“You’re Playing With My Money”
One spring afternoon about 50 years ago, the Boston Celtics’ locker room was quiet and tense before a deciding Game 7 of a playoff series. This was in the days when professional basketball was seasonal work, teams flew coach or rode trains, most players had summer jobs to make ends meet, and playoff bonuses could nearly double some players’ salaries.
The silence was broken by the soft Kentucky drawl of Celtics’ 6th man, Frank Ramsey: “Remember guys, you’re playing with my money.” Ramsey’s comment broke the tension, the team erupted in gales of laughter…and then went out and won another championship.
The big news in financial markets this week was J.P. Morgan’s report of a $2 billion trading loss on derivatives. This isn’t just any bank. As Felix Salmon observed, “JP Morgan more or less invented risk management. If they can’t do it, no bank can. And no sensible regulator can ever trust the banks to self-regulate.”
So the next time Jamie Dimon or Mitt Romney or any other apologist for the financial industry complains about financial regulation, or objects to greater government oversight, or whines about Dodd-Frank, here’s hoping that SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro, or President Obama, or anyone who has any claim to speak for the American people and their government will use Frank Ramsey’s line: “Remember guys, you’re playing with my money.”