Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I came across this term by accident, coined in 2007, in a book by Jonathan Knee, and blogged a couple of times since. Quoted here and enlarged on a bit here, it's still not in common usage. IBG-YBG: I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone. Another way of saying "Never Mind" or "What, Me Worry?" As acronyms go, it's very clever, pointing up a pernicious habit in the financial and ruling classes. This passage seems especially ironic, reading it now, after the collapse IBG-YBG thinking precipitated.

"The bankers who pressed . . . questionable telecom credits at Morgan in their quest for market share, fees, and internal status coined an acronym that could well be a rallying cry for what the entire investment banking industry had become more broadly. "IBG YBG" stood for "I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone." When a particularly troubling fact came up in due diligence on one of these companies, a whispered "IBG YBG" among the banking team members would ensure that a way would be found to do the business, even if investors, or Morgan Stanley itself, would pay the price down the road. Don't sweat it, was the implication, we'll all be long gone by then."

(Jonathan A. Knee, The Accidental Investment Banker (Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. xvi-xvii)

This knack for committing crimes that won't be discovered till years later reminds me of a recent president. James Wolcott wrote about him in Vanity Fair:

"On the last page of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack (2004), Bush, asked how history would judge the war in Iraq, verbally shrugs: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” And on the first page of Robert Draper’s Dead Certain (2007), Bush cautions, “You can’t possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency—until I’m dead,” then inserts a piece of cheese into his mouth. This exit clause isn’t something he invokes only to reporters. In Bill Sammon’s The Evangelical President (2007), an aide confirms to the susceptible author that Bush doesn’t brood about the petty setbacks that bedevil less serene souls: “His attitude is a very healthy one. He says, ‘Look, history will get it right and we’ll both be dead. Who cares?’ ” If only the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis displaced by the war and driven into Syrian exile could adopt such a healthy outlook, maybe they too would learn how not to sweat the small stuff."

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