Dogooders on Wall Street

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m not a saint and I have plenty of things to repent for (just ask my brother and sister). However, that is NOT why I am still writing, why I am still trying to help people, and why I am still trying to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. I realize a lot of what I have written sounds about as real as a politician’s promise, but I assure you it is. (Again ask my brother and sister if you don’t believe me)

But, all that being said (again), I’d like to give you my view on Wall Street and the reputation it carries. I’m in my 3rd year “in the jungle” and hopefully can give an insiders view on whether it deserves such a nasty reputation and whether there are dogooders on Wall Street.

In any group. a small minority can ruin things for the majority. Ray Lewis, Ricky Williams, and Michael Irving (among many others) have given NFL players a reputation of being dangerously aggressive (Lewis) , drug addicts (Irving and Williams). Gilbert Arenas, Ron Artest, and Stephen Jackson have given NBA players an equally poor reputation as being gun-toting belligerent street thugs. Are all NFL players homicidal druggies? Of course not. Should we assume all NBA players carry a gun or would jump in the stands after being instigated? Definitely not. While there are a handful of other Ray Lewis’ and Gilbert Arenas’, these players represent the minority – not the majority in their respective fields.

Wall Street has its own Gilbert Arenas or Ray Lewis. Their names are Stan O’neal and Jonathan Thain. Jonathan Thain was the former CEO of Merrill Lynch. Thain was the highest paid CEO in 2007, in a year which Merrill Lynch lost $7.8 billion.
A New York Times story says that Thain spent $1.2 million to redecorate his Merrill Lynch office which included $87,000 on a rug and $68,000 on a credenza at a time when his firm was teetering on the brink and on the verge of a buyout from Bank of America. (By the way, WTF is a credenza?)

Stanley O’neal is another symbol of the greed, selfishness, and lack of consideration that people associate with all of Wall Street. Stan O’neal (if I may call you Stan) was another stellar CEO of Merrill Lynch. There were numerous articles written about Stan’s proclivity to shooting a round of golf however it was all the more notable when he was out hitting the links when his firm was losing $100 million a day.

Michael Lewis wrote on November 6, 2007 (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=ajTvXXdpb748)

“In the six weeks between Aug. 12 and Sept. 30, as Merrill Lynch’s losses mounted, its CEO didn’t merely manage to play 20 rounds of golf, on four different courses. He played them beautifully, with a consistency that defied the pain he must have been feeling. Indeed, a glance at the scores explains why the Merrill Lynch board agreed to pay him $48 million in 2006: The man has ice water in his veins. From the end of July to early October, when the firm Stan O’Neal ran was losing money at a rate of more than $100 million a day, his handicap wavered only slightly — in fact dropped, to 9.1 from 10.2.”

This type of behavior is beyond incompetent, it is criminal. Just as Gilbert Arenas and Ray Lewis give their sports a terrible reputation, people do equally as bad for all of Wall Street.

I do believe that the minority that ruins it for the majority is bigger on Wall Street than in other industries (save, perhaps professional athletics). And I do feel that executive compensation was completely out of touch with the rest of America. To receive $48mm at a time when your firm was clearly going down the tube is shameful.

While the minority may be bigger on Wall Street, I hope my story helps change that image, at least a little bit. There are over a hundred people who have not only helped spread the story but have donated to the cause. Many of these people (and others) heavily contribute their time and funds to other cuases. While this may not justify the actions of the minority , there is a majority here that does give back and it not the vile, sinister type you often hear about.

I truly urge you not to lump everyone in the same pan and fry them together. Surely there is a bigger minority here that gives the majority a bad rep, but there is as big a minority on Wall Street that actively tries to make the world a better place, to give back, and to help others. This minority should be identified and recognized more often.

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