The Cycle

Transparency is so passe

Dealbook blogged yesterday about comments delivered by Citigroup chairman Winfried Bischoff at a financial conference in Brussels.

“Mr. Bischoff said transparency had become a ‘totally misused concept’ and a catchphrase,” says the blog entry, apparently a reference to calls from US government officials to improve transparency at banks and sovereign wealth funds.

Has the word “transparency” lost a bit of its potency? Yeah, I would agree. I hear it used all the time and it seems to have become slightly diluted of its meaning. (Kind of like “interactive.”) But whether it has lost some of its punch or not, banks and other financial institutions are very much lacking in it. As we edge closer to recession, policymakers are now promising to Americans, cash in hand, while stories are being published about just how inadequate a solution that is given the housing problems at hand. They talked about how little is known about these sovereign wealth funds in Davos. Even the is getting involved, trying to sort out who may have done what in this subprime mortgage mess.

You can frown on the word “transparency,” but everyone outside of the financial inner circle could use more information about how modern-day business is done.

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