Depth charge

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Conference Call Anatomy™
A conference call about to go awry, yesterday.

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Continuing our theme of submarine warfare,[1] another rare but, among the cognoscenti highly-prized, technique is the depth charge. Rare, because you will only see this when an all-hands conference call has taken the sort of turn for the worse[2] that most experienced conference call convenors can easily avoid:[3] as any fule kno, a conference call is no place to raise anything of significance to which you don’t already know the answer.

Anyway, a depth charge: That critical deal approval committee has turned into a shit-show. The presenter — a junior on the deal team, hoping forlornly for a promotion he will never now get — is unprepared, transparently does not understand his deal and, to boot,[4] has committed that mortal error of not warming up the controller group who are due to hear his application. Further, the guy from Treasury legal, cantankerous on a good day, got out the wrong side of bed this morning and is of a mood to make an example out of young sir in front of his superiors.

The young fellow proceeds and, in the face of the most innocuous questioning from Compliance, limply descends into a stuttering chaos of implausible suppositions and patent fabrications, punctuated by awkward pauses during the last of which a distant voice is picked up an a someone’s microphone — whose, we cannot say.[5] The voice is quiet, but clear, and sounding as though it has come from a mouth turned from the handset in a tone of surreptition.

It says: “Man, this deal is such a piece of shit.”

Sir Jerrold Baxter-Morley, MD of the deal team, who till this point has been googling real estate in St. Moritz, wakes up and explodes in a beetroot-faced, bulge-eyed squawk of outrage: this is his deal, he’s in it for his client and old Eton school-chum Buffer Montague, now a restaurateur and sometime introducing broker in the Middle East.

“Who said that? WHO SAID THAT!?”

But there is no reply: just another awkward pause. But, by means of something that, all will later protest, may have been serendipitous background dealing-floor banter, the damage is done. The remark has articulated only what every controller was quietly thinking, and it fortifies them in their opposition. The deal is destined for a watery grave, thousands of leagues below the Atlantic shipping channel it was meant to finance.

See also


  1. The JC is indebted to his friend Mr. N for suggesting this entry.
  2. Which may, but need not be, a hard-left turn at the bottom of the hour.
  3. Viz., by keeping any matters of controversy or substance off the agenda in the first place.
  4. Das Boot, needless to say.
  5. This is getting harder to mask in the age of Skype, sadly.