:

One bidder, SkyCity Casinos, with reportedly cosy ‘access’ to the National cabinet, was approached by Prime Minister John Key and, if claims are correct, given what resembles an inside track on a public tender — in effect, an undisclosed subsidy and an advantage over the other bidders WHO DON’T OPERATE A GAMBLING BUSINESS.

Then, reportedly, the tender process was truncated. (see Key directly intervened in convention centre process – Labour, Key stopped other bids once SkyCity interested, SkyCity boss reveals Cabinet access and PM dismisses SkyCity pokie deal concerns.)

I guess we’ll know more about what happened after we read the findings of the Auditor-General’s investigation into the SkyCity pokies-for-convention-centre-deal.

For members of a political party which while in Opposition and in its election campaigns in 2005 and 2008 made so much of allegations of ‘corruption and sleaze’ against the previous Labour government and its ministers, it seems National’s John Key and  Steven Joyce’s sensitivity to the need to walk the talk has been oddly dialed back. They seem very relaxed. And it’s not as if the SkyCity deal is the only incident of government deal-making with the private sector questioned recently, is it?

Not to mention the revised definition of ‘ethical standards expected of ministers’ in the Key administration illustrated by the contrast between the treatment of Richard Worth and the ACT party’s sole MP and minister outside cabinet John Banks. Mr Banks’s reputation has been dented following the ‘not-so-anonymous-donations’ affair (including a $15,000 declared-as-anonymous-but-not-really donation from SkyCity which was handed to Banks personally!) and his patently incredible defence offered for filing a false declaration:  I asked a volunteer if the electoral expenses return I was about to sign was accurate and he said yes so I didn’t read it I just signed it. (!)

It reminds me of the saying about ‘a face only a mother could love’.

– P

PS: That photo of the Wall St bull is from a wonderful site called and this article:

Bank of America to purchase Merrill Lynch from local used car dealer

In a move pressured by federal regulators, Merrill Lynch, the world’s largest financial broker, will be purchased by Bank of America for $29 a share, or $43.5 billion from local Hackensack, New Jersey used car salesman Tony “Legs” Rigtilliano.

Things looked dour for Merrill Lynch when Morgan Stanley turned down a possible acquisition of the brokerage house. Federal regulators seeking a suitor for Lynch eventually turned to Mr. Rigtilliano. “We felt confident that Mr. Rigtilliano could get the job done and save Merrill Lynch from certain doom at the hands of their own greed and avarice. Besides, I heard he sold Deputy Secretary Kimmitt a 2002 Ford Focus and even got him to buy the undercoating. Whatever the hell that is” said treasury department spokesperson Annie O’Hanly.

John Key with Merrill Lynch moko - pic: RadioLIVE (click) Original here:

In a stroke of good fortune, Mr. Rigtilliano was available to assist in the negotiations as he had just reached his sales quota after selling a broken-down Kia Sorento to a couple that barely spoke English. When reached for comment Mr. Rigtilliano said, “My ma told me I could sell horse crap to a manure salesman. Other than that time I tricked a tool into buying a Sportage what had the doors ripped off ‘cause I told ‘em it was a ‘open-air special edition’ this is probably my biggest scam job yet!”

…  read on here.

By a quirky coincidence, the National Party’s current policy-salesman-in-chief PM John Key (right) was Merrill Lynch’s head of global foreign exchange for six years. (Who woulda thunk it?)