A web of greed and power grabs


By Penny Lernoux
Published by Anchor Press Doubleday, 1984

Penny Lernoux’s scathing In Banks We Trust is almost 30 years old, yet when I read it I could not help but think of present times. She offers an exhaustive look into the whirlwind of risky investments, careless gambles and unquenchable greed. In Banks We Trust defines the industry during the late 1970s and into the ’80s; yet it rings all too similar to today’s stories and headlines that analyze the 2008 banking debacle responsible for deepening the recession the country is still trying to escape.

I was unprepared for Lernoux’s scenario. The connections and the details of the corrupt practices initially shocked me. Her thorough investigation begins as she unearths the careless and reckless practices at Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank. But her investigation doesn’t end there, for the seedy practices aren’t limited to the usual suspects.

Before the book’s end, the Mafia, drug traffickers, politicians, regimes in Latin America and the Middle East, the CIA and the Vatican have all participated in a messy, intertwined web of risky investments, selfish power grabs and money laundering. Lernoux’ web is woven as the names of banks and people she writes about overlap and intertwine across chapters and stories. Her quick-paced writing captures the normalcy with which the illegal acts were practiced.

As I kept reading the continuing stories of cons and illegal practices, I kept thinking, “How is this allowed to happen?”

Lernoux is quick to point out that everyone is culpable.

Christmas-NCR-gifts-half_0.jpgGive a subscription to our award-winning newspaper and save $10.

The lack of oversight by and apathy of regulators, auditors and federal agents fed the culture that allows such immoral practices. Through her intensive research, Lernoux starkly reveals the egos that guided many of the decisions made in search of power and wealth, with little regard for the greater good.

Lernoux’s final sentence made me cringe as I read a warning for the future. A warning disregarded? She wrote: “Indeed, when it comes to sharing the blame, the federal government and its central bank, the Federal Reserve, must bear the largest responsibility, not only for promoting the money recycling game of the 1970s but also for refusing to stop the money-go-round after it spun out of control.”

Through those final words, In Banks We Trust maintains its relevancy to today’s newer bailouts. Lernoux reminds us that change cannot come from an overhaul of a single group or entity, but through a dramatic shock affecting an entire culture.

Mere dissatisfaction with greed is insufficient.

The works of Penny Lernoux

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg


NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.



NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017