Chuckles aplenty but Black injects note of banking reality

Kilkenomics is probably the only comedy event in the world where quotes from the Nyberg report mingle with behavioural economics and bitcoin speculation, in front of a chuckling audience.

Bill Black, the criminologist responsible for thousands of bankers in the aftermath of the Savings and Loans debacle in the 1980s, calls it the “best gig in economics”.

Mr Black took to the stage to outline the criminal recipe that was used by the bankers at the heart of the Irish crisis to achieve phenomenal growth with catastrophic consequences.

The actions of top bankers fit precisely into the model of making reckless loans to unsuitable candidates resulting in a boom and bust cycle. Mr Black has achieved a 90% conviction rate against senior executives in the US who used the very same model.

So why have no convictions happened in Ireland? According to Mr Black, there is no appetite for it at a senior level. He said that he had been up and down the corridors of ministers and regulators in Ireland, but no one had shown an appetite.

He described the Nyberg report into the crisis as “A €7m expenditure on creating a legal brief for the defence of the CEOs”.

According to Mr Black there is a tribal aversion to the word ‘fraud’ amongst economists.

Meanwhile, tribalism and dishonesty were at the core of Israeli behavioural economist Dan Ariely’s lecture, exploring the cost of the little lies everyone engages in.

Mr Ariely explained a number of experiments that he has carried out which challenge the original economic theory that people weigh the cost benefit analysis of crimes before they carry them out.

He found that people are influenced by their surroundings and their morals as to how much they will lie and cheat.

Ultimately, he found from interviewing people who had cheated in sport, business and life that these people still thought they were good people. It was the ability to rationalise the actions that mattered, not the actions themselves.


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