Monday, January 28, 2008

Woman of the Day: CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo

Your heroes of yesterday are not necessarily your heroes of tomorrow. I used to think that “corporate business types” were the most boring people in the world. As a result of my backward thinking on this subject, I’m “challenged” when it comes to understanding economic events. The only consolation in that is that I’ve got plenty of company.

But what has this got to do with Maria Bartiromo, the “money honey” of CNBC’s financial broadcast network? Only that she’s one of the brightest and most accomplished women in the world today and one of the few people capable of explaining what happened at France’s Societe Generale Bank last week. And she’s not boring. Her morning report of the “Rogue Trader” story was exceptional for its focus, succinctness, and factual basis. Bartiromo is the anchor woman on CNBC’s Closing Bell and she also holds things down on Wall Street Journal Report on the same channel.

The Wall Street Journal also did a fine job of reporting that story, but the usual talking heads of the pundit TV media make no effort to report what they don’t understand. Granted, it’s a story that wasn’t easy to understand. It concerns a “low-level trader” named Jerome Kerviel and his unauthorized activities at Society General. This is likely to become a film when the full impact of it is understood.

Kerviel is a crafty and handsome 31 year-old guy who figured out how to circumvent computer security and the rules and regulations governing world securities trade. Over the past year, while securities were booming, Monsieur Jerome played the securities markets like an intoxicated slot machine player who keeps winning. Until the market dipped, and the system he’d cheated so well finally sent up the red flags of margin calls. Translated: billions of dollars in loss for Societe Generale.

When the bank finally learned about it, its CEOs were shitting bricks as well as running for cover. It’s unclear when they reported the fraudulent fiasco to France’s central bank but they kept mum while they tried to “unwind the trades.”

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