Our large financial institutions simply refuse to learn the lesson that large, M&A-driven investment shops, and retail investment firms, cannot comfortably coexist. There are simply too many inherent conflicts of interest, and most so-called “firewalls” are observed mostly in the breach. Deregulation, and most important, Graham-Leach-Bliley, removed the last remnant of common sense in this arena: you just can’t mix oil and water.
Nevertheless, the brilliant minds that brought you “Morgan Stanley Dean Witter” — a merger that cost billions, that cost untold millions to “brand,” and then just a few years later cost shareholders untold millions more to “un-brand” — now bring you “Morgan Stanley Smith Barney“.
Gee, and to think, they could call it “Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Smith Barney & Co.” Hey, why didn’t I think of that?