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‘Funny Money’ By Mark Singer


Mark Singer’s ‘Funny Money’ gives the reader an impression that he is taking a stroll in Oklahoma City during the late1970’s. In the book, Mark provides an interesting outlook in identifying the individuals who fed from the boom emanating from the gas and oil exploration. “He elaborates how the local bankers made it possible to finance anything that proved able to move and make more money,” says Susan (1985). He talks of the people who spent huge amounts of money without caring much since they knew they would go borrow again from the big city banks.


The book focuses on the Penn Bank, a bank modestly situated in a shopping center, but performing an immodest way in the finance sector, a sector with many risks involved. Lee (1985) asserts that, “Penn Square brought together individuals who kept the economy running, the wealthy individuals in the society, those who leased or owned mineral rights and the investors who possessed huge amounts of funds to get the gas and oil from the ground.” In as much as this was not a new event or practice, the way, Penn Bank conducted it was very crude.

Mark explains how Penn Bank organized loans related to energy and assessed them in terms of the risks involved in its drilling and the degree of soundness of the security. After thorough assessment of these loans, they sold them to premier banks in America. Singer (2004) adds that “Penn Square received huge fees for this service that they provided.” This is a traditional practice for most banks and Penn State was not an exception. They copied this from many banks buying and selling loans in regard to funds availability and the desire to diversify portfolios.

Mark also brought to light the untraditional things that Penn Square bank was involved in. Before it went bankrupt in the year 1982, its assets had increased more than fifteen times to five hundred and twenty five million dollars and its deposits had expanded from twenty nine million dollars to over four hundred and fifty million dollars. It had unique cavalier techniques of handling its business. Singer (2004) asserts that, “Penn Square generated and passed many loans that were not credit-worthy and were not properly collateralized.” It had insufficient capital to effective run its operations and allowed most of its top partners and directors to over borrow.

After buying Penn Square in 1974, Bill P. Jennings started an oil and gas loan department after two years and hired Bill Patterson to head the department in 1977. Patterson was not the banking type of person and often dressed in awkward manner while going to work. Singer (2004) explains how, “He also drank lots of beer and engaged in beer fights in expensive restaurants.” Singer explains how a small bank like Penn Square worked its way into portfolios of big banks such as Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company. However, Penn Square didn’t last in the market. The 1981-82 economic recessions and the collapse of the boom in energy in 1982 led to its collapse.

Mark Singer’s book has brought to light various ethics that should be upheld by anyone venturing into the business world. The first thing that owners of big companies and enterprises should embrace is consultation and consideration of all the stakeholders’ interest in any action. This is a very important tool in any business and it help give room for novel ideas that would benefit the business. In comparison with Funny Money, we can say that Jennings lacked this ethic and it did cost him Penn Square Bank. Before introducing the oil and gas loan department in the bank, he should have consulted with the top officials of the bank on the way forward. He just told them his new idea and didn’t ask for other people’s opinions, and so when everything was crumbling down, he was all to blame.

Singer’s book gives the need for the federal government to step in and ensure businesses follow the laid down business ethics and laws. Penn Square was not operating within the law in the manner in which it sold loans to the Continental Illinois. It didn’t care much in the way it handled the processing of loans. Allowing its top officials to borrow huge amounts of money was against business ethics since they were given loans yet their financial status was not up to speed. Singer confirms to us that Penn Square woes were caused the top officials who felt that business ethics and laws are not important in the running of a business.

In explaining business ethics, Lee, Jere, Peter &Marisa (2005) asserts that, “in as much as a business is geared towards making profit, it should ensure that it follows the law and does not infringe any one’s rights.” Funny Money has brought to light how the few rich individuals engulfed by the greed to make more money from the booming oil and gas sector borrowed huge funds from the bank without caring about the others who had small savings accounts with the bank. “It was very unethical for them to indulge in such acts since they made those individuals running accounts with little money incur losses with the collapse of the bank” asserts Max (2004). In this case the Bank’s chairman Jennings, the oil and gas lender Patterson, visionary geologist Hefner and borrowers Carl Swan and Allen were unethical in the way they conducted their business.

According to Lee et al. (2005), “business ethics require individuals to operate within the law while conducting business.” Patterson together with John Lytle, the Continental Illinois Bank Company vice president, was sentenced to having forged a loan officer’s name. They were sentenced to imprisonment with Paterson serving two years while John serving three and half years. They had gone against business ethics and had to be responsible for their actions.

Having read the book, I have understood the importance of business ethics in the business world. In as much as all businesses are geared towards making profits, business ethics and law should be followed to the latter. Velasquez (2006) argues that “consultations with various stakeholders should be done to ensure that everyone’s needs and interests are catered for.” These help a great deal since varied ideas and better implementation methods are brought on the table making the business a success. Adhering to business ethics makes an organization and its leaders have a good reputation. A good name is important for any future business deals for the individuals and the organization. Swan, one of the key players in the Penn Bank found it difficult to make deals in his new business after the collapse of the Penn Square Bank. Everyone he tried to make business dealings with associated him the collapsed bank.

“Business ethics should be based on moral sound judgment and respect for others. In regard to this, business executives should be people of high integrity and should have the courage to do what they think is right,” says Velasquez (2006). Since they are the light of the company and determine the company’s direction, they are not expected to be unscrupulous or hypocritical. Mark Singer has showed to us that Swan failed to meet the set standards of a business executive. When he collaborated with Patterson to forge the signature of his junior loan officer, he failed a great deal as a business executive. Velasquez (2006) explains that, “individuals are expected to behave and have morals that are specific to their line of business.” In trying to understand Manuel’s assertion, Patterson comes to our minds. Despite being a banker, he did not dress or behave like one. He often put on a Nazi trooper helmet and a Batman hat. Furthermore, he was known for drinking lots of alcohol and always got involved in food fights in expensive restaurants.


In a nutshell, Mark Singer’s book ‘Funny Money’ has successfully explained what really led to the collapse of Penn Square Bank. In doing so, he has interestingly commented on the Oklahoma culture, some histories and facts relating to the oil business. The book comes in handy for anyone interested in the banking industry since it gives one an insight of the business ethics and what is expected of him and what can befall him in case he goes against them. Despite the fact that the book was written during the 1980’s, the subject matter it handled is still relevant to the current real estate and energy markets. The kind of corporate corruption that characterized Penn Square Bank and Continental Illinois is still evident in today’s corporates, its like people never learn. Singer’s book emphasizes the need for business organizations to work in ensuring that they follow business ethics and law to the latter.


Manuel, Velasquez (2006). “Business Ethics, A Teaching and Learning Classroom Edition:

Concepts and Cases, 6/E. New York: Pearson Publishers. p. 80

Mark, Singer (2004). “Funny Money.” New York: Mariner Books Publishers. p.23

Nichols, Max. (2004). “Commentary: Taking a second look at Funny Money.” The Journal

Record. Retrieved on 3rd Nov from HYPERLINK “”

Lee, R., Peter, J., Jere, M. &Marisa, P. (2005). “The Legal and Regulatory Environment of

Business.” Illinois: Burr Ridge Publishers. p. 60

Susan, Lee (1985). “Mickey Mouse in Oklahoma.” New York Times, Published on 23rd June

1985. Retrieved on 3rd Nov 2011 from HYPERLINK “”

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