Choose Life! (MO, XOM, FB)

It’s not a comfortable topic to discuss at the best of times, and certainly not in polite company. But it’s become topical of late and because it has relevance to the world of finance and markets in general we feel it’s worthy of a word here. 

The subject is suicide.


Yes, friends, suicide. And it’s no joke.

There have been a rash of bankers and other high-ranking financial types (among others) who’ve taken their lives as of late and our feeling is this is anything but coincidence.

Blame it on growing work demands in a world of tightrope performance pressures. Blame it an increasingly alienated citizenry, whose social time is now spent with virtual friends instead of the real, flesh and blood variety. Blame it on the material culture that we inhabit, that focuses exclusively on one’s cash hoard, social standing or notoriety at the expense of matters of the heart and spirit – and you have reasons aplenty to figure why people opt for the most desperate act of all.

A New Financial Reality?

  • January 25th – Tim Dickenson, communications director at Swiss Re AG.
  • January 26th – William Broeksmit, 58, senior executive at Deutsche Bank AG.
  • January 27th – Karl Slym, 51, managing director of Indian carmaker Tata Motors.
  • January 27th – Gabriel Magee, 39, of JP Morgan, London.
  • January 30th – Mike Dueker, 50, chief economist, Russell Investments.
  • February 6th – Richard Talley, 57, Founder, American Title Services.
  • February 12th – Ryan Henry Crane, 37, JP Morgan.
  • February 18th – Li Junjie, 33, JP Morgan, Hong Kong.
  • February 19th – James Stuart Jr, National Bank of Commerce, CEO.
  • March 12th – Edmund Reilly, 47, trader at Vertical Group.
  • March 17th – Kenneth Bellando, 28, Levy Capital Partners.
  • April 5th – Peter Schmittmann, CEO of ABN Amro (and his wife and daughter).
  • April 6th – Juergen Frick, 48, CEO of Bank Frick & Co. AG (murdered).

We’re genuinely sorry for the families and friends of these individuals, who certainly must be distraught but we also have to warn that we believe this phenomenon will not be passing in nature. In short, it’s going to get worse – and potentially a lot worse.

It’s a function of our current reality. One of the primary themes of the times in which we live is suicide. Whether it’s financiers, or a nation’s finances or the very nation itself, the drive to self-incinerate seems to be growing and it’s reaching into corners we never imagined could be associated with such a trend.


Quit blowing smoke!

Without getting too far off base, let’s just make a few general statements by way of introduction and flesh them out further in the weeks ahead.

Our purpose here is to focus on investing and money. 


  1. The tendency toward suicide is a phenomenon small investors will experience most palpably with their finances. That is, the will to lose everything, to blow up financially, to bet it all on a single horse, or to go to Vegas or binge for a fortnight, is a drive that will overtake even the sanest of individuals – particularly when other aspects of their lives are temporarily out of sorts. Keep your head.
  2. Second, it will occur most often because of some principle invoked rather than a lifetime’s worth of experience that warns of obvious danger. That is, a belief in ‘ethical investing’ or ‘clean energy’ or ‘peace’ or ‘scientific progress’ – or whatever – will eventually derail otherwise smart people into throwing their money into the trash can rather than investing in weapons and cigarettes and beer, where money has and always will be made.obwxommo
  3. Third, suicides come in different types. There are those who take their lives because they’re desperate and afraid of life. There are those who are in need of taking others with them as they go under (the socialites). And there’s a third category (in our very unscientific classification system) that want to die alongside the larger group or community with whom they identify – their school, their home town, their sect, nation, etc.

Be warned – that each of these tendencies may exist within each of us, and we should be circumspect of any siren that beckons us toward perdition. And we speak here, of course, of our finances as well.

Facebook Investing

All of which brings us back to the notion – touted here repeatedly – that we are currently in the midst of the “Facebook Bull Market”, a moniker we assigned to the rise in stocks that began in March of 2009 and which continues at present.

It’s not our purpose to state definitively whether social media like Facebook and MySpace and others encourage suicide – that’s a question that’s currently under debate and can be explored in more depth.

But we do believe there’s a relationship.  And we also believe that as goes Facebook (FB) so goes the market.

Ipso facto, we expect to see the nation and its leaders, its corporate heavyweights (like the banks and brokerages), as well as a growing number of private individuals to begin pushing toward the precipice as Facebook and the broad market climb to new all-time highs through the summer.


It won’t be long.

Hold on.

Many happy returns,

Matt McAbby
Senior Analyst
Normandy Research

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