Fired Doctor of Derivatives Waits to Cry as 282,000 Finance Jobs Vanish

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by ByLoSellHi, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. Fired Doctor of Derivatives Waits to Cry as Finance Jobs Vanish

    By Lisa Kassenaar and Stephanie Baker

    March 24 (Bloomberg) --
    Raj and Nita Godhania are drinking Nescafe in their one-bedroom apartment in Princeton, New Jersey. Valentine cards are taped to otherwise bare walls, and a stack of blue Rubbermaid boxes towers over the TV. Their daughters, 12 and 7, have been helping pack.

    Merrill Lynch fired Raj on Jan. 22 after he’d worked on the bank’s technology systems for 10 years. He got a promotion in 2006, sold his house in London, gave away the dog and moved his family to the U.S. Now, he’s scrambling to leave before his nine weeks of severance runs out and his L-1 work visa -- his right to be in the country -- is void because he’s out of a job.

    Half a dozen calls to Merrill in three weeks -- some furious, some teary -- have yielded nothing, says Nita on a wintry February Friday. The New York-based firm so far has refused to pay the family’s $10,000 moving expense, buy four one-way plane tickets or help figure out how to let the children finish the school year, they say. Nita can’t work without a permit, and Raj, 45, has little time to find another company to sponsor him. The two British citizens don’t qualify for U.S. unemployment benefits.

    “Merrill Lynch left us on the streets,” says Nita, 39, who now nurses a chronic headache. “I’m just so angry and scared. What the hell is going to happen to us?”

    Quarter-Million Jobs

    The shakeout in global banking has untethered more than a quarter of a million people, most of them in New York and London, who thought they were in secure, well-paying jobs. Some were investment bankers and traders who, with cheap credit and a gambler’s view of risk, raked in millions of dollars in annual bonuses over the past five years. Others, like Raj Godhania, greased the wheels at companies once seen as pillars of corporate strength, such as Citigroup Inc., UBS AG and Merrill Lynch & Co.

    All are now displaced, forced to reflect on their fall and to find their way in a job market where the biggest U.S. and European banks may spill tens of thousands more workers before the carnage is over. By some measures, these folks are lucky: They’re well educated and have some money to fall back on. Still, bankers are struggling with a plunge in prestige -- and little sympathy -- after a decade-long orgy of ramping up leverage and flogging subprime debt that has left the world’s economy in tatters and taxpayers with the bill. In London in February, demonstrators hanged a mannequin dressed in a tie and bowler hat from Marble Arch.

    “There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on now,” says Neil Servis, 40, the former head of Morgan Stanley’s collateralized-debt-obligation business in Europe, who lost his job in September. “Everyone is targeting bankers.”


    Public ire tends to be focused on the perks of those at the top, those who got the biggest bonuses. Managing directors who ran sales and trading divisions at major firms could have earned $10 million a year or more in boom times, says Regina Glocker, a partner at Exchange Place Partners, a New York executive-search firm. Mortgage traders or portfolio managers may have made $2 million. Still, legions in the middle ranks aren’t immune from criticism. Or angst.

    “For most people, losing their job makes them question their self-worth or avoid neighbors, even if they didn’t cause the financial meltdown,” says Brendan Burchell, a University of Cambridge lecturer in Cambridge, England, who has studied the psychological consequences of unemployment. “These are people who used to enjoy telling everyone how busy they were and how important they were.”

    No Callbacks

    At job fairs in New York, bankers clutching leather folders filled with resumes wait in line for hours for five-minute interviews with potential employers or headhunters. Three Pink Slip parties at bars in Manhattan have lured more than 1,000 guests looking to connect with recruiters. Dealbreaker, a Wall Street blog, promotes the events with the tag line “If you’ve got misery, we’ve got company.”

    Michael Migliaccio, a mortgage trader who worked for 11 years at RBS Greenwich Capital Markets Inc., a subsidiary of Edinburgh-based Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, was fired in December along with seven others on his trading desk, he says. He’s painting the inside of his house in Greenwich, Connecticut, saving the $3,000 his wife planned to spend on the job, and is worried about paying for his two teenagers’ college education.

    Migliaccio, 44, has sent out his resume and attended a couple of networking sessions. No luck. “With so many people out of work, you don’t even get the callbacks,” he says. “It’s discouraging.”

    Yet hardly surprising, given the balance-sheet blowups of the past two years. Financial institutions worldwide have racked up more than $1.2 trillion in losses and writedowns since mid- 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. went bankrupt in September.

    Bear, Merrill

    Bear Stearns Cos. and Merrill Lynch were swallowed by commercial banks. And financial firms on both sides of the Atlantic, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Lloyds Banking Group Plc, have received billions from their governments. The U.S. has plugged $173 billion into American International Group Inc., once the world’s largest insurance company, and propped up Citigroup three times. The U.K. government is now set to own 75 percent of RBS, Migliaccio’s former employer.

    The system is convulsing, says Charles Geisst, author of “Wall Street: A History” and a finance professor at Manhattan College in New York. Most of the people who have been turned out of the banks are now, en masse, going to have to find something else to do.

    “The jobs are not coming back,” he says. “This time, it’s permanent.”

    Transaction Bubble

    The jobs have disappeared because the “transaction bubble” has burst, Geisst says.

    From 2003 to ‘07, banks hustled for short-term profit through transaction-based fee businesses, including packaging mortgages into debt securities and selling them to investors. The banks built up departments such as prime brokerage, which clears trades for hedge funds. They hired thousands of people to work in those units, from bankers to back-office programmers and accountants. In London alone, industry jobs ballooned by almost 50,000 to 353,000 in 2007 from ‘02, according to the Centre for Economic and Business Research.

    The job cuts began as the markets turned in mid-2007. Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Officer Stanley O’Neal and Citigroup CEO Charles Prince were ousted following writedowns on mortgage-backed securities. Since then, financial firms worldwide have shed 282,000 jobs, about 5 percent of the total industry workforce, according to Bloomberg data.

    Nobu’s Retreat

    Bull-market hustle has vanished on both Wall Street and in the City of London. Steakhouses and shops selling sports cars and diamonds are nearly empty. In September, Sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa shut down Ubon, his restaurant in London’s Canary Wharf, where glass skyscrapers house offices of the world’s biggest banks.

    For Sunil Rally, who has been selling newspapers, gum and cigarettes at the corner of Wall and William streets in Lower Manhattan since 1991, sales are down 30 percent this year.

    “Every day, business is less than the day before,” Rally says. He points across the street to where Mangia, a once bustling takeout panini and salad shop, cleared out a few days earlier. “It used to be busy,” he says. “But so many people are losing jobs.”

    Growth Engine

    The two cities gorged on revenue from rich bankers. Real estate values jumped to record highs. In London, 40 apartments overlooking Hyde Park had sold for an average price of 20 million pounds by early 2008, about $40 million at the time. Financial services accounted for 11 percent of U.K. income tax and 15 percent of corporation tax in the tax year ended on March 31, 2008, according to a report commissioned by London Mayor Boris Johnson. That’s a total of £42 billion -- more than the U.K.’s schools budget.

    “Financial services has been the growth engine for the U.K. for a decade,” says Peter Hahn, a fellow at London’s Cass Business School and a former Citigroup banker. “The wealth from the City of London pumped up real estate prices throughout the country.”

    Those days are over. On Wall Street, where the average pay at the five biggest New York-based securities firms in 2007 was $353,000, a 44 percent plunge in bonuses last year will cost New York State $1 billion in lost tax revenue, according to the Office of the State Comptroller. In the U.S., the share of gross domestic product coming from finance may tumble to about 5 percent from more than 8 percent in 2006, says Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

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    “The idea that so many people could move money around and make so many millions seemed economically unreasonable,” he says. “Moving those people on to other pursuits is going to be much better for our economy.”

    Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” says the expansion of financial services in the past decade soaked up talent from other industries.

    “I see this as a recalibration,” he says. “Economic crises are a source of great innovation. It forces people to apply themselves to do more to add to productivity.”

    There will still be bankers, of course. Well-connected dealmakers are jumping to so-called boutique firms such as Moelis & Co., the New York investment bank founded by former UBS executive Kenneth Moelis, and Quattro Partners LLP, the London investment adviser set up by former Lehman Brothers banker Michael Tory. The smaller firms are angling for new clients in part by offering advice on making money in distressed markets.

    Malus Clause

    Some financial workers who have been fired will be hired back when the economy rebounds. For them, and for those who still have jobs, compensation may never be so grand. Government- imposed taxes and salary caps and bank clawback provisions and deferred pay are the new rules of the game.

    At New York-based Morgan Stanley, as much as two-thirds of pay is now in deferred stock and cash. Credit Suisse Group AG in Zurich is using about $5 billion of its most illiquid loans and bonds for bonuses to be paid out over five to eight years. Along with rival UBS, it’s forcing employees to allow the bank to try to take back cash bonuses if they leave the firm or are fired for cause. UBS calls this a malus clause-after the Latin word for bad.

    Bankers used to feel like masters of their own destinies, hopping from one job to the next, hooked on their BlackBerries 24 hours a day. The buzz of navigating markets and billion- dollar deals was intoxicating.

    “The trading room was exciting, and it was changing every day,” says Yan Assoun, 38, a Frenchman who headed European equity derivatives trading at Credit Suisse in London.

    ‘It’s Scary’

    Now the glamour and perks are gone. In March, Morgan Stanley ordered London staff to start paying to use the firm’s gym and to front corporate expenses, including hotels and meals, out of their own pockets. Bankers and traders compensated in shares have also watched their net worths crumble.

    “It’s scary,” says Assoun, who lost his job in December. Over several months, the bank slashed 20 percent of his 40- person team. “The entire industry is in shambles,” he says. “The pay structure from before is finished.”

    Assoun, who has a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Paris Dauphine, worked at Deutsche Bank AG in London for six years before jumping to Credit Suisse in 2007. He’s looking for work at a hedge fund, brokerage or asset-management company, where he thinks the pay will be more predictable than at a bank, and he’s adjusting to his first break in 15 years.

    “It’s a bit of a shock not to work,” says Assoun, who has a wife and two kids. “I haven’t cried yet. If I didn’t have a little financial security, I would feel worse. I can still feed my family.”

    Who’s Next?

    As fired bankers figure out what to do, those hanging on at beleaguered banks don’t feel so fortunate. They’ve lost so many colleagues that the work is more of a grind than ever, they say. And the payoff -- a lucrative career at a stable company -- has vanished. They’re beset with anxiety as everyone wonders who’s next.

    Raj Godhania felt that stress for months in Merrill’s Hopewell, New Jersey, office. He began working late nights and weekends to keep up when his group was trimmed to three people from about nine, he says. The pressure rose when Bank of America Corp. took over Merrill on Jan. 1. “Every Monday, you’d see more empty cubicles,” he says.

    ‘Can’t Be Right’

    On Jan. 22, in a scene played out at banks thousands of times, Godhania says he was called into a room with a department head and a woman from human resources. The boss read a couple of lines telling him his job was being eliminated and walked out. The human resources person then outlined the exit package. She gave him a form, he says, that would have granted him three more weeks of pay if he agreed not to sue Merrill or Bank of America and says he had 45 days to sign it. He never signed.

    Godhania says he asked the woman from human resources about his work visa, which was dependent on his employment at Merrill. She didn’t know he had one, he recalls.

    “I thought, ‘This can’t be right,’” he says. When he got home at about 11 a.m., he broke down, says Nita, his wife of 17 years. “His dream was to live and work here,” she says. “It was the first time I’ve seen him cry.”

    William Halldin, a spokesman for Merrill Lynch, says the company doesn’t comment on individual cases. Bank of America expects to cut up to 35,000 jobs over three years as it combines with Merrill, he says.

    ‘Wasn’t Easy’

    Axing workers is tough from the other side of the table, too. In banking, the cuts are so deep that many handing out the pink slips have lost their own jobs. When Servis, the former Morgan Stanley CDO executive, joined the firm from Deutsche Bank in London in September 2007, he was expecting to expand his structuring and syndication team of about 15. Instead, one of his first tasks was to eliminate jobs already targeted by management. After six months, his team had been cut in half.

    “The credit markets collapsed just after I started,” he says. “It wasn’t easy. You spend hours trying to figure out how to reorganize.”

    At least, Servis says, he believed his position was safe. Not so. In April 2008, Morgan Stanley further pared European structured finance, and in September, Servis lost his job. Now, even the managing director who told Servis his job was being eliminated is gone.

    “It doesn’t look like I will ever be doing the same job again,” Servis says. He’s looking for a new position in the City and spending part of the week at Crowlands Heath Golf Club in Essex, just east of London, where he parlayed his Morgan Stanley earnings into an ownership stake.

    Demanding Yield

    Servis studied aeronautics at the University of Southampton and says he went into structured finance to use his math background. The money was good too.

    “It was a bit of a gamble because in 1995 you didn’t know if the market would take off,” he says.

    While many politicians and taxpayers have blamed banks that sold CDOs and other structured products for causing the financial crisis, Servis says customers were demanding higher returns.

    “Investors were taking more risk than they should have,” he says. “You talked to a client about a product that yielded 8 percent, and they said they wanted a yield of 9, 10, 11 percent. I could tell them why that higher-yielding product was more risky, but investors were searching for yields.”

    Now, as he helps sort out the golf club’s finances and pitches in by scrubbing down the kitchen, he finds himself on the other side of the banking world, trying to restructure the club’s £275,000 debt.

    “I keep saying 275 million, forgetting it’s only in thousands,” he says.

    No More Pilates

    Janegail Orringer is also thinking smaller. She lost her job at New York-based hedge fund firm Halcyon Asset Management LLC on Dec. 18. A senior analyst of high-yield credit strategies, Orringer had worked at private equity firm Carlyle Group for nine years before moving to Halcyon in May 2007. She says she doesn’t expect demand for her skills to revive anytime soon and has taken on a couple of short-term consulting jobs.

    She’s also rethinking her household budget.

    That means fewer taxis and a cheaper hair salon. Orringer has dumped the $90, once-a-week Pilates class and a plan to renovate her 7-year-old daughter’s room in the Upper West Side apartment she shares with her husband, who teaches economics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The regular Sunday afternoon baby sitter is gone too. The full-time nanny stays. She’s also ordering cheaper cuts of meat from the butcher: No more veal chops.

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    Psychic Burden

    It’s tough to live in New York City on much less than $400,000 a year, Orringer says, especially if a family has two kids in private school, where tuition can exceed $25,000 a year.

    “I look around at my neighbors, and I wonder, ‘How do they make it?’” she says. “We have savings, although if I remain unemployed for several years, we’ll have to dramatically change our lifestyle.”

    The psychic burden of losing a job may weigh most on Wall Street veterans. They’ve lived through the 1987 stock market crash and the dot-com bubble a decade later. This is worse, says Bill Greenwood, a former managing director at Carlyle.

    “I have been telling colleagues that the business isn’t coming back for the rest of our careers,” Greenwood, 50, says, sipping Awake tea in a Starbucks coffee shop in Westport, Connecticut, not far from his home. “I can’t believe how people are in denial.”

    New Plans

    Greenwood jumped to Carlyle in 2006 from Merrill Lynch, where he had been a portfolio manager, to help build the private equity company’s first publicly listed investment fund. The unit completed an initial public offering in July 2007. By March 2008, the fund, a victim of the credit crunch, had faltered. He was let go a month later.

    Now, Greenwood is still commuting the 50 miles (80 kilometers) to New York a few times a week for meetings with former colleagues and interviews, he says. He watches the markets and manages his own money at a desk in a friend’s office in Stamford, Connecticut.

    He’s also trying to raise $10 million with three partners for a managed-futures business, Meridian Fund Management Services LLC. Managed-futures funds invest in commodity and financial futures and can bet against securities. Their performance has a low correlation with the stock market, and they’re regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. That, he says, could draw some investors who’ve been burned by opaque and illiquid investment products.

    “I’m not doom and gloom,” Greenwood says. “You don’t get anywhere that way.”

    Remembering Roots

    Still, after almost a year without a regular job, he’s watching his cash. “The mantra has been, ‘Do you really need it right now?’” says Greenwood, who lives in a four-bedroom house at the end of a cul-de-sac in Fairfield, Connecticut, with his wife and four kids aged 13 to 19.

    “I am one of nine children from a blue-collar community,” he says. His father worked for a family-owned industrial products business that’s now partly managed by one of Greenwood’s five brothers. “I’ve never lived high on the hog,” he says.

    Others who earned millions of dollars over the years were more cavalier with their spending, Greenwood says.

    “The whole concept that people were supposed to live on their salary and bank the bonus -- most people never did,” he says. “The huge house and vacations got them in trouble. It’s devastating to think about losing your house or figuring out how to support your family.”

    ‘Turn to Faith’

    At St. Anthony of Padua, the Roman Catholic church in Fairfield where Greenwood is a congregant, Pastor John Baran is seeing some of that devastation.

    “We are looking at the land of high margins here and a lot of expensive automobile payments and things like that,” he says. “People are all of a sudden struggling. Their vulnerability is really hitting them.”

    The church is doing what it can, Baran says. It has quietly helped some members make mortgage payments. Attendance is up 20 percent since September.

    “It’s like after 9-11,” he says. “Whenever people feel like the world is out of control, they turn to faith.”

    Those best able to handle Wall Street’s big shrink may be the young men and women at the other end of the career path from Greenwood, the ones who filled junior positions on trading desks or in entry-level investment-banking programs. They’re more flexible, with no mortgages to pay and few bills except rent and restaurant tabs.

    Spread Betting

    William Hanbury, 25, set his sights on a career in finance after graduating from the University of Edinburgh, where he majored in economics. Now, after losing his equity derivatives sales job at Societe Generale SA in London, he’s started a business, Active Capital Management Ltd., that provides options- pricing software for spread betting.

    Hanbury sees profit in the rush of unemployed traders in London who are placing short-term leveraged bets on the direction of stocks, currencies, commodities and indexes. So far, Hanbury has two clients and is hoping for more.

    “I do still want to pursue a financial career,” he says. “But I don’t think there will be that many openings.”

    Financial firms loaded up on young talent during the boom years, filling analyst and associate programs with college and business school graduates courted from prestigious universities. In New York, entry-level pay was about $65,000 a year and was often doubled by a bonus. In London, starting salaries were even higher -- £58,000 for London Business School MBAs plus a bonus.

    Campus recruiting in the U.K. by banks this year will plunge about 28 percent, according to estimates from the London- based Association of Graduate Recruiters.

    ‘Relocating to Cincinnati’

    In the U.S., students used to crush into auditoriums to hear Wall Street CEOs such as Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein or JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon, says Claudia Tattanelli, chief executive of Philadelphia-based Universum, which polls undergraduate and MBA students on where they’d most like to work. Now, they just want to impress interviewers from accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP or packaged-goods producer Procter & Gamble Co.

    “Students are actually now looking at relocating to Cincinnati,” Tattanelli says.

    As for banking, the jig is up.

    “It used to be the place to feel great about yourself and become a millionaire,” Tattanelli says. “Now, it’s not so sure you will make the money, even if the economy picks up. What’s an investment bank’s value proposition now? Work really long hours and not make so much money?”

    Becoming Ari Gold

    Banks and consulting firms so dominated campus job fairs at Princeton University in recent years that many students felt there were few other options, says Amit Chatwani, a 2004 graduate.

    Chatwani ended up at a consulting company, and from an apartment in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, he started a blog called Leveraged Sell-Out that mocked his college pals’ long hours, obsession with Excel spreadsheets and attempts to land women by flashing their Goldman Sachs credentials.

    “Now, there are just a ton of people laid off,” says Chatwani, 26, whose book “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Banker” came out last August, an ill-timed debut. Some of his friends are applying to business school. Others, inspired by the foul- mouthed Ari Gold on the HBO program Entourage, are talking about careers in Hollywood.

    “They say, ‘Well, banking is over; I’m going to become an agent,’” he says.

    Heading Home

    Some young bankers in London and New York have happily ditched plans for a future in finance. Elizabeth Woodwick, 24, joined Lehman Brothers’ debt capital markets group in July 2006, after graduating from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

    She worked 15-hour days, she says, and after a year moved into an apartment with a spiffy new kitchen. That’s when she began baking to relax, throwing cookies or muffins in the oven before and after work. In June 2008, as markets wobbled, she quit Lehman and signed up for the French Culinary Institute’s program in classic pastry art.

    “I liked the people, but it was so intense,” she says of her stint in banking, taking a break from a class assignment for which she was making a chocolate showpiece of the Berkshire Mountains. She calls Lehman’s demise just three months after she left “surreal.”

    Now, she’s contemplating moving back to Minnesota, where she grew up, to work in a restaurant.

    ‘The Little Person’

    The transition isn’t so simple for the Godhanias.

    Nikita and Tinika, the girls, are being pulled from the school in New Jersey that took them a year to get used to. Their parents are withdrawing savings for airline tickets and to ship their possessions back to London, where they plan to rent an apartment and where Raj will join the ranks of those looking for work in the U.K.

    Godhania has been following details of how 700 Merrill Lynch bankers were paid a total of $3.6 billion in bonuses before Bank of America took over the company.

    “The other people, high up the ladder, have made it,” he says. “But me, the little person, cannot ask for even a small fraction of help. Why can’t they just apologize to us and pay to let us go back?”

    It’s a question more unemployed financial services workers may be asking themselves. For most, though, there is no going back.

    Published in the May issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine.

    To contact the reporters on this story:
    Lisa Kassenaar in New York at;
    Stephanie Baker in London at

    Last Updated: March 23, 2009 20:01 EDT
  4. BiLo,

    Allow me to be blunt here.

    These people did not study the business they were going into. I enjoy this business, but I went into a recession proof industry to ensure my survival if my calcs were wrong, as they often were.

    Thinking ahead is the name of this game. What I see so far is a lot of people who discounted the Black Swan event.


    LTCM should have taught all that ANYTHING can happen and plan accordingly. In fact, at the end of When Genious Failed, here was the chartist still in business after LTCM had failed.

    There was a chartist, who died in the 50's who said that human nature never changes.

    Boy, was he ever right!
  5. In fact, there were people, including Cramer, who boasted that they never looked at a chart.

    Yet a swing chart would have shown a monthly break of the trend in late 2007, with confirmation in June 2008.

    These are professionals, yet they could not see this?????

    How sorry should we chartists feel for these people?
  6. Indeed.

    It will be very interesting to see what becomes of finance and MBA grads over the course of the next few years.

    I do not take pleasure in their pain.

    I don't think it's any embellishment to claim that for those of us 40 or under (and especially those of us 30 or younger, let alone 20 and younger), the world is going to be very different than what we've come to expect based on the conditions that existed between 1996 and 2007, during the biggest asset bubble in the history of mankind.

    I honestly think I'm a realist, and not a pessimist, and I can't see any light at the end of what looks to be a very long, very dark tunnel.
  7. To bad for this Indian couple.. They have to make sacrifices just like the other hundred-thousands of Americans that lost their jobs... some of which also lost their homes too.
  8. Screw all this negative s%^t, the rail and ship indexes are rising, people are loading up on real estate and who gives a rat's ass what happens to some H1B's.. maybe they should get an attorney and sue somebody for racism or something... sad stories sell newspapers but BuyLow, they are meaningless here on ET...

    Why not worry about constitutional issues like the tax that congress just passed... it's punitive and after the fact, clearly unconstitutional on two counts. Bailout money went to Acorn to the tune of three and a half billion dollars... unbelievable... so they put forty people on buses and went to harass the people that were getting the punitive taxation bill aimed straight at their heads... does that remind anybody of the Nazi Brown Shirts and Hitlers regime??? I think an issue like that is way more important than some teary eyed report about some H1B's hitting the street...
  9. Merrill didn't dump them on the streets - they shouldn't have signed the papers before getting terminated before negotiating some better terms. Always cover your ass and never sign the forms without a fight.
  10. It may be long and dark for the grasshoppers. For ants, however, the markets fluctuate. They always have. They always will.

    What will the grasshoppers do?

    They try to confiscate the holdings of the ant through legislation.

    What wil the ant do?

    #10     Mar 25, 2009