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A Japanese lesson for Wall Street

来源:FT中文网    2017-10-11 06:15

        During a trip to Tokyo last week, I made a little pilgrimage to the city’s Tama cemetery to pay my respects to an old acquaintance who died recently.        最近去东京时,我顺便拜谒了该市的多磨陵园(Tama cemetery),去看望不久前去世的一位故人之墓。
        Outside Japanese financial circles, the name Katsunobu Onogi is barely known. Among the Tokyo elite, however, “Onogi” evokes considerable emotion; he was the last president of Long-Term Credit Bank (LTCB), an institution which, until it collapsed ignominiously in 1998, symbolised the postwar might of Japan.        在日本金融圈以外,大野木克信(Katsunobu Onogi)的名字没多少人知道。但在东京精英圈子当中,许多人却无法对他的名字无动于衷;他是长期信用银行(LTCB)的最后一任总裁,直到1998年不光彩地破产之前,这家机构一直是战后日本国力的象征。
        These days, Onogi’s story has become a thought-provoking and humbling one, not just for Japan but for Wall Street as well. Indeed, I would venture that Onogi’s tale should be mandatory reading for western bankers, particularly on the 10-year ­anniversary of the great America subprime shock.        如今,大野木的故事已成为一个发人深省并且令人羞愧的故事,不仅对日本而言,对华尔街而言也是如此。实际上,我敢说,大野木的故事应当成为西方银行家的必读故事,尤其是在美国重大次贷危机爆发10周年之际。
        Why? First, some history. I initially encountered Onogi in 1997, when he was 61. I was working for the FT in Tokyo at the time. He struck me as charming and erudite: he had lived in London early in his career, when Japan was booming, and the experience had left him with an elegant command of English, a passion for its literature and an unusual openness to foreign ideas. So much so that when the Japanese banks started to sink under their bubble-era bad loans during the Asian financial crisis of that period, Onogi took the pioneering step of asking UBS, a Swiss group, to create a joint venture with LTCB, in a desperate bid to save his beloved bank.        为何?首先,来看一段历史。我最早于1997年遇上大野木,那时他61岁,我在英国《金融时报》东京分社工作。他给我的印象是魅力十足、知识渊博:他在职业生涯早期曾在伦敦生活过,当时的日本正蒸蒸日上,那段经历让他精通英语,爱上了英语文学,并对外来思想产生了不同寻常的开放态度。结果是,在亚洲金融危机时期,当日本的银行开始在泡沫时积累的坏账拖累下沉没时,大野木采取了开创性的举措,主动要求瑞银(UBS)跟长期信用银行成立一家合资企业,那是他为了拯救自己深爱的银行而采取的险着。
        It did not work. In 1998, LTCB fell spectacularly, and calamity followed: Onogi was briefly thrown into prison, accused of concealing the scale of LTCB’s bad loans (an accusation overturned by a Tokyo court 10 years later). His deputy and protégé committed suicide from shame. Senior managers lost their pensions. Then LTCB was sold to sharp-toothed American private-equity players, who renamed it Shinsei.        此举没有奏效。1998年,长期信用银行轰然倒塌,灾难接踵而来:大野木短暂入狱,罪名是隐瞒长期信用银行的坏账规模(10年后一家东京法院推翻了该指控)。他一手提拔的副手愧而自杀。高层经理们失去了养老金。接着,长期信用银行被卖给了凶悍的美国私募银行家,他们将其改名为“新生银行”(Shinsei)。
        The saga was such a shocking symbol of Japan’s postwar rise and post-bubble fall that I later wrote a book about it, spending hours talking both with the US financiers and the Japanese bankers. My conversations with the latter were painful. These men had devoted their lives to the bank with utter loyalty, thinking that they were rebuilding the glory of Japan; in so far as they had concealed bad loans, they had done it to protect their colleagues, not to make themselves personally rich. Now their reputations and personal finances were shattered. During my interviews, some of these normally impassive middle-aged men would lay their head on the desk, sobbing silently.        这段经历是日本战后崛起及泡沫后衰败的一个震撼人心的象征,我后来与美国金融家和日本银行家分别交谈了几小时,在此基础上写了一本书。与日本银行家的谈话令人难受。这些人极度忠诚地把自己一生奉献给了该银行,以为他们正在重建日本的荣光;至于说他们隐瞒了坏账,那是为了保护同事,而不是为了自己发财。如今,他们的名声和个人财富都烟消云散。采访过程中,在这些通常喜怒不形诸于色的中年人当中,有些人把头伏到桌上,默默地哭泣了起来。
        Onogi himself was always courteous, gracious and humble. By 1999 he was no longer part of the elite that could afford to play (wildly overpriced) golf. But he played tennis. He voraciously read history books (he particularly loved accounts of the South Sea Bubble). And then, as his finances withered, he did something unimaginable to many elite Japanese men: he started collecting his grandchildren from school each day, while his daughters worked. All this left him increasingly philosophical about what had occurred. “I know my grandchildren,” he observed, citing this as an unexpected “blessing”. They adored him.        大野木本人总是彬彬有礼、和蔼可亲、为人谦逊。到1999年,他不再是那个打得起(价格高得离谱的)高尔夫球的精英群体的一员。但他打网球。他如饥似渴地阅读历史书(他尤其喜欢有关南海泡沫(South Sea Bubble)的书)。接着,在他的财富不断减少之际,他做了在许多日本精英人士看来无法想象的事情:他开始每天去学校接孙儿们,而他的女儿们在工作。所有这一切让他越来越能从哲学角度看待曾经发生的事情。“我了解我的孙儿们,”他说道。他把这称为一种意外之“福”。他们崇拜他。
        Then in 2008 there came a new, unexpected twist as the American financial crisis exploded and Lehman Brothers collapsed. Initially, Onogi and other Japanese bankers were fascinated by the parallels they saw with their own lives, and the senior managers who were being tossed out of their jobs. But then their stories diverged: in sharp contrast to their Japanese counterparts, the US bankers did not lose their pensions, or “voluntarily” decide to hand over their wealth. Nobody senior on Wall Street went to prison. Instead, they mostly kept their vast wealth intact, having run their banks to protect this. Many took on new jobs.        2008年时,随着美国金融危机爆发和雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)破产,故事有了新的、预料之外的转折。一开始,大野木等日本银行家被那些与自己经历相似的故事、那些丢掉工作的高层经理们的遭遇吸引了目光。但接着,故事朝着不同方向发展:跟日本同行构成鲜明对比的是,美国银行家没有失去养老金或者“自愿地”决定交出他们的财富。华尔街没有一个高层人士锒铛入狱。相反,他们基本保全了自己的巨大财富,通过管理他们的银行保住了财富。许多人得到了新工作。
        My Japanese banker friends could scarcely believe this. They did not think they had acted in a criminal way when LTCB (or other banks) collapsed. But they had never denied a sense of responsibility for the Japanese financial crisis. They were decent men and knew they were part of a system that had failed so shamefully. So why, they asked me, didn’t the US bankers feel any similar embarrassment? Why didn’t the Wall Street titans feel that they should give back some of their wealth?        我的日本银行家朋友们几乎不能相信这些。他们认为,在长期信用银行(或其他银行)倒闭时,他们的做法不算犯罪。但是,他们从不否认自己对日本金融危机抱有责任感。作为正派人,他们知道自己是可耻地一败涂地的日本银行体系中的一分子。所以,他们问我,为何美国银行家没有丝毫类似的难堪之情?为何华尔街巨头们不认为他们应当归还自己的部分财富?
        I didn’t know what to tell them. Like them, I was dismayed that the American bankers had mostly escaped censure. But I was also dismayed by how brutally the Japanese system had treated the decent Onogi and his colleagues, given that what happened at LTCB — covering up bad loans and putting a flattering spin on the accounts — was standard practice in Japan at the time. Both systems, in other words, seemed deeply “unfair”, albeit in opposing ways, and I was unsure which was worse.        我不知道跟他们说什么。像他们一样,我也对美国银行家们基本没受到什么责难感到沮丧。但我也对日本体系那么无情地对待正直的大野木和他的同事感到失望,因为发生在长期信用银行的事情——掩盖坏账,粉饰账目让它更好看——在当时的日本是标准做法。换言之,两个体系看来都极度地“不公平”——尽管做法截然相反——我不确定哪种情况更糟糕。
        Either way, as I laid my flowers on Onogi’s grave last week, I just wished that more American bankers knew his tale.        不管是哪种情况,当我在大野木墓前献花时,我只是希望有更多的美国银行家知道他的故事。
        Illustration by Shonagh Rae        插图/肖纳格•雷(Shonagh Rae)

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