New York Mag’s Kevin Roose has produced a very interesting article today entitled “One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society” which was adapted from his newly released book “Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits.” The adapted article details his crashing of a 2012 Kappa Beta Phi (a Wall Street fraternity) party in 2012 welcoming new members into the group and is complete with audio clips hosted over at Soundcloud. Who was at this party and why is this interesting? Roose characterizes the attendees as follows. Also, apparently some Obama donors were there as well:
…many of the most famous investors in the world, including executives from nearly every too-big-to-fail bank, private equity megafirm, and major hedge fund. AIG CEO Bob Benmosche was there, as were Wall Street superlawyer Marty Lipton and Alan “Ace” Greenberg, the former chairman of Bear Stearns. And those were just the returning members. Among the neophytes were hedge fund billionaire and major Obama donor Marc Lasry and Joe Reece, a high-ranking dealmaker at Credit Suisse. All told, enough wealth and power was concentrated in the St. Regis that night that if you had dropped a bomb on the roof, global finance as we know it might have ceased to exist.
What Did They Do?
Dressed in drag while making off color jokes (yes, about homosexuals and women) and engaging in skits and musical acts. Here’s two of the jokes.
- Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Hillary Clinton and a catfish?” A: “One has whiskers and stinks, and the other is a fish”
- Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Barney Frank and a Fenway Frank?” A: “Barney Frank comes in different-size buns”
They also made fun of Occupy Wall Street protesters and sang financial themed songs to the tune of “Dixie” which joked about taking government bailout money after going bust. Charming.
Did Anything Exciting Happen?
Mostly it was just things like the above but when Roose tried to make a video recording he got caught.
“Who the hell are you?” Novogratz demanded.
I felt my pulse spike. I was tempted to make a run for it, but – due to the ethics code of the New York Times, my then-employer – I had no choice but to out myself.
“I’m a reporter,” I said.
Novogratz stood up from the table.
“You’re not allowed to be here,” he said.
I, too, stood, and tried to excuse myself, but he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go.
“Give me that or I’ll fucking break it!” Novogratz yelled, grabbing for my phone, which was filled with damning evidence.
Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty exciting. Roose was led out of the event and then pseudo bribed not to share the video/audio/what he’d seen with anyone else.
“I’ll pick up the phone anytime, get you any help you need,” he said.
“Yeah, the people in this group could be very helpful,” Lebenthal chimed in. “If you could just keep their privacy in mind.”
A little vague as far as bribe’s go if you ask me.
What’s The Takeaway Here?
Here’s what Roose took away from the experience beyond a general feeling that the entire event was a display of disrespect towards the non-wealthy.
As I walked through the streets of midtown in my ill-fitting tuxedo, I thought about the implications of what I’d just seen.
The first and most obvious conclusion was that the upper ranks of finance are composed of people who have completely divorced themselves from reality. No self-aware and socially conscious Wall Street executive would have agreed to be part of a group whose tacit mission is to make light of the financial sector’s foibles. Not when those foibles had resulted in real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.
Below are the remaining Soundcloud videos for your review including the opening speech and a bunch of other weirdness. If you want the full effect of the article then I highly recommend heading over to New York Mag. The article’s well written and reads fast.