Remember when investing used to be about stolid old white men drinking tap water out of glass pitchers in dusty conference rooms and booming things like "We lead" and "Like a rock" and generally not dicking over everyone in the world? John C. Bogle does, and the Times profile of the 83-year-old founder of Vanguard who was instilled with a new sense of vigor after a heart transplant is both bracing and sad. “It’s urgent that people wake up,” Bogle said, over the din of a thousand pale jowls slurping from the trough. “We’ve really got no choice. We’ve got to fix this system. All of us, as individuals, need to do it.”
Bogle was laughed at when he implemented his idea of creating index funds for regular people to invest and reap steady, modest returns. Now Vanguard, the company you get envelopes from ever since you got canned from that paid internship eight years ago, represents 40% of the entire mutual fund industry.
But Bogle isn't too keen on how investing has changed since he got into the business:
Too much money is aimed at short-term speculation — the seeking of quick profit with little concern for the future. The financial system has been wounded by a flood of so-called innovations that merely promote hyper-rapid trading, market timing and shortsighted corporate maneuvering. Individual investors are being shortchanged, he writes.
Corporate money is flooding into political campaigns. The American retirement system faces a train wreck. America’s fundamental values are threatened. Mr. Bogle remains a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist but says the system has “gotten out of balance,” threatening our entire society. “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else,” he says, quoting Winston Churchill. Now, he says, it’s time to try something else.
He advocates taxes to discourage short-term speculation. He wants limits on leverage, transparency for financial derivatives, stricter punishments for financial crimes and, perhaps most urgently, a unified fiduciary standard for all money managers: “A fiduciary standard means, basically, put the interests of the client first. No excuses. Period.”
(We won't wait for Lloyd to stop laughing.) And Bogle, a registered Republican who voted for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (and says he'll vote for Obama again) isn't speaking as a Warren Buffett or a Charles Freeney.
Mr. Bogle is no billionaire. For comparison, Forbes lists the personal wealth of Edward C. Johnson 3d, the chairman of Fidelity, as $5.8 billion. By contrast, Mr. Bogle says his own wealth is in the “low double-digit millions.” Most of it is in Vanguard and Wellington mutual funds in which he invested via payroll deduction during his long career…“My only regret about money is that I don’t have more to give away."
Our main takeaway from this superb profile of Bogel is that they don't make 'em like they used to, so we'll have to keep harvesting fresh hearts from the rapacious jerks for all the dying, decent, financial types (which is likely why Goldman Sachs is cleverly poisoning their wares with Shake Shack).