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Snap Judgment: When to Trust Your Instincts, When to Ignore Them, and How to Avoid Making Big Mistakes with Your Money by David E. Adler

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32. Wall Street CEOs

In the end, hubris, the greatest sin in the Greek world, may explain more about Wall Street CEO behavior than simple greed. Other pathologies common to CEOs, such as superstar status and inflexibility, played roles as well. The demise of the CEOs of Wall Street resembles nothing so much as the calamities in a Greek tragedy. The CEOs, with their vast reputations and gravity-defying or really God-defying pay packages, couldn’t imagine the end was coming.

Aligned or misaligned incentives seem really beside the point to describe CEO behavior during the final days of the crisis. Take the case of James Cayne, the former CEO of Bear Stearns. He had every economic as well as personal motive for Bear Stearns to succeed. Traders working ...

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