Thursday Observations

December 1, 2016

The Trump Administration will be for Ethics lawyers what Dodd-Frank was for compliance departments in banks. Full employment opportunities await.

In a short time, Consititutional lawyers will feel exactly like the guys I knew who got their graduate degrees in tax in 1985, just before the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was passed, negated vast sections of their knowledge. The constitutional principles they’ve spent their lives studying will be quaint and historical and mostly worthless.

The quadrennial Harvard forum featuring the managers from both presidential campaigns tonight served to highlight not just the ugly bitterness of those on the Clinton side, but the unattractive smugitude of Trump’s team. Read about it here.

I’ve worked in an environment that was totally disrupted–the mortgage finance business in 2005-6. My boss at the time told me that there were about 10 things that would always be true about the business. As the financial crisis unfolded, one by one, the rules that he told me to count on fell away, leaving behind complete uncertainty as to what would happen next. It was as if the Law of Gravity had been repealed. It took a while to adjust to, but once you started asking yourself, “Why can’t that happen?,” it became easier to handle. The mental linkage to the old rules proved the biggest obstacle to navigating the disrupted environment. Once you got your head wrapped around the fact that those rules no longer applied, it was much easier to let your mind wander to what might happen next and how to prepare and protect yourself (or the firm) from it. I’ve got the same feeling right now as I did then, as we watch the Trump Administration form and communicate with the public. The old rules don’t apply. Up is down; we’re in a zero G environment. For example: Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes said yesterday on WAMU’s Diane Rehm Show “Facts no longer exist.” I tried to listen to this three separate times, unable to continue the first two time, becoming sickened by the implications of the statement and the fervor of believe from its speaker.

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