Gekko Echo

A closer look at the "Decade of Greed"


One of the most memorable scenes in Oliver Stone's 1986 movie Wall Street takes place at a shareholders' meeting of Teldar Paper Corp. Gordon Gekko, the oily financier, is defending his bid to take over the company. "The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works….And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."

Long before they ended, the 1980s were tagged as the decade of greed. That epithet has been repeated in dozens of books and movies, in hundreds of articles, editorials, and sound bites—repeated so often that it no longer seems controversial. In a single phrase, it represents that tumultuous decade as a melodrama peopled by greedy financiers obsessed with short-term profits, yuppies engaged in an escalating spiral of conspicuous consumption, and the long-suffering working and middle classes, who played by the rules but had to pay for the party. The plot runs as follows:

In the early '80s, the Reagan administration lowers income taxes on the wealthy, cuts social spending for the poor, and rescinds regulations on business. Money pours into financial markets, setting off a speculative frenzy reminiscent of the Roaring '20s. A wave of mergers, acquisitions, and leveraged buyouts changes the face of corporate America. Obscene sums of money are made by corporate raiders like T. Boone Pickens, Carl Icahn, and Ronald Perelman; by LBO firms like Kohlberg Kravis Roberts; and by rogue investment banking firms like Drexel Burnham Lambert.

Great American companies are dismantled, swallowed up, or saddled with crushing debt loads which they have to service by firing employees, slashing wages, and cutting back investments in research and capital improvements. The vast increase in debt is made possible by "junk bonds": high-risk, high-yield securities pioneered by Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham. Milken is the evil genius of the piece, a financial pusher who gets American business hooked on leverage.

In Act II of the drama, retribution comes to Wall Street. Ivan Boesky, the notorious arbitrageur, admits to trading takeover stocks on the basis of inside information, which he paid for with cash by the briefcase. With Boesky's help, federal prosecutors set off on a white-collar manhunt that eventually snares Michael Milken, who is sentenced to 10 years in prison.

By curtain's close at the end of the decade, most of the gains from a booming economy have been captured by the wealthiest 1 percent of the population. There has been a huge increase in the inequality of wealth and income. Meanwhile, the junk-bond market has collapsed and taken with it the savings and loan associations, imposing huge costs on the taxpayers. As penance for the orgy of greed, the economy plunges into a long recession.

This melodrama is very nearly pure fiction.

There's no denying that crimes were committed—though not on the scale suggested by such fevered accounts as James Stewart's best-selling book Den of Thieves. Leaving aside the guilty pleas by Boesky, Milken, and others, most of the convictions the government obtained have been overturned on appeal. And Milken pleaded guilty only to six technical violations of the law; the government was never able to make a case against him on the more serious charges of insider trading, stock manipulation, or bribery. Outside the courtroom, it is true that there was greed on the Street. Greed has always existed and always will. Though no one has yet found a way to measure these things, it may be that the flame of avarice burned brighter in the '80s than at other times. There was easy money to be made for a while, and easy money always draws people of easy virtue. But in every fundamental respect, the story being sold under the title "Decade of Greed" is the exact opposite of the truth.

In the '80s, capitalism won its long political conflict with socialism. Nations in the former Soviet bloc abandoned their commitment to command economies, as the rest of the world rushed to embrace private property, free markets, and limited government. Meanwhile, an unprecedented wave of innovation swept over the capitalist West.

Those who watched the collapse of the Berlin Wall may have taped it (on an '80s VCR) as it was broadcast live on CNN (the '80s news network). Or they could have called the airlines (on an '80s cordless phone) or faxed a travel agent (on an '80s facsimile machine) and reserved a flight to Germany (on an '80s computerized reservation system, at '80s prices for international flights). On the flight back, they could call their friends (from '80s airplane phones), leaving a message if necessary (on '80s voicemail). Then they could put their chunk of the wall next to their PCs and laser printers.

Accompanying these innovations in consumer products and services—and making them possible—was an equally profound wave of innovation in financial markets. The financial innovations were intangible, but they were just as real—and just as valuable—as the new consumer products

Prior to the '80s, financial services were extremely segmented. Commercial banks made business loans, savings and loan institutions made mortgages, investment banks handled mergers and acquisitions, and so on. Like the meat in a crab, these niches were walled off from each other—not by the market but by law. Government regulations kept banks and S&Ls from owning stocks, imposed controls on interest rates, and subsidized banks by means of federal deposit insurance. Within their domains, financial firms specialized in serving a more or less fixed base of clients; a local bank, for example, would originate, service, and hold as assets the loans it made to local businesses. To protect these relations from disturbance through changes in prices and flows of credit, foreign competitors were excluded. Protection was the glue that held in balance the relationships among clients, financial firms, and government regulators.

During the last two decades, the postwar financial world came unglued as a result of broad economic and technological changes. Cheap computing power, vast improvements in communications, and the growth of foreign economies created a global financial market, symbolized by 24-hour trading in securities. Some $900 billion now changes hands every day in currency trading.

The volume of security trading between Americans and foreigners has skyrocketed: In 1980, the dollar total was equivalent to 9 percent of GNP; by 1990, it was equivalent to 93 percent of GNP.

Protectionism became impossible. So did the domestic regulations that limited the interest banks could offer depositors. Inflation in the late '70s made deregulation necessary if banks were to compete with the new money-market funds.

Other innovations in capital markets broke down the traditional segmentation among firms. Large creditworthy borrowers could go directly to the market to issue commercial paper; they no longer needed the banks as intermediaries. In the mortgage market, the rationale for savings-and-loan institutions was disappearing. Mortgage bankers and other sorts of finance companies could originate loans, credit agencies could guarantee them, and mutual funds could hold them by buying mortgage-backed securities, a product pioneered by Salomon Brothers in the early '80s. It turned out that these functions do not need to be bundled together in a single firm; unbundling them allowed more competition and lower mortgage costs for consumers. In addition, new techniques for balancing debt/equity ratios. selecting market portfolios, and pricing undervalued assets; revolutionized corporate finance and securities trading.

These innovations made a great deal of money for those who invented, developed, and took advantage of them, with the greatest profits typically going to those with the vision and courage to get in early. The profits were a fair return for the creation of value: The innovations lowered costs, improved efficiency, saved time.

The same is true for the two most controversial innovations of the '80s: leveraged buyouts and junk bonds. There is now an extensive body of academic research on both phenomena, and the conclusions are diametrically opposed to the popular impression.

In a typical LBO, a corporation would be taken private by top management working with a pool of investors led by a buyout firm. These investors would purchase all outstanding shares of the company, putting up 5 percent to 10 percent of the purchase price from their own money and borrowing the rest. After the buyout, management held a much higher share of the equity than before. With that incentive, along with "the discipline of debt," management would slash costs and sell off unprofitable pieces of the business in order to reduce the debt load and maximize the value of the equity. In a few years the company could be taken public again, usually at an enormous profit.

The source of these profits was the fact that many companies had developed a sizable paunch as a result of a breach between ownership and control—a breach that was largely the product of government regulations. Control over a company's management must come either from those who hold its equity or from those who lend it money. In the postwar period, equity was dispersed among large numbers of shareholders, whose only real instrument for control was the freedom to sell their stocks. Debt levels were low, and in any case commercial and investment banks were largely prevented by law from having seats on boards of directors and exerting the kind of control they had in the days of J. P. Morgan.

Because of the low debt levels, many companies had large cash flows available after meeting interest payments, especially in mature industries that did not require large expenditures on research and development. Because of weak controls, management had considerable discretion over the use of free cash flows. Corporations tended to develop large bureaucracies, filled with unnecessary vice presidents. Top executives enjoyed excessive perks; among many egregious examples was Unocal CEO Fred Hartley, who had a grand piano installed on his corporate jet. Finally, during the '60s and '70s, large corporations embarked on a wave of acquisitions, diversifying into fields unrelated to their core businesses and producing unwieldy conglomerates.

A measure of the fat that was padding the corporate frame is that buyouts occurred at an average premium of 50 percent above the market price of the stock, suggesting that unmonitored management was wasting up to a third of the value of corporate assets. Buyout firms such as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts earned enormous profits by recovering that value. To begin with, they restored the connection between ownership and control; as active investors, they monitored the performance of management. They realigned incentives by requiring that managers put a significant amount of their own money into the company and tying their compensation to the company's performance.

By taking apart the conglomerates that had been built up over the previous two decades—a strategy often denounced as the "bust-up" philosophy—LBOs tended to produce more-focused and better-run companies. In 1986, KKR invested $407 million of its own money in the purchase of Beatrice Cos., the Chicago conglomerate that owned Avis, Tropicana, Playtex, and numerous other consumer-product divisions. Over the next four years, the firm took in $2.2 billion from the sale of these units to other corporations or buyout firms that could run them more profitably.

Perhaps most importantly, buyouts freed up vast amounts of capital that had been locked inside mature industries and returned it to the market, where it could be invested in new and developing industries. Michael Jensen, a Harvard Business School professor and pioneer in the study of LBOs, writes that "the most careful academic research strongly suggests that takeovers—along with leveraged restructurings prompted by the threat of takeover—have generated large gains for shareholders and for the economy as a whole. My estimates indicate that over the 14-year period from 1976 to 1990, the $1.8 trillion of corporate control transactions—that is, mergers, tender offers, divestitures, and LBOs—created over $650 billion in value for selling-firm shareholders." As against this enormous gain, Jensen estimates that losses to bondholders and banks do not exceed $50 billion.

The same research has also refuted many other claims about buyouts. In early 1989, Lane Kirkland, head of the AFL-CIO, asserted that takeovers had eliminated 90,000 union jobs. No evidence has ever been found to support the claim; although middle-management positions were eliminated when corporate hierarchies were flattened, the buyout movement as a whole does not appear to have produced any net loss of blue-collar jobs. Companies such as Kraft and National Can preserved jobs at plants that would otherwise have closed. After the $4.2-billion buyout of Safeway Stores, a number of its unprofitable supermarkets were closed or sold, and in some areas where the company was competing with nonunionized stores, it won wage concessions from its unions. When the leaner and more productive company went public again in 1990, however, it announced a $3.2-billion expansion program.

Buyouts did produce some failures, especially toward the end of the decade, when deals tended to be more speculative. An example is the empire that Robert Campeau assembled by buying department stores such as Bloomingdale's; Campeau filed for bankruptcy in early 1990 with $6 billion in debts. But even in this period, bankruptcy was not the norm. In the largest LBO ever, the 1989 takeover of RJR-Nabisco by KKR, existing share-holders received $12 billion as a premium over the previous market valuation of the stock. During the next two years, under new management installed by KKR, the company reduced its debt load, improved operating efficiency, and created another $5 billion in value for its post-buyout owners.

Many acquisitions in the '80s were financed in part with junk bonds. In the latter half of the decade, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts was the largest client of Drexel's High-Yield Bond Department. But the role of junk bonds was considerably less than the press, or the outraged CEOs of companies under siege, would lead one to expect. Glenn Yago, director of the Economic Research Bureau at the State University of New York, Stonybrook, has found that only 22 percent of the proceeds from high-yield issues during 1980–86 were used for acquisitions, and only 3 percent for hostile takeovers. Most junk debt was used for internal investment and expansion by entrepreneurial firms in new and growing industries: cable television, telephones, health care, home building, and many others.

Prior to the '70s, institutional investors such as insurance companies and pension funds would invest only in bonds with investment-grade ratings from Moody's or Standard and Poor's, a status restricted to about 800 corporations. Scholars in the 1940s had noticed, however, that the higher risk of default on non-investment-grade bonds was outweighed by the higher interest they paid; hence a portfolio of such bonds would outperform a portfolio of investment-grade bonds. As a student at the Wharton School, Michael Milken carried this analysis forward to the '70s and found that the gap had widened. When he went to work at Drexel, he began trading high-yield bonds with enormous success. The high-yield market in those years consisted of "fallen angels": bonds that had been issued as investment grade but had been downgraded. Milken helped create a liquid market for investors who wanted higher returns.

In 1977, he began underwriting new high-yield bonds, opening up the bond market to the 95 percent of firms that did not have investment-grade ratings. Over the next decade, Milken raised funds for more than 1,000 such companies, including MCI, Ted Turner's CNN, and scores of others that have since become industrial giants. More than with any of the other innovations, the value created by high-yield financing can be credited to a single man. Milken's success was the result of looking not only at the balance sheet but at the vision of the entrepreneurs, the intellectual and spiritual capital they had invested in the firm. "The value of a company and a business," Milken said, "is the knowledge and wisdom and vision of its employees." It was these companies that created the surge in employment during the long economic expansion of the '80s, while the Fortune 500 were cutting their work force to improve efficiency. Yago's research indicates that, from 1980 to 1986, firms using high-yield debt accounted for 82 percent of average annual job growth at public companies; they added jobs at six times the average rate in each industry.

Serious allegations have been made about Milken's practices as a trader, an underwriter, and—later in the '80s–a deal maker in junk-backed takeovers. For example, there is evidence (though not enough for the prosecutors to make a case) that he offered personal inducements to fund managers to buy his bonds for their fund portfolios. But it is absurd to claim, as James Stewart and others have, that such practices were the essence of Milken's success. They were a sideshow in what has become a $200-billion market.

Nor is Milken responsible for the collapse of the S&L industry. Only 161 out of 3,025 thrift institutions held high-yield bonds, with a total book value in 1988 of $13.2 billion; 69 percent of that total was held by 11 thrifts, and even in that small group, junk represented only 10 percent of their assets. It was only in a few specific cases, such as Thomas Spiegel's Columbia Savings and Loan, that junk was a significant cause of insolvency. Problem real-estate loans were the true "junk" in the S&L portfolios. And the essential causes of the industry's collapse were government regulations and subsidies—especially federal deposit insurance—that encouraged S&Ls to make risky loans.

In short, whatever misdeeds were done, whatever speculative excesses were committed in financial markets, innovations in those markets created tremendous value, and the returns that innovators reaped were justly earned. The real question is: Why has all this escaped the notice of the media, which continue to present the '80s as a melodrama of greed? Harvard's Michael Jensen observes, "I know of no area in economics today where the divergence between popular belief and the evidence from scholarly research is so great." Why does the illusion have such a grip on popular belief?

One reason, surely, is the disruptive and unsettling character of innovation. Corporate CEOs were unnerved by the "sharks" circling their companies. Old-line investment bankers had to compete with the brash upstarts from Drexel. Regulators couldn't keep up with the new investment vehicles that sprawled across their categories. And all of them found a sympathetic ear in the press. Despite their self-image as an adversarial class, journalists depend on those in power for access and visibility; they enjoyed their seats in a boat that was being violently rocked.

But these sociological factors cannot be the full explanation. The establishment's desire to preserve its power could not be put forward publicly and explicitly as a reason for attacking the innovators. The cause of the vested interests is a cause that dare not speak its name; it needs a plausible rationalization. And the standards of plausibility are set by deep-seated cultural premises.

One such premise was stated by Gordon Gekko: "It's a zero-sum game. Somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred….I create nothing. I own." Unlike the production of tangible goods and services, it is often assumed, financial transactions do nothing but shuffle ownership from one set of hands to another, without creating anything. The clearest manifestation of this premise is the popular response to breathtaking incomes. People were scandalized by the multimillion-dollar earnings of LBO entrepreneurs like Henry Kravis and George Roberts of KKR. Yet for all that has been written about the "decade of greed," virtually no one has complained about the income of entertainers like Bill Cosby, who earned some $58 million last year. Nor are the accusations directed against entrepreneurs like Bill Gates of Microsoft or Sam Walton of Wal-Mart, who earned fortunes by creating new products and services. In 1987, the year that Michael Milken earned $550 million, no eyebrows were raised when Sam Walton gained $4 billion from the increase in the value of his stock.

This invidious distinction is invalid; as we have seen, innovations in the financial sector create value in the same way as innovations in the so-called real sector. In the one case, scientific knowledge about nature leads to inventions that exploit that knowledge, and the inventions are then developed and marketed by high-tech firms like Microsoft, which create benefits far in excess of the profits they retain. In the same way, theoretical insights about the economic and mathematical properties of financial structures lead to the invention of new financial technology that exploits those insights; the technology is then developed and marketed by firms like Drexel and KKR, which create much more value than they ever take back. As Milken said, "Walton used retailing technology to create value; Drexel used financial technology to create value…by enabling entrepreneurs to raise money far more efficiently than they could have done without us."

A second important cultural premise is a more general and elusive kind of antimaterialism—the attitude that material production is a low and degrading value by comparison with art, knowledge, love, or military glory. This pre-industrial attitude was the source of aristocratic disdain for the merchants and factory owners of 200 years ago. And of course it is a central theme of any deeply religious culture. In the highly secular societies of the West, this premise no longer has the power it once did. But it survives in a number of specific forms, including the tendency of journalists and literati to believe the worst of businessmen. In Den of Thieves. for example, Stewart refers casually to "corporate America's own willingness to dissemble," a sweeping generalization about an entire class of people on the basis of a few specific cases.

The antimaterialist outlook is embodied in the conventional concept of greed. For centuries, religious authorities taught that any concern with material wealth beyond the subsistence level was greedy, just as any sexual desire not connected with the needs of reproduction was lustful. In effect, economic ambition and sexual enjoyment—the two most powerful this-worldly motives—were put on the list of mortal sins. Today most people would not consider it sinful to strive for material comforts beyond the level of a medieval monk. But a vestige of the old view survives in the notion that it is greedy to want too much. Indeed, some dictionaries define greed as an excessive desire for material possessions. Notice that we do not have comparable concepts for those who want too much knowledge, too much beauty, too much love. Why is wealth singled out for special concern, if not for a lingering bias against material success?

Considering how deep a rut the concept of greed has worn in public discourse lately, it is worth pausing to consider its proper meaning. In a market economy, money is the medium of exchange for the products and services people have created. It is thus the reward for productive achievement in a society of traders, of people who live by peaceful exchange rather than plunder. When the desire for money is connected with achievement, there is no vice involved, and the concept of greed is inapplicable. There cannot be any excess in the desire to achieve, and it is proper to want one's achievement recognized and rewarded by those who benefit from it.

Because it is a medium of exchange over time, money also serves as a store of value. It is thus an input to the process of further production, just as information is an input to the process of producing knowledge. It would be absurd to accuse a scholar or scientist of wanting too much information, as long as he can profitably employ it. The analogous claim is equally absurd for investors, bankers, entrepreneurs, and others who specialize in using money to expand production.

The concept of greed can properly be applied only when the desire for money is divorced from any concern with achievement. Some people want money without having to earn it—a life of luxury without the effort of producing. Some people want the prestige and social status that come with wealth. Some want power over others. In motive, greed is a desire for wealth without regard for achievement or creation. In action, greed is the unprincipled pursuit of wealth. This includes the use of force, fraud, and other coercive means. It also includes the violation of ethical norms, both the universal standards of honesty and fairness, and the specialized standards that apply to particular professions.

Many of those convicted of insider trading fit this description. As far as one can tell from what has appeared in print, for example, Ivan Boesky's motives had more to do with gaining prestige and power than with any concern for creating economic value. And his practice relied on the theft of information; he regularly bribed his informants at law firms and investment banks to violate their fiduciary responsibilities.

So there is such a thing as greed, and it is, as another common definition says, a reprehensible form of the desire for money. But what makes the desire reprehensible is not a matter of degree. If our standard is human life and happiness, we cannot set any arbitrary upper limit on permissible levels of material comfort—any more than there can be too much knowledge or beauty in our lives. It is not greed for a person with expensive tastes to work hard for the wherewithal to satisfy them. It is not greed for an entrepreneur to seek the capital he needs to make his vision real—even if the sums involved are huge.

A third factor that supports the view of the '80s as a decade of greed is an implicit sense of fairness about the distribution of income. Although egalitarians are guilty of considerable statistical subterfuge on this issue, there is no question that the income gap between rich and poor has widened recently. According to the standard Census Bureau measures, the share of aggregate income received by households in the upper fifth of the income scale increased from 44.2 percent in 1979 to nearly 47 percent in 1989. Gains by the upper tenth and the upper 1 percent were even more pronounced. The broadest measure of inequality, an index known as the Gini coeffcient, began rising slowly in the mid-'70s and then rose more steeply in the last decade.

Press reports rarely bother to mention what ought to be obvious—that the poorest fifth in 1979 and the poorest fifth in 1989 are not the same class of individuals. Census figures indicate that real income in a given quintile changes by no more than 1 percent from one year to the next, whereas annual turnover in the composition of the quintiles is 20 percent to 40 percent. Thus the commonly reported statistics on income distribution do not measure the economic fate of individuals over time. They measure changes in the value that the market places on various productive functions—various "offices" in the economy that are occupied by different people at different times.

The real question of fairness is whether individuals are free to exploit the opportunities available to them in the effort to improve their condition. A mixed economy like ours places many constraints on such freedom, from the income tax to the regulations that control entry into many businesses and professions. But longitudinal studies that follow individuals over time show there is still a great deal of social mobility. The Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis analyzed a random sample of people who filed tax returns during the decade from 1979 to 1989. Only 14 percent of those in the bottom quintile in 1979 remained there 10 years later; everyone else had moved up the income ladder as they got older. Indeed, more of them (15 percent) made it all the way to the highest quintile than remained at the bottom.

A similar study by the Urban Institute covered two 10-year periods: 1967–77 and 1977–87. In each case, those in the bottom quintile at the beginning of the decade increased their incomes by an average of 75 percent over the next 10 years. Those in the top quintile at the outset had an average increase of 5 percent. As the authors put it, "when one follows individuals rather than statistical groups defined by income, one finds that, on average, the rich got a little richer and the poor got much richer over the decades." The study also showed that the rate of mobility was about the same during these two decades. Contrary to the impression one gets from the media, the transformations of the '80s did not diminish the prospects of moving up the economic ladder.

The last and the deepest of the cultural premises we need to consider pertains to self-interest. A market is a system of exchange among individuals pursuing their own purposes, largely for their own gain. But moralists have always looked askance at the motive of self-interest. In the 18th century, when an understanding of the market system began to emerge, writers like Bernard Mandeville felt they were asserting a moral paradox: that private vices could produce public benefits. Ever since, the pursuit of self-interest has carried the burden of proving that it serves the public good.

Yet as Ayn Rand has observed, this attitude is incompatible with the liberal principle that individuals are ends in themselves—the principle that lies behind the legal system of individual rights. If the individual is an end in himself, he is morally as well as legally entitled to be an end for himself. He has the right to the pursuit of happiness, which includes the right to regard his own happiness as a self-sufficient end, requiring no further justification in the form of service to God, society, the biosphere, or whatever.

Of course the pursuit of happiness does not entail selfishness in the conventional meaning of that term: the vain, self-centered, grasping pursuit of pleasure, riches, prestige, or power. The ethics of individualism, backed up by abundant psychological evidence, holds that happiness is the product of achievement, of stable relationships with friends and family, of peaceful exchange with others, and of the kind of self-esteem that is above the need for comparisons. The pursuit of self-interest in this sense requires that one act in accordance with moral standards of rationality, responsibility, honesty, and fairness. But it does not require self-sacrifice or "service above self."

In his recent book about leveraged buyouts, George Anders gives a disapproving summary of the spirit of the '80s: "The important thing was to join in the getting. Growing rich no longer required an apology; it was a point of pride." Why should any apology be required? The assumption is that wealth reflects the unseemly pursuit of self-interest.

These four premises—that financial activity is noncreative, that production in general is materialistic, that income should be distributed as equally as possible, and that the pursuit of self-interest is unseemly—served as filters blocking out the real story of the '80s. The successes of that era remain invisible because they violate these popular assumptions.

Capitalism has always labored under a cloud of moral unease, from which a sense of outrage precipitates during periods of stress or change. The motives of those who prosper in the market have always been regarded with suspicion. At the end of the last century, men like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, James J. Hill, and J. P. Morgan made millions by building railroads and steel mills, drilling for oil, and financing a fabulous burst of economic growth. Economic historians have shown that they earned their wealth by production, not predation. Many of the allegations made about them have been shown to be complete fabrications. Yet they are still routinely described as "robber barons." Myths that confirm our moral premises have remarkable staying power.

It is said that history is written by the victors. That may be true of military conquest. But the history of the last decade is being written by the losers. In the '80s, capitalism won its ideological battle with socialism and unleashed an epoch-making burst of creative energy. But unless we reexamine our ethical assumptions, the history of the decade will be written by those who never liked capitalism and do not wish it well.

David Kelley is executive director of the Institute for Objectivist Studies. Jeff Scott is senior financial analyst, assistant vice president, at Wells Fargo Bank.