Many years ago, I took a train from Grand
Central up the Hudson Line, coming home late from work. The train was
practically empty. I had a 3-seat row to myself, there was a woman sitting
across the aisle, and at the front of the car this boisterous man was standing
up regaling a seated passenger with some loud tale. Shortly before departing a
tall, skinny elderly gentleman with a long white straggly beard ambled through
the car to take a seat. The old man was carrying a banjo case, which prompted
the stand-up guy to yell back at him, "Hey old fella, how long you been playing
that banjo?" "Oh, about 50 years," the old man said. "Well, keep at it and
you'll be pretty good someday." My traveling companion across the aisle and I looked
at each other and rolled our eyes in unison.
Sometime later the talker decided to engage
the old man in a conversation. He told the old man that he played the banjo too,
and then proceeded to describe a picking technique he had discovered. And so,
for the next 15 minutes this guy explained to the old man in intricate detail
how to pluck the banjo strings in a particular way. The old man just nodded.
Finally, the banjo picker introduced himself. The old man politely shook the
guy's hand and said, "I'm pleased to meet you. I'm Pete Seeger."
I'm sure I stopped laughing at some point.
What karmic coincidence that of all the banjo players in all the world, this
guy chose to pontificate about banjo playing to the world's greatest banjo
We've all known people like that. They are
all around us. Folks who, dangerously laden with a little knowledge but thinking
they know more than they do, are all too eager to impress us with what they
think they know. But we never had a good vocabulary for describing them. So we
just call them "jerks" and leave it at that. And we don't know what to call the
particular act of jerkiness they engage in. But now we do.
The past couple of days has highlighted the
extent to which the Trump administration, chock-full of political hacks,
yes-men, and other toadies, was a gaudy display of epistemic trespass from the
Trespasser-in-Chief all the way down. It is no exaggeration to say that we were
inundated with tweets and twaddle from administration officials who clearly did
not know what they were talking about. Of course, in order to get us to listen
to them they had to assert some simulacrum of "expertise." It started at the top
-- it always starts at the top -- with the President asserting over and over,
despite all contrary evidence, how "smart" he was. See http://www.brokeandbroker.com/5473/aegis-frumento-insecurities-trump-covid/.
And, of course, being so smart gave him the right to chime in on all sorts of
things he was ignorant of. Like, for example, how best to treat Covid 19:
The inauguration of President Biden is
perhaps most auspicious for its wholesale eviction of the epistemic trespassers
who squatted throughout the executive branch. Today was the first full day of
the Biden Administration, and for the first time in four years I heard not a
word of idiocy from any executive branch official. These people actually seem
to know what they are talking about. I'm having a hard time processing it.
One reason I know these folks know what they
are about is by the level of worry that one can feel in the new President and
his spokespersons. Anthony Fauci seems relieved not to be doing face-plants anymore
when the President speaks, but candidly told us the worst of the pandemic is still
to come. Press secretary Jen Psaki gave real press briefings -- two days in a
row -- and issued press releases that gave facts. Those alone puts this White
House as far removed from the Spicer-Huckabee-McEnany alternative facts show as
one could get. However, because no one is blowing smoke, the worry is palpable.
Finally, the government is honestly telling us how deep in shit we've sunk, and
how much digging we need to do to get out of it. The Biden folks are right to
speak with confidence and hope. Every new administration must kick off with a
joyous chorus; but a worried song wafts through it.
And yet that is good beyond expectations. It
takes a worried man to sing a worried song. Epistemic trespassers never worry;
they don't know enough to worry. Only real experts, who know how much they
don't know, worry. But after 4 years of lies parading as facts, of idiocy
parading as intellect, of bravado parading as gospel, a little honest worry
soothes like a balm. There's hope in it.
Aegis Frumento co-heads the Financial Markets Practice of Stern Tannenbaum & Bell, New York City. He represents persons and businesses in all aspects of commercial, corporate and securities matters and dispute resolution (including trials and arbitrations). He has decades of experience representing SEC, CFTC and FINRA regulated firms and persons in regulatory enforcement investigations, hearings and lawsuits. Drawing on his five years managing the Executive Financial Services Department of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Aegis has rare depth of experience in the securities and corporate governance laws affecting senior executives of public corporations. When not litigating, Aegis enjoys working with new and existing broker-dealers, registered investment advisers, and private equity funds, covering all legal aspects from formation to capital raising. Those clients now include industry professionals looking to adapt blockchain technologies to finance and financial market enterprises, including the use of cryptosecurities to represent equity and debt interests.
Aegis's long and distinguished career includes having been a Managing Director of Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, a partner and the head of the financial markets group of Duane Morris LLP, and the managing partner of Singer Frumento LLP. He graduated from Harvard College in 1976 and New York University School of Law in 1979. Aegis is a frequent author and speaker on securities law issues, and is often quoted in the media on current securities law developments. He is the current Chairman of the New York City Bar Association's standing Committee on Professional Responsibility.
NOTE: The views expressed in this Guest Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of BrokeAndBroker.com Blog.