The New York Times is reporting today that alumni from Countrywide Financial — one of the chief culprits of the greed-fueled subprime mortgage debacle that largely sparked our current global economic crisis — are now profiting from the purchase of “delinquent home mortgages that the government took over from other failed banks, sometimes for pennies on the dollar.” The article’s analogy of the arsonist profiting from the sale of the charred land seems to be an appropriate one. Only I’d add that these guys seem to want some credit for picking up the fire hose while the blaze still rages, thereby “saving” a few homeowners, and making a fortune for themselves on both ends of the housing bubble.
The other key passage from the article for me was that their new company PennyMac “is actively courting other investors to build its portfolio”.
I have little doubt that they’ll find them.
But, if we hope and strive to emerge from this economic crisis as a more just country and world (and not all of us do) we are going to have to think hard about how and where we as individuals, non-profit organizations, employee pension funds, businesses, etc. invest our money.
Will profit maximization —divorced from any concern for the economic, environmental, gender, queer, racial and social impacts — be our only criteria for investing?
Is that moral?
While the stock market is in the process of “bottoming out,” there’s an urgent need to popularize the notion of socially and racially just investing — to take this movement to scale.
If those of us (individuals and organizations) who’ve lost money in the stock market combine with those of us who are looking to invest money for the first time, those billions and even trillions of dollars can radically re-shape our world.
First, we have to accept that the money lost in the stock market is gone. When we “make it back,” will we feel just as much relief, just as much satisfaction, no matter what has been done with our funds along the way? Even if we invest in companies that don’t respect workers’ rights? In banks and other companies that help produce the racial inequities and other injustices that we continue to see?
Imagine if corporations and mutual funds felt an imperative to produce a quarterly report on the environmental/racial/social impact of their business practices, along with the regular quarterly financial reports available to shareholders and the general public?
The time is now — while there is so much fear and uncertainty in the business world — to pool our resources and flex our economic power and promote those who will support our values.
If you know of organizations and investment models that are leading the way, please share them with us all. I intend to share what I find along the way. If we let the pure profit maximization model ascend again, we will already be too late.