Every year since the crisis, one of Wall Street’s top executives tells the world to quit it with all the banker-bashing. And every year, like clockwork, they get publicly roasted for their comments. UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti needed just a few weeks into 2014 to earn his place on the mantle.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ermotti said that all the vitriol aimed at the industry is counter-productive to moving beyond years of scandal. “Life is hard enough, and I think this constant lecturing on ethics and on integrity by many stakeholders is probably the most frustrating part of the equation,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “We are far from being perfect…but it’s not going to be very helpful to be constantly bashing banks.”
Ermotti then boldly stepped beyond banking as an industry and talked specifically about what he feels is an unfair standard being held against UBS. “When I look around, I don’t think there are many banks that can come to us and say they are the example that should be followed,” he said.
Bold indeed. Others before him – namely Jamie Dimon and Bob Diamond – took heat for calling out critics of banking, but others fell short of isolating “stakeholders” and pointing to the faults of other firms. Ermotti seems to be calling out friends and foes alike.
Whether he’s right or not – and he may be – Ermotti is stepping out on a shaky limb. You may remember Bob Diamond’s infamous words, uttered a year before Libor: “There was a period of remorse and apology for banks. That period needs to be over.” Diamond heard those words on playback during the aftermath of the rate-fixing scandal.
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