[ Monday, May 04, 2009 ]
Off Topic: Perhaps the most disturbing thing I've ever seen.
Last week I was in New York for the CIT Healthcare Finance Conference, a gathering of small healthcare businesses and potential financing sources, where company executives give short presentations on their companies and then meet with possible investors or lenders. Lunch involved a group of healthcare investment bankers talking about the current state of lending in their particular lending spaces, followed by a question-and-answer session. The first question, or more importantly the response to the question, left me with my mouth gaping, staring around at my dining companions to see if I was the only one so aghast. I even sent myself an email via blackberry as I sat there, stunned, since I needed to digest what had just happened.
The reason I'm reminded to comment is this piece
in the Detroit Free Press (via my blogfather
I've been attending events like this CIT conference for 20 years, going back to the very end of the Reagan administration, and often the lunch presentation will have industry experts giving their take on current events in the industry, followed by question and answer sessions. That's what happened in New York. But at every other such event I've ever been at, the industry experts would say what they thought was good and bad about what the then-current administration was doing. They would state their opinions, and why they thought the administration's moves were right or wrong. They would acknowledge if there was a difference of opinion, and would give the other side its due (but state why, in their opinion, that position was wrong, unworkable, misguided, etc.). Sometimes I'd disagree with the speaker, but at least I'd have learned what they thought and why.
Well, in New York, the very first question after the lunch was basically this: "Is the current administration doing the right thing to revive the economy?" The answer:
First, the moderator just stared at the guy who asked the question. Then he replied to the questioner, "Do you?" The questioner persisted: really, I want to know. The moderator turned to the panel of investment bankers and asked if any of them wanted to tackle the question. They all refused. Nobody would say anything.
I was stunned. Why are these guys afraid to speak their minds? Can they not give an honest opinion, if that opinion is critical of the current administration? Are they afraid of the regulators? Are they afraid that, since they're in the finance business, the government will punish them if they say anything controversial? Were they afraid of the repercussions if someone in the room was an Obama fan? I've never seen anything like it. I still, to some extent, can't believe it.
UPDATE: click the permalink below to see the comments, which are worthwhile. Also, see this, as further to my comment.
Jeff [11:29 PM]
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