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by Derek Loosvelt | April 14, 2010


Yesterday, at an Economist magazine event in London, George Soros said the U.S. banking "oligopoly" (the four biggest banks in the country) should be "broken up." This was a bold statement by the billionaire investing guru, and one that reminded me of a board game that St. Nick shoved deep in my stocking this past December, a game I've been getting rather good at as of late, if I do say so myself. Its official rules (which you'll see below) took me awhile to get the hang of, but I think I'm catching on. Good luck!




The object of Oligopoly® is to become the wealthiest and biggest bank in the world by pretending you never had anything to do with almost crushing the world economy, acting as if it's business as usual, hiding bad assets, paying yourself billions of dollars in bonuses and salaries, and beginning to go back to the drawing board to create investment vehicles that no one, not even financial regulators, understand.

The equipment consists of pansy ratings agencies, blind-eye-turning accountants, blood-thirsty traders, homeowners without jobs or collateral, a board, dice, tokens (a golf cart, black car, company jet, and antique credenza, donated by John Thain), 32 houses in the Hamptons and 12 Ponzi schemes. There are 16 TARP and 16 Get Out Of Jail Free cards, 28 Title cards (one for each regional bank you swallow), and mountains and mountains of play money (a.k.a. cold hard cash).

Place the board on a table in your office, shut the door and sweep the space for bugs. Put the TARP and Get Out Of Jail Free cards face down on their allotted spaces on the board. Each bank chooses one token to ride on while traveling around the board. Each bank is given several billions of dollars from a guy in a white beard and silly striped hat.

Select as Treasurer a player who will be easily manipulated and hasn't paid his taxes. When more than five persons play, the Treasurer may elect to choose one player as his favorite, favoring that player throughout the game, giving him no-interest loans with which to use to acquire other banks.

Besides holding the Title cards, and the 32 houses in the Hamptons prior to purchase by the players, the Feds determine the salaries and bonuses of the players (through a third party called the "Pay Czar," who can not be a blood relative of any of the players, though can be related by marriage). The Feds collect all taxes, fines, loans and interest, and the price of all banks that it sells and auctions. The Feds "never go broke" (well, "almost never"). If the Feds run out of money, they may issue as much as needed by writing amounts on any ordinary piece of paper such as a cocktail napkin or taxi receipt.

Starting with the player holding the John Thain antique credenza token, then moving counterclockwise, each player in turn throws the dice and moves his (it's an all-male game) token the number of spaces indicated by the dice. If a player throws doubles, he moves his token as usual, then throws again and moves as before. If he tosses doubles three times in succession, he must move his token immediately to the space marked "In Jail" and then must enlist a law firm with five names to defend him and immediately pay the Feds half of the cash he has in the bank, including all off-shore and Swiss accounts.

When you are sent to Jail you cannot collect your $20,000,000 salary or your several millions in deferred stock (although you can have your wife hide it under your bed and get it when you are released). If you are not "sent to jail" but in the ordinary course of play land on that space, you are "Just Visiting" and you incur no penalty, though you must play 18 holes with Bernie Madoff and listen to him whine. Because you are "Just Visiting," you still are able to collect millions of dollars in bonuses and hoodwink the Feds and work on creating those crazy investment vehicles no one understands.

A player gets out of Jail by...
(1) Using one of the 16 "Get Out of Jail Free" cards
(2) Purchasing the "Get Out of Jail Free" from another player and playing it
(3) Stealing the "Get Out of Jail Free" card from another player when he is forced to testify at a hearing in front of the Feds
(4) Kissing the Feds' bare behind.

You don't have to worry about this space. It's not for you (it's just for show).

You are declared bankrupt if the Feds choose not to give you any more money. If your debt is to another player, you must turn over to that player all that you have of value, retire from the game, and start a hedge fund.

Soros Says Bank ‘Oligopoly’ Should Be Broken (DealBook)


Filed Under: Finance