Rice Says A Person's Looks Influence Loan Decisions. Let's Assess

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Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? It appears that banks and other lenders know a trustworthy face when they see one - or at least that's what a study co-authored by Rice professor of real estate finance Jefferson Duarte indicates.

Using loan information and photographs from the website Prosper.com, which matches loan applicants to lenders, Duarte asked a 25-member group to rate each applicant's trustworthiness based solely on their photo. The team was also asked to judge the likelihood that each candidate would repay a $100 loan.

According to a Reuters article, "Those judged to be trustworthy by the team were more likely to get a loan from Prosper.com lenders and tended to have a credit score about 20 points higher than those determined to be untrustowrthy, researchers found."

Duarte was quoted as saying, "The pictures are revealing something about the behavior of these people that is not taken into account in the credit score model."

Which made Hair Balls wonder: how much did looks have to do with that seemingly endless parade of executives who've asked for federal bailouts? And, based on the execs' photos, is there any way to tell if this was a good idea or not? Why don't you let us know? How likely would you be to give a few million to the following people?

Edward Liddy, CEO AIG. Looking like everybody's uncle in this photo from an Allstate Insurance newsletter, Liddy displays the winning charm that comes along with running a company that sold trillions in bullshit paper and was still able to get a taxpayer-funded bailout. Hair Balls isn't sure how exactly a smile like his would be categorized in Duarte's study, but we feel it's somewhere in the "Kind of Guy Who Makes You Grab Your Ankles and Charges You for the Vaseline" classification.

Rick Wagoner, CEO GM. In this photo, from MSNBC.com, Wagoner gesticulates with the swagger of a man who gets to start off each morning by saying, "Yeah, we manufacture Hummers. Suck it!" How could you not give money to a face like that? Do you want to live in a world without Buicks? Hair Balls sure doesn't.

Ted Bundy, executed serial killer. In this photograph from the journal Nature: The International Weekly Journal of Science, the late serial killer Ted Bundy takes some much-needed "Ted time" while representing himself at the first of two capital murder trials. (He lost both of them). Notice the natty suit and boy-next-door smile, all indicative of an All-American, trustworthy dude. Except for the whole killin'-and-rapin' part. Still, Hair Balls is fairly confident that Congress would've tossed him a bone.

Robert Nardelli, CEO Chrysler. In this photo, from Businessweek.com, Nardelli poses with the confident yet laid-back demeanor of a man who knows first-hand why America is the greatest country on Earth: You can manufacture a shitty, shitty product year after year, and even while your competitors kick your ass with cars that don't depreciate like Jessica Simpson, you can still get a handout based on the government's belief that terrorists will win if the Daewoo goes extinct.

Vikram Pandit, CEO Citigroup. You'd be smiling in an L.A. Times photograph, too, if you were awarded nearly $30 million in stock even while your company slashed 4,200 jobs. You can't see below his shoulders, but we understand Pandit's grabbing his crotch with one hand and beating a baby seal to death with the other.

Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. As is evident in this oft-published photo, here taken from the BBC, clothes make the man, even if that man is in fact half-pachyderm. Oddly enough, Hair Balls is pretty sure that Merrick, the ugliest dude in the bunch, had more integrity in one of his minor tumors than the rest of these dudes had in their entire bodies.

Alan Schwartz, former CEO, Bear Stearns. Although he's smiling in this Businessweek.com photo, Schwartz no longer works at Bear Stearns. We sure hope the guy has been able to find work somewhere. Somewhere, a douche company is missing a mascot.

Thomas M. Kachmarik, wanted child sex predator, Harris County. Crimestoppers photos never seem to bring out the best in people. So before you decide whether this Chester needs a handout, you might want to see if other agencies have afforded more photogenic mugshots.

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