Blowin’ In The Wind, Bob Dylan And Your Weekend Payments Primer |

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Most of the time when the Nobel Prize for Literature is announced, the typical reaction is “wait, who is that?”

2016 was not one of those years since there are very few people in the internet connected world who do not know who Bob Dylan is.

Whether Bob Dylan counts as literature, and if he does, whether he deserves to share the category of American  winners with William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and Toni Morrison we will leave to minds greater is a whole other question.

Fans of the decision hailed it as innovative, out-of-the-box and the most “relevant decision” the Nobel committee could have made.  Non-fans of the decision have declared that literature is officially dead (murdered by a cabal of elderly Swedes) and have described it as the most “disgusting act of baby-boomer self validation imaginable.”

For what it is worth, a brief and highly unscientific poll of Facebook and Twitter seem to indicate that one’s feelings on this topic tend to be positively correlated with one’s level of Bob Dylan fandom:  Fans are happy that he has won an important award that would have otherwise gone to a Cambodian playwright they had never heard of; non-fans on the other hand have spontaneously developed very, very strong feelings on the nature of art and literary criticism.

But whether you find yourself in the cheering or jeering section on artistic merits of Bob Dylan’s work this weekend – the quantity and topics of his work is nothing short of impressive. Over the course of 30 albums, hundreds of songs written for himself and others – not to mention some unfathomably large number of Dylan bootlegs – Bob Dylan has probably written a song about it, the law of averages almost promises such.

And even if he hasn’t written a song about it – there is almost certainly a relevant Bob Dylan lyric for any occasion.

And yes, we mean any occasion – including explaining the news of the week in payments and commerce.

We’ll prove it.

Situation:  Samsung Pulls The Plug On The Note

Lyric: “There’s something funny going on – I can just feel it in the air”



Song: Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts

Lesson:  Realizing you have a problem – whether it is your phone’s catching fire or your bank being robbed – is not sufficient if your solution is not capable of fixing the problem

It was bad enough when it was just a recall of 2.5 million phones – it is significantly worse now that Samsung has essentially been forced to discontinue the Note entire since it was never quite able to

  1. A) figure out why their phones were catching fire


  1. B) figure out how to get their phones to stop catching fire.

Their shareholders are inflamed – pun fully intended – and want answers. First up they’d like someone to tell them what is actually causing the phones to spontaneously combust. Then they would like to see it get fixed and get a new model to market.

The order came as Samsung shares have continued to free-fall.

The loss of the $882 flagship phone comes at a particularly inopportune time for Samsung, as Google is pushing its new high-end Pixel phone out to be the high-end competitor for those who are less than enamored of iOS or Apple products.

And even not factoring  in the Pixel (or the iPhone – whose parent Apple has seen its stock surge in the wake of Samsung phone fireworks) – the loss of the Note is expected to take a fairly big bit out of Samsung’s bottom line.

Samsung has confirmed that it expects to take a $3 billion hit to its operating profit over the next two quarters due to the discontinuation of the Note, following an apparently intractable issue with spontaneous combustion.  The total losses are estimated to be in the $5.3 billion range — with a $2.3 billion hit to third-quarter profit soon to be visible.

So the lesson one can learn from Bob Dylan or Samsung this week – only solving half the problem does not net half a solution – instead it seems to net a problem that is now one ane one half times bigger (at least) than it was before.


Situation: The RBS Scandal

Lyric:  “Look out kid, it’s something you did”.

Song: Subterranean Homesick Blues

The only thing worse than being accused ripping off a bunch of SMB borrowers is being accused, denying it passionately and then having Buzzfeed prove to you – pretty incontrovertibly with leaked internal documents – that your organization is entirely guilty.

Look out kid, it is something you did.

Such is the situation at RBS this week.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) became the new face of scandal on Monday (Oct. 10) when leaked documents surfaced that seem to show new evidence the bank profited from the demise of small and medium-sized businesses.

Those leaked documents – called the RBS files reportedly outline how 16,000 small businesses were coerced into joining RBS’ Global Restructuring Group (GRG). The files are comprised of emails, internal memos, meeting minutes and other records provided by a whistleblower from within RBS, BuzzFeed reported.

According to the reports, small businesses were forced to join the Global Restructuring unit, a part of the bank intended to help ailing businesses, even if those SMEs were not ailing and had never missed a loan payment. RBS instead forced businesses to join GRG for questionable reasons, like small business customers showing consideration for leaving RBS or threatening to sue the bank for mistreatment. GRG customers made a much, much higher interest rate than other banks customers. leading GRG to nab more than £1 billion of profit in a single year.

Initially the bank denied the charges flatly.  Then Buzzfeed showed them the files – and the denial started sounding a bit more like an apology.

RBS has denied claims that the bank systematically forced SMEs into ruin via its GRG. But after BuzzFeed confronted the bank with the leaked documents, the institution issued an on-the-record comment, part of which read:

“In the aftermath of the financial crisis, we did not always meet our own high standards, and we let of our SME customers down. We have already acknowledged that, in some areas, we could, and should, have done better for SME customers.”

“Specifically, we could have managed the transition to GRG better, and we could have better explained to customers any changes to the prices or fees we were charging. We also did not always handle customer complaints well. As a result, a number of our customers did not receive the level of service they should have done or, importantly, that they would receive now.”

In the wake of BuzzFeed’s report, U.K. lawmakers have urged the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to release its findings of its years-long investigation into the bank.

The moral of the story from Bob Dylan – or RBS?  Don’t say you didn’t do it – until you are absolutely sure you won’t be blindsided with proof that you definitely did.

Situation: John Stumpf Signs Off

Lyric:  I ain’t a-saying you treated me unkind

You could have done better but I don’t mind

Song: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

It is one of the all  time great break-up songs, and John Stumpf just endured one of the world’s all time great break-ups, as he told his board earlier this week he was retiring – and his board responded that they thought that was a just fine idea – especially given the increasingly loud calls for his resignation.

They weren’t saying he treated them unkind – but he could of done better and they did kind of mind.

So Stumpf stepped down midweek – effective immediately —  and for the time his role is being filled for by President and Chief Operating Officer Timothy J. Sloan, who was widely seen as his heir apparent anyway.

Stumpf will leave without a severance package. That follows the board’s previous choice to strip Stumpf of $41 million in unvested equity. Don’t worry too much though – according to an estimate by Mark Reilly, a managing director at human-resources consultancy Overture Group LLC., Mr. Stumpf will walk away with total compensation during his years at Wells Fargo valued at about $120 million.

Plus, Stumpf is now done with the scandal that saw 2.5 million false accounts created by Wells Fargo employees for their existing customers.  The bank still  faces numerous federal and state inquiries into its sales practices issues, including from the Justice Department.

Those investigations follow a  $185 million CFPB fine and a lot of tough questions about whether or not Wells Sales culture created an environment where illegal actions were tacitly demanded of employees.

With Stumpf officially out — the bank’s lead independent director, Stephen Sanger, will become chairman, the bank said. Elizabeth Duke, a current director and former Federal Reserve governor, will become vice chairman.

So what did we learn this week?  Well other than the fact that there is no one in American or on Earth who is neutral on the question of Bob Dylan’s relative talent – we also learned that anyone, even bankers and smartphone makers can benefit from a new perspective.

In fact, given this week’s line-up – perhaps bankers and technologists would especially benefit.

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