The life of Brian
Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan says, “It doesn’t all break your way all the time, so you’ve got to just power through it.”
Your family came over when?
In the 1850’s. Both my parents come from small towns in upstate New York where the Irish part of their families had farms and then opened some stores. My grandfather was a lawyer up there. My dad went to school and became a chemist to work for DuPont. I’m one of eight children, number six. My parents moved to a little town in Ohio, called Marietta, the month before I was born.
After doing your undergrad at Brown you went to Notre Dame Law School. Was that a different experience?
Very different. Brown was a great school but it was very heavily Eastern. My grandfather and my uncle both went to Notre Dame, so I had a great Notre Dame tradition. It was the best place in the world to go to law school. It was a very supportive place and we had more fun than we probably should have had. It’s a great school for a lot of reasons, but the law school was small, you really knew the professors, you really knew the undergraduates. I played rugby so it was fun, too.
Do you think Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, was right to invite President Obama to give the commencement speech?
I think he was right, his reasoning was right. I think at the end of the day one of the challenges for a place like Notre Dame is to ensure that they maintain their willingness to have the debate. I think going back to Father Hesburgh [“Father Ted,” the man who led the University of Notre Dame for 35 years], the reason why the university has had such an impact on political leaders and others in this country, is that they’re willing to have debates even though they have a heritage and a particular point of view. It served them well.
When were you last in Ireland?
We went last August . We took my father and mother, and three of my siblings and our children went, so we had about 18 people traveling around in a bus, and it was a lot of fun. We went to Dublin for a few days and then took off down to the southwest. We had a bus driver who had that great Irish humor; we just laughed.
Did you discuss the economy?
He [the bus driver] and other Irish people we met along the way had the common view that it was United States property values and subprime mortgages and all that that created this worldwide financial crisis which was starting to affect Ireland. But at the end of the day, it is local conditions that drive housing prices. Irish housing prices had gotten so out of control relative to what a person could pay that you knew they were going to face what they faced. It’s a classic problem that if you try to outgrow your normal growth rate there’s always a bubble on the other side of it. And as soon as the economy slowed down a little it just all came crashing down. It’ll adjust and come back.