Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Banks and the Swiper Mentality

As a stay-at-home parent I've seen a few episodes of Dora the Explorer. In case you've managed to avoid the show, it features an oval-headed girl who solves riddles and clues to find a place or object. There are many oddities in the show ... a singing map, a talking monkey, and State infrastructure that includes half finished roads that go over mountains rather than around them, bridges to nowhere, and redundant rail lines that allow many trains to race side-by-side to unpopular destinations.

But perhaps the most baffling figure in Dora is Swiper the Fox. Swiper is a kleptomaniac stalker who hides in the bushes and steals whatever is important to Dora and her friends that episode. Swiper can be stopped, temporarily, by staring him down and saying "Swiper, No swiping!" three times, at which point he seems ashamed and sighs "Aww, man!" Next episode, however, Swiper will be back to his sneaking, swiping ways.

As my wife once asked ... "Why don't they just lock Swiper up forever? He never learns, and he never stops trying to steal."

In business terms Swiper the Fox is an Investment Bank. Dora represents the regulators and the chant is the public shaming of executives and institutions when they are caught doing something manifestly illegal.

"Aww, man!" The banks dutifully say. They slink away. But sure enough, soon they are back with some other crazy scheme to defraud the public and make billions while only ever being fined millions.

Just like Swiper the Fox, there are no real consequences for the illegal actions of the big banks. The just blush, snap their fingers, admit that we caught them (this time) and go back to business as usual. And Dora is a much better regulator than those in the real world. She always resolves Swiper's schemes.