|By RACHEL NOLAN|
Susan Dominus, a contributing writer for the magazine, wrote this week's cover story about
What first interested you about this story?
When the news first broke that a woman named
Did she give any reasons for declining to talk to you for the profile?
There are at least 10 investigations that are ongoing about the case, and her friends told me that her lawyer thought it was not a good idea to cooperate – and that she is the kind of person who listens to her lawyer.
Would that kind of enormous loss –
Nobody would deny that
Did anyone suggest to you that Drew's not being a part of the "boy's club" contributed to her departure from
Actually, nobody did. But I think she was stunned by how little support she had at the end from some of her peers at the very top of the bank. It is hard to know how much of that, if any of it, had to do with her being a woman. She had a reputation for being defensive in a way that could alienate some colleagues; a former female colleague of hers did think that people personalized those kinds of qualities in a woman different from how they would a man. The classic stuff – instead of colleagues seeing her as an assertive manager, her friend suggested, she was seen, by some, as a tough broad, to put it politely.
It was eerie to read all the positive things people – including
You know, I asked around a lot: who were the people who had beefs with Ina? Who were the people who went head-to-head with her over various issues? And then I'd call those people, and even off the record, they usually said they respected her, and that she fought hard, but fought fair. She had a reputation for being someone who could handle brilliant but challenging personalities. I think one of the most critical things you could say of her (and someone summed it up this way in the comment section of the article) was that she assembled a dysfunctional team, and many people suffered as a result of that. And she didn't seem to be moving terribly fast to remedy the fact that her risk-management infrastructure had some serious problems.
Why does Dimon insist so strongly on her being "highly ethical"? That word "ethical" seems to come up over and over again. Is it better to be a greedy shark or make a dumb mistake?
You can be a greedy shark who plays by the rules, or you can be a greedy shark who lies to the people around you to get what you want. It is definitely better to make a dumb mistake, in terms of your reputation, than to be a greedy shark who tries to cover up a mistake and lies. I think Dimon was trying to convey that Ina did not actively hide information or cover her tracks or try to buy time by deliberately misinforming him. Those, of course, are some of the questions that everyone wants to know about the overall team: could the bank really have been so foolish as to miss something this big, or was there bad information in the mix that threw everyone off track? No one has been charged with fraud yet; and truth be told, many on the street seems to think the position was so problematic that they should have been looking at those marks, and everything else, a lot sooner.
Actually, I think Ina was unique in holding firm, when her kids were young, to that 4:30 departure – that's part of what people admired about her.
Certainly, every woman I spoke to who had worked for Drew expressed sadness that she had resigned – one who had left the bank said when her colleagues told her that Drew's group was responsible for this huge error, she literally did not believe it, and was convinced that her friend was misinformed. And many others – 10 former bosses – expressed disappointment that her otherwise strong record would be overshadowed by the circumstances of her departure. Of course, it is hard for the average person on the street to feel too sorry for her – she had a good long run, and is tremendously wealthy. As one headhunter put it to me: Isn't that what you get paid for at that level, to take the fall when it goes wrong? But I think a lot of bankers I spoke to also identified with her position, and felt keenly how precarious your position is once you reach a certain level of success. The higher you get, the harder you fall. It's a risk of the job, and their crowd knows all about risk.
Some commenters have criticized your article for focusing on the failings of the rich and powerful when there are so many other important stories out there. How do you respond to that?
A lot of those tales of hardship, you could argue, are tied fairly closely to the ways that banks manage themselves – the kind of judgment that is being brought to bear, the way that people interpret ethical guidelines, the oversight that is or is not in place. What goes on at banks? How do the personalities involved influence how banks handle decision-making? It is hard to think about how and whether to regulate banks without having even a vague sense of what informal systems or dynamics are at play. That is where a narrative like this one, I hope, is useful for readers.
|Copyright:||Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company|
|Source:||New York Times Digital|