I'm Shocked to Find Gambling on Wall Street

Posted: Aug 22, 2012 12:01 AM

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here,” is one of many great quotes from the all-time classic 1942 film Casablanca

If you listen carefully to the dialogue written by Julius J. Epstein, Phillip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, you will come to appreciate that they were not only talking about the world at war back then, but also about the world in chaos now. 

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame can understand the demise of the dot-coms, but is shocked, shocked that his company’s stock is not a long-term investment, it’s simply a lottery ticket for the not faint of heart. 

CEO Hoodie, meet Captain Renault. 

When Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and French President Francois Hollande (both extreme socialists) were elected to office, it reminded me of Rick Blaine’s final words “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” 

The unfortunate aspect regarding the relationship between these two world leaders is that only after a few months the electorate now understands that more of the same does not result in a different outcome. 

Therefore, unemployment continues to rise, housing deteriorates, hope declines, and suicides rise. 

The people can grasp Rick’s confusion when asked why he came to Casablanca as he responded “My health, I came to Casablanca for the waters.”  

Renault replied “The waters?”  “What waters?”  “We’re in the desert.” 

Rick answered, “I was misinformed.” 

So to is the world misinformed, as the same failed policies of the past are repeated again and again and again. 

Most people have absolutely no clue about high-frequency trading, mark-to-model, or a dozen other tactics and techniques that create fraudulent and manipulated financial markets. 

However, if people were informed they would probably respond in the following manner.  Signor Ugarte: “You despise me, don’t you?” 

Rick: “If I gave you any thought I probably would.” 

Every day as the world crumbles, the same corrupted names come to the top of the list.  Again and again, the fines are levied, the wrists are slapped, and business continues as usual. 

From Goldman Sachs to Morgan Stanley and from J.P. Morgan to Bank of America, it’s always the same. 

Captain Renault: “Major Strasser has been shot.”

 “Round up the usual suspects.” 

I could talk about “all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,” or even the definitely Keynesian-themed, yet actually misquoted phrase from Casablanca “play it again, Sam.” 

Yet, as the optimists hope for something that really “doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,” perhaps the most appropriate ending is “here’s looking at you, kid.”