Opinion | Why Must Wall Street Return to the Office?

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To the Editor:

Re “You Can’t Learn the Art of Closing the Deal on Zoom,” by William D. Cohan (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 18):

Mr. Cohan’s cherished deal-making rooms are simply old boys’ clubs: centers of power dominated by white men and their personal networks.

While personal networks still matter in most areas of business, the internet has diffused some of this power. You no longer need entrance to a physical country club or Harvard Club meeting room if you can connect with decision makers online, on virtual networks like LinkedIn.

None of this is new to the Covid era. For the last decade at least, companies have been negotiating partnership agreements and sales deals remotely, because their clients are all over the United States and all over the world. For many years now, start-ups have been raising capital from venture capital firms on the other side of the country and the other side of the world, with countless presentations made and deals concluded over Zoom.

As civilization and society move toward a better and more equitable future, do we really want to return to “the yelling” and “the alpha male mind games” of Mr. Cohan’s Wall Street era? The fact that “you can’t suck up on a Zoom call” doesn’t seem like a terrible loss to the future of work either.

Rahul D’Silva
St. Petersburg, Fla.
The writer worked at a global investment firm in New York and with start-ups and global tech brands including Amazon, Apple and Twitter.

To the Editor:

I spent over three decades as a mergers and acquisitions partner at Skadden, Arps, and am an adjunct lecturer at Columbia Law School teaching “Negotiating M.&A. Transactions.”

William D. Cohan’s article about deal-making via Zoom is 100 percent correct. You cannot whisper into your client’s ear: “Your counterpart is wrong! Let’s pause and talk in the hallway.”

I’ve tried texting alternatives to chief executives in real time while negotiating on Zoom. Clever idea? Yes, but unworkable in reality.

Misunderstandings, both with your client and the other party, occur, since you would never convey sensitive information to your client on a Zoom call for all to see and hear. It can harm the positive vibes and trust necessary to sign and close a complex deal.

Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs are right to insist that employees show up in the office and should be thanked for doing so.

Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

Nancy A. Lieberman
New York

To the Editor:

William D. Cohan’s essay shows the self-destructive inertia among investment banks’ senior leadership. Mr. Cohan observes that investment banking executives rely on “emotional nuances, body language, and social cues” to negotiate a merger. But don’t shareholders want the most promising deals unencumbered by external influence?

And wouldn’t these nonverbal social cues compromise an objective appraisal of a deal? If bankers see “alpha male mind games,” table-pounding and “yelling” as indispensable parts of deal-making, then they would allow the loudest voices to drown out the most clear-thinking.

If I were a shareholder of a company, I would not want such interpersonal bias to compromise a rigorous analysis of my stock. Perhaps Wall Street should learn something from Silicon Valley and adapt to virtual office platforms. Plus, these tech firms succeed in a metric that even the most regressive Wall Street executives can understand: exploding share prices amid a pandemic.

Edward C. Kim
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

While William D. Cohan may be correct that deal-making is a learned art, requiring face-to-face interactions, there is a larger question here: Why should we want to nourish Wall Street at all?

In 1870 the financial sector represented 2 percent of the U.S. economy; this grew to almost 9 percent by 2010; whom has this growth benefited?

While global warming is our most pressing existential threat, the concentration of wealth fostered by financial engineering in this country has led to a cadre of malignantly self-interested plutocrats who have redirected government and society toward their own short-term interests, at the expense of the long-term health of our society and our planet.

We urgently need to realign our priorities and rein in this destructive trend. One useful step would be to hobble Wall Street; it would ultimately benefit all of us.

John Lafleur
Chevy Chase, Md.

To the Editor:

William D. Cohan asserts that you cannot push a hostile takeover or bluff through a deal (a.k.a. lie) effectively on Zoom. Ironically, he has, it seems to me, made an attractive argument for people to continue to work at home.

Harry E. Blanchard
Rumson, N.J.

To the Editor:

Re “If You Skip the Vaccine, It Is My ‘Damn Business,’” by Jamelle Bouie (column, Aug. 14):

I am heartsick that misinformation, politics and mistrust have caused millions of Americans to eschew the vaccine. The vaccine is a miracle. It is our only hope to prevent Covid-19 from continuing to spread, particularly given the highly contagious Delta variant.

If you do not trust President Biden or Dr. Anthony Fauci, please trust older Americans like me, a 97-year-old grandma and retired nurse who has seen how vaccines have slowed or even eradicated other deadly illnesses like smallpox, tuberculosis, whooping cough and polio.

The time for questioning the Covid-19 vaccine has passed. It works.

Your grandparents may have told you stories about the old days. Please listen if they tell you to trust science and medicine, because they have seen lives saved. Grandparents advise out of love. Please listen.

June Kelly
St. Paul, Minn.

To the Editor:

As a Canadian, I invite you to think about your recent experience with universal health care, through the blessing of free Covid vaccines. Free for all. Paid for by all through taxes. Honestly, how does it feel?

John Hudson
Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia

To the Editor:

Re “As He Exits, Cuomo Loses Emmy Award for Briefings” (news article, Aug. 25):

Without in any way condoning the behavior of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, I find the action of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences outrageous. Mr. Cuomo received his award for the outstanding job he did in keeping viewers informed about Covid-19 in New York.

He earned the award; it should not be taken from him.

Thomas J. Malmud
White Plains, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Margaret Renkl, in “The South Must Teach the Hard Truth” (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 3), states that “the myth of the Lost Cause carries the whiff of ancient wisdom, never mind that it is wholly false.” As a Southerner myself, I must agree.

The most telling moment I’ve experienced came when a former classmate invited me to join him at a Sons of the Confederacy dinner meeting a few years ago. He stressed that he was involved because other people wanted him to be involved, not because his family is among the oldest in our area.

Clearly, he was embarrassed to belong to this group. At the meeting, I discovered why. Among other issues, they have their own summer camp for children where they teach them the “real truth” about the Civil War.

Worse, we live in the fastest-growing area in the country, a place where Northerners settle not just for more comfortable weather, but also because they believe that their prejudices are welcome here.

Like Ms. Renkl, I believe that children need to know the truth, that the heroes that some Southerners continue to worship were traitors to their country. They put their own slaveholding comfort above decency and kindness and all the human traits that most of us hold dear. They do not deserve to be honored.

Barbara Sloan
Conway, S.C.

To the Editor:

Republicans in Congress from all over the country, not just the Southerners, are defending hanging onto the statues in the Capitol of racists. This is a national problem, not a Southern problem.

Read a level deeper and see how the whole country benefited mightily from slavery. Not just the South. Don’t just advocate for a different education for Southern children; advocate for the truth for everyone across the country. Until we acknowledge this as a countrywide systemic issue, we will not be teaching the truth.

Susan Hester
Chapel Hill, N.C.

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