Prof examines rise and fall of investment banks

Karen Ho’s book is due out in July.

Karen Ho, an assistant anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota, gave a lecture Monday about the rise and fall of Wall Street investment banks. HoâÄôs lecture, âÄúThree Decades of Financial Dominance and Crisis in the United States: A Talk on the Rise, Social Consequences, and Fall of Wall Street Investment Banks,âÄù focused on a movement in the 1980s, called the takeover movement, that secured Wall StreetâÄôs influence in the American economy and corporate structure. During that time, Ho said many investment banks encouraged large U.S. corporations to downsize and merge with each other to increase efficiency and production. âÄúWhat characterizes the culture of Wall Street is the continual merging and acquisition, and, in a sense, a vanishing act,âÄù Ho said. Wall Street investment banks forced corporations to choose between shareholders and other âÄúcorporate governance,âÄù Ho said. In turn, fundamental changes in U.S. corporations were made, and the âÄúvisionâÄù of the corporations and who they would serve was altered, Ho said. Ho said she spent a year as a business analyst and several years shadowing investment bankers, research that contributed to her dissertation and eventually to her upcoming book, âÄúLiquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street,âÄù due out in July. HoâÄôs lecture was the second in a four-part series on the financial meltdown created by the Institute for Advanced Study at the University, which is sponsoring a one-credit global studies class consisting of lectures given by guest speakers. One student in the class, sophomore Sadie Luetmer, said the course interested her because it sounded like a good way to learn about the economy. âÄúI liked the idea of having a political economy perspective on the financial crisis,âÄù Luetmer said. Les Sommers, a barber and realtor who attended the lecture, previously invested in the stock market and said he has lost over $600,000 over the last year as a result of the current economic crisis. âÄúI wanted to see what she had to say,âÄù Sommers said. âÄúShe hit on the high points, but didnâÄôt go into specifics.âÄù Ho said she does not think the culture of Wall Street investment banking is necessarily gone forever. âÄúIt still remains to be seen whether or not Wall StreetâÄôs particular investment banking ethos disappears or will resurge in new and varied institutional forms,âÄù Ho said.