The transnational culture of finance

One of the most promising threads in economic sociology these days is the examination of the role of culture in shaping economic and social outcomes. I have to confess that I have always thought of culture in fairly local terms, particularly when comparing across countries.

Today’s news from Japan challenges that preconception. From Bloomberg:

Nomura Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Kenichi Watanabe and Chief Operating Officer Takumi Shibata are preparing to step down amid an insider trading scandal, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The executives, both 59, are seeking to take responsibility for incidents in which employees leaked information used by traders, the people said, asking to remain anonymous before an announcement. Keiko Sugai, a Tokyo-based spokesman for the company, declined to comment.

Apparently the resignations are the result of a probe into insider trading by Japanese authorities, one which found that (in the words of Nomura’s own attorneys) staff were “willing to do anything to meet their sales targets.”

Taken with LIBOR, the London Whale, money laundering for drug cartels, and the past four years in general, it would seem that finance now has an increasingly homogenous culture of short-term production at all costs that operates regardless of geography. That is both horrible and fascinating.

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