I have a piece in the Guardian today on the psychology of the Barclays banking scandal. It was provoked by those revealing emails:
Like lovers who embark on an affair because of, as well as despite, its wrongness, the erring bankers clearly took a special pleasure in crossing boundaries. Here is a Barclays trader explaining the rules of the game to a nervous novice: "This is the way you pull off deals like this Chicken, don't talk about it too much … this is between you and me, but really don't tell ANYBODY." In those capital letters alone you can the smell the fevered pleasure of taking part in a conspiracy, knowing that they might get caught out.
But then, as with any affair, there is always the prospect of time together alone, of stolen moments free from the possibility of prying eyes: "Dude. I owe you big time! Come over one day after work and I'm opening a bottle of Bollinger."
This, then, is what brings down banks and distorts economies: sexting with pound signs, followed, at the end of the day, by a Bollinger ejaculation.
It need hardly be said that bankers, particularly on trading floors, are overwhelmingly male. This matters. There is much that is comic about the sexualised nature of this male-on-male banter, but it points to a deeper truth about the psychology of organisations. Put a bunch of confident, aggressive men in the same room and reward them for taking risks, and you create a pressure cooker, from which probity and prudence evaporate like steam.
Full piece here.