Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bear Stearns employee interview Part Deux

Background: JS, 35 year old male Bear Stearns employee trading equity derivatives speaks to me.

Me: It's Wednesday a few days after it was announced that BS will be sold to JPM for $2 a share. What are you doing at work?
JS: It's a funny situation because I'm in trading. For example, right after giving notice of quitting, a trader wouldn't be allowed to trade. I feel like there's no benefit to making money and no repercussions for screwing up. I used to trade with a conscience as if it were my own money and felt I had a stake in it but now it feels like trading someone else's money. It's a weird feeling. I still do the right thing but I could imagine cases of abuse.
Me: Are you actually working? I'd probably be gossiping with my co-workers if I were in your situation.
JS: Yes, I am [working]. But there's a lot of web surfing.
Me: Does Bear Stearns block porn?
JS: Yes, but you can still get some pretty good soft stuff.
Me: Tell me the latest internal news.
JS: We're waiting to hear tomorrow on a short term retention package for the next 3 months.
Me: Have people been laid off yet?
JS: No.
Me: Have there been a lot of quittings?
JS: More than I've seen before.
Me: I'm going to change the topic. What do you think about Eliot Spitzer and the whole prostution thing?
JS: I can't believe how expensive it was and that there has to be a cheaper way.
Me: I meant do you think it's right or wrong? Should he have lost his job over it?
JS: He has to lose his job because it's not good behavior for a public official. I don't personally hold anything against him besides losing respect because he got caught.
Me: How is common is using prostitutes?
JS: I just don't know.
Me: Do you know anyone who's used one?
JS: Not to my knowledge.
Me: What do you think about the new governor, Paterson? He came out in the news about having extra-marital affairs.
JS: I think hookers are better than affairs especially when you have a family.
Me: I'm going to kill you either way if you do, but what is your logic?
JS: A hooker presumably doesn't have emotional attachment, but in an affair it comes to question if you love that person or not. Where do your loyalties lie might be in question. An affair can pull apart a marriage. Hookers can pull apart a marriage too but only if the wife gets mad.
Me: Why wouldn't the wife get mad over a hooker?!
JS: (long pause) I can't think of a reason why she wouldn't get mad. But in the affair she'd probably get more mad. With hookers you generally don't leave your wife for one but you might with an affair.
Me: Let me set the record straight and just say that they're both bad. I don't think it's a good idea to have a moral hierarchy to condone one behavior over the other.
Back to BS: Are people really working?
JS: Yes, but people are unabashed about working on their resumes, talking to headhunters or going on interviews.
Me: What are you doing?
JS: I have to maintain my trading positions. I still address customer orders.
Me: Are you getting the same amount of business as if this whole thing didn't happen?
JS: It's a lot less.
Me: Is it true that there are psychologists on site to counsel employees?
JS: There always are. There's also a hotline for people to call. They're sending out more reminders of these existing services.
Me: How do they word these reminders?
JS: I don't know, I mostly ignore them.
Me: Don't you want to use one for free?
JS: No, do you think they know more than me and you?
Me: Do you feel like employees are engaging in some kind of camraderie or kumbaya based on going through this tragedy together?
JS: No. It's more of a competitive situation. It's not like a sinking ship that we're all going down together. There are different options based on who you know, what your skills are, etc. So people are in different situations, which takes the camraderie out. It's far from hopeless.
Me: The rumor is that 5000 people or so who will lose their jobs, how will the economy absorb them? Will they find jobs?
JS: I think so. There are other options like the hedge fund industry. A lot of people will go to the buy side. People can move geographically too.
Me: Are going to miss your sweet Grand Central commute?
JS: Yes especially when it's raining.
Me: Anything interesting or juicy going on?
JS: I heard a story, I don't if it's true that Alan Schwartz got beat up in the gym. And that Jimmy Cayne has a full time body guard now.
Me: I found a 47 page merger agreement published on the Bear Stearns website. What do you think of it?
JS: I didn't know about it until you mentioned it and it was an interesting read. Employees probably don't know it's there.
Me: I'm surprised it wasn't circulated as an internal memo. Have there been any internal memos? What are they about?
JS: It's pretty lame.
Me: Are you not at liberty to discuss them?
JS: They're so unmemorable.
Me: And you have a steel trap memory...
JS: There's no integrity with management so I don't even want to read.


frank said...

Like every disaster (albeit this time without evident loss of life) you dig out from the rubble and plod on because there is no other choice. This blog is the actual news particularly since the employees, already screwed by incompetent management, are barred from soeaking with the media. Silence just digs he hole deeper. Wouldn't it be amazing if one or more of the other brokerages stepped forward to try and help their "bretheren"?

Kenny Banya said...

That's gold, Jupiter! Gold!