When former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis denied N.Y. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s fraud charges in court documents this week, he did not strike a particularly humble tone. “Some have looked to assign blame for every aspect of the financial crisis, even where there is no evidence of misconduct,” he and his lawyers wrote in the newly-released papers. “This case is a product of that dynamic and does not withstand either legal or factual scrutiny.”
And then, in what might have become one of the great executive slogans of the financial crisis, but won’t because its glib dismissiveness has become so common lately, he called the gubernatorial nominee’s version of the financial crisis’ events “inconsistent, selectively presented, and often nonsensical.”
That wonderfully smug putdown comes after a long line of them. “When I read this, I giggle a little bit,” a former Lehman Brothers managing director told The Observer this year after the firm’s Repo 105 accounting scandal broke, for example. “$50 billion is a drop in the ocean.”
Somehow, a kind of mild and quietly caustic semi-regret has become the norm on Wall Street this year. As the months have rolled along, the consensus among bankers and executives is that there aren’t any huge villains to blame the financial crisis on, because it was just too complicated and systematically enormous. So the idea is that people like Mr. Cuomo, or the members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, have no business trying to point fingers.
Mr. Lewis and Joseph Price, the bank’s former chief financial officer, also a defendant in the fraud case, asked that the suit be dismissed.