A man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom.

—J. P. Morgan1

John Pierpont Morgan, patriarch of the banking dynasty, famously asserted that credit was based on trust. Knowing whom he was lending to was more important than either cash or property collateral, he explained to Congress in 1912. In today’s commercial relationships, trust still denotes an expectation of behavior that is the foundation for commercial credit.

One hundred years after Morgan’s statement, superior reputations that foster trust are still associated with better credit terms. Today, when it is no longer clear exactly who “owns” ...

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