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A Harbinger Of The Baneful Things To Come

Throughout the week, Clay Risen, the managing editor of Democracy, will be covering economic developments for us on The Plank.  

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Harbinger Capital Partners has made big cash on the Bear Stearns deal, and it implies that the firm may have given the ailing investment bank a slight nudge in the last few weeks to push it over the cliff toward insolvency. Harbinger is already in the news--it's the hedge fund that recently forced The New York Times give it a seat on its board.

Now, the guys at Harbinger might be pretty decent dudes. But if you're planning to set off financial mini-crises, wouldn't you want a slightly less subtle name? Likewise for Cerberus and Pirate, two other hedge funds. The game was up at Enron once the media revealed the company called its shady shell operations "raptors." Showiness really only works on comic books. The same goes for Bain. I realize Bain is a) the founders' name, and b) spelled differently from Bane, but really. Nothing telegraphed the soul-death of my college friends better than running into them one fall morning senior year, former scruff replaced by suits and ties and haircuts, on their way to an interview with Bain. "You're going to work for the guy who killed Batman?" I said. "But it's a great company." Nine months later, on their second 20-hour day at a client site in Sioux Falls, at least they couldn't claim they weren't warned. The message was right there on the office nameplate.

--Clay Risen