This morning, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan is warning of the worst financial crisis since World War II, the Wall Street Journal is reporting on its front page that "Banks Fear a Deepening of Turmoil," Asian stocks plunged and the federal government is financing the purchase by JP Morgan Chase of fast-collapsing investment bank Bear Stearns for less than a tenth of its stock market capitalization and about one-quarter of the value of its headquarters building. The biggest story for the moment, and the biggest single cause the current wave of fear, is the near bankruptcy of Stearns this weekend after its trading partners started asking for money owed, its credit ratings got cut and banks stopped lending the company money against even top-quality mortgage bonds. Where was the Bear Stearns' Chairman, James Cayne amid all this? Playing bridge in a tournament, a source told the Journal, until he finally returned to New York Saturday, two days after lenders starting reining in the company's credit. This is the same James Cayne embarrassed in the Times in July for playing golf amid another Stearns near-meltdown and downright humiliated in the Journal just this past November, after another time he played bridge during a company crisis, and also allegedly smoked pot:
During 10 critical days of this crisis — one of the worst in the securities firm's 84-year history — Bear's chief executive wasn't near his Wall Street office. James Cayne was playing in a bridge tournament in Nashville, Tenn., without a cellphone or an email device. In one closely watched competition, his team placed in the top third.
As Bear's fund meltdown was helping spark this year's mortgage-market and credit convulsions, Mr. Cayne at times missed key events. At a tense August conference call with investors, he left after a few opening words and listeners didn't know when he returned. In summer weeks, he typically left the office on Thursday afternoon and spent Friday at his New Jersey golf club, out of touch for stretches, according to associates and golf records. In the critical month of July, he spent 10 of the 21 workdays out of the office, either at the bridge event or golfing, according to golf, bridge and hotel records.
...Attendees say Mr. Cayne has sometimes smoked marijuana at the end of the day during bridge tournaments. He also has used pot in more private settings, according to people who say they witnessed him doing so or participated with him.
Shortly after the Journal's page one pot-and-bridge story appeared, Cayne was replaced as CEO and made non-executive chairman, but he still had enough responsibility to shareholders that he participated in negotiations over the JP Morgan acquisition this weekend.
(Photo: Bear Stearns via AP)