From The Spectator:
Among the many overused clichés that have been dusted off to describe the chaos in financial markets over the past few months is the observation that this is ‘a crisis like no other’. Yet in one rather dark respect, it is following convention to the letter. As losses pile up and billions evaporate, an increasing number of financiers have decided to take their own lives rather than face up to the scale of the catastrophe.
In Germany, the billionaire Adolf Merckle threw himself under a train as one of Europe’s greatest family fortunes unravelled. In this country, Kirk Stephenson took the same way out after his private equity firm ran into trouble. The French investment adviser Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, whom Taki described recently as ‘an aristocrat, a gentleman and an honest man’, but who had placed hundreds of millions of his clients’ money with the hedge-fund fraudster Bernard Madoff, locked himself in his office, took some sleeping tablets and slashed his wrists.
Christen Schnor, HSBC’s head of insurance, hanged himself in a suite at London’s Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, while Bear Stearns’ research supervisor Barry Fox took the most traditional way out by jumping from the 29th floor. Last week, Irish property tycoon Patrick Rocca, whose companies owned a number of prominent office buildings in London, shot himself while his wife was out on the school run.
When markets turn against them, it seems, financiers are swift to contemplate the ultimate closing out of their personal positions. Psychologists have even devised a word for them: ‘econocides’, people who take their own lives as a result of losing lots of money.
And yet when you pause to think about it, of all the possible responses to financial mayhem, suicide is one of the strangest. Killing yourself is not a normal way of dealing with professional failure. Football managers don’t opt for that ultimate early bath when their team gets relegated — although, it has to be said, Arsene Wenger looks increasingly swivel-eyed as Arsenal unravel. Political leaders don’t respond to by-election defeats or bad election results by taking a bottle of whisky and a revolver into the billiard room — although we’ve yet to see how Gordon Brown takes the Tory landslide of 2010: ‘doing the decent thing’, as it used to be called, may be preferable to facing a jeering crowd of old Etonians on the government benches.
True, the Japanese have always regarded ritual suicide as a traditional, even honourable, response to personal shame or disaster: the number of Japanese suicides has exceeded 30,000 a year for the past decade — including, in the aftermath of corruption scandals, numerous government officials. In the West, however, the only group of people who appear to think that taking your own life is a rational way of dealing with a really bad day at the office are bankers and fund managers.
In part, that might be historical. The abiding image of the worst ever Wall Street crash is of brokers jumping from windows. Actually, that’s a bit of a myth. As the economist J.K. Galbraith pointed out in The Great Crash, 1929, some enthusiastic journalists spotted a pair of window cleaners high up on a ledge, and decided they must be brokers since it made a better story. The myth was a good one, and has stuck ever since. >>>>more
One quibble - are there any underused clichés?