requesting an investment banking client meeting
Years ago, so long ago in fact that Tokyo was by a wide measure the largest stock market in the world, I received a call from a broker asking whether I wanted to meet with the top management of electronics maker Casio in my office in Manhattan the next day.
I knew the company a bit. I’d visited it in Japan. It wasn’t a particularly well-run firm. And it was an exporter, a weak yen beneficiary, at a time when the yen was soaring and only domestic-oriented companies went up. So I had little interest.
But I said yes anyway.
The broker was in a bind. He was supposed to be showing Casio the power of his firm’s client list in New York and some manager had cancelled at the last minute, creating a potential loss of face for both the broker and Casio. I had only a small pool of money under management and my acceptance would obligate the broker to provide me a return service that my commission volume alone couldn’t buy.
Apparently, the CEO of Casio felt under the same sort of obligation. The meeting was interesting and informative, although it gave me no reason to want to buy the stock.
negotiations with China
The main topic was the company’s negotiations at that time to increase manufacturing capacity in China.
Casio met with Chinese government officials over several sessions and came to a preliminary agreement. When the two sides met again, ostensibly to cross the ts and dot the is, the Chinese side reopened the negotiations, demanding substantial new concessions. What Casio expected to be the end point turned out to be the new starting point for further haggling. It went along because it figured the costs of starting again elsewhere from scratch were too high.
This happened several more times.
Then a contract signing was scheduled. At that meeting, the Chinese side accused Casio of complicity in the rape of Nanking and demanded still more concessions as a form of reparation. Casio did so, even though the last contract changes removed all chance of profit from the new plant.
With some distance, the CEO’s main conclusion from this experience was that the long-term relationship of mutual respect and trust that he hoped to find in China was simply not there. He’d already decided to cut his losses and do no more expansion in China.
I was already quite familiar with this negotiating style, which might be described as death (of the other guy) by a thousand cuts. I’d seen a former boss to the same thing to Lehman. In that case, however, Lehman eventually picked up and left in disgust.
In its negotiations with the rest of the EU, Greece has been following the same playbook Casio described to me decades ago, down to the accusation of wartime atrocities. The main casualty in this approach is the loss of trust between the parties, once the Casio-side party realizes the other has no interest in a solution that brings mutual benefit.
It seems clear to me that we’ve passed that point in the Greece-EU discussions. We’ll find out over the weekend whether this precludes any agreement from being reached.
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