Why Enron Always Happens

And how history shows it’s actually good for us

THERE’S AN OLD JOKE ABOUT A COMPANY’S NEEDING TO hire a new accounting firm. The chief executive invites the heads of eight firms to come in for interviews and he hires one right away. A friend asks him how he did it. “Simple,” the chief executive replies. “I just asked each of them one question. How much is two plus two?”

“That’s easy,” the friend says.

“Sure it is. Seven of them said four. So I gave the job to the eighth. He said, ‘What number do you have in mind?’” Read more »

A Bang Or A Whimper?

Will the current bull market die spectacularly, à la 1929, or—as in 1974—strangle in weird silence?

J.P. Morgan did not have much use for either the stock market or reporters. So when one reporter importunately asked him what the market was going to do one day, he replied, with about equal parts contempt and truth, “It will fluctuate.” Read more »

The Magnitude of J. P. Morgan

It cannot be measured in dollars alone. It involved a kind of personal power no man of affairs will ever have again.

On the night of Thursday, October 24, 1907, nearly every important banker in New York was meeting in J. P. Morgan’s exquisite private library, located next to his house at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street. In the magnificent East Room, with its three tiers of inlaid wood and glass cabinets containing the printed masterpieces of the world, the bankers sought a way to end the financial panic that held Wall Street, and thus the country, in its grip. Read more »

The Capital Of Capitalism

Ever since 1792, bulls and bears together have tripped the light fantastic on Wall Street’s sidewalks—and sometimes just tripped

On a cold Saturday in December, 1865, the 350 members of the New York Stock Exchange gave a party to celebrate moving into a new building on Broad Street, near the corner of Wall—the first home of their own. “One of the finest temples of Mammon extant,” the New York Times observed. Visitors poured through the spacious lower hall and up the wide stairs to enjoy refreshments in the high-ceilinged, black-walnut-panelled Board Room, whose acoustics had already been tested at a brief stock auction that morning.Read more »