New York – Insight: Why Wall Street Still Doesn’t Get It


    Occupy Wall Street protesters  crossing the Brooklyn Bridge wave to Manhattan-bound traffic on the roadway below after a rally in Foley Square, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 in New York. Organizers with the Service Employees International Union and progressive groups staged similar bridge marches in several cities in an event that was planned weeks ago, but happened to coincide with rallies marking two months since the start of the Occupy movement. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)New York – It was a telling moment at the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

    John Paulson, the hedge-fund trader who famously made billions betting on the collapse of the housing market, was threatened by the demonstrators with a march on his Upper East Side home in New York last month. Paulson responded by putting out a press release that described his $28 billion, 120-person fund as an exemplar of the American Dream: “Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City.”

    Other captains of finance like to portray themselves as humble entrepreneurs. One owner of a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund grumbled in the midst of the financial crisis that he has to worry not only about making trading decisions but also about “all the hassles the come with running a small business.”

    With U.S. cities moving this week to crack down on Occupy Wall Street encampments – including the one in New York’s Zuccotti Park – the staying power of the movement is in question. Whatever its future, it’s clear that so far, the Occupiers haven’t changed many minds on Wall Street over blame for the country’s hard times. The cognitive disconnect between the protesters and the captains of finance is alive and well.

    David Mooney, chief executive officer of Alliant Credit Union in Chicago, one of the nation’s larger credit unions, used to work at a one of Wall Street’s top banks, JPMorgan Chase. There’s a vast cultural gap between Wall Street and his new world, he says: Old friends from the Street, he says, now jokingly refer to him as a “socialist.” A credit union is supposed to be run in the interests of all members, he says, while commercial bankers tend to see consumers as customers who can be “exploited” by layering on more fees.

    Says Mooney: “I don’t say this lightly, but the consumer is simply an income stream and exploiting that is the purpose of the banking organization.”

    In conversations with nearly two dozen current and former bankers, finance professionals and money managers across the United States, the prevailing sentiment is that the anger at Wall Street’s elite is misguided and misdirected. Blame the politicians and policymakers in Washington, many of them say, for encouraging people to buy homes they couldn’t afford and doing nothing to stop or discourage U.S. consumers from piling on more than $10 trillion in household debt.

    “I think everyone gets what the anger is about… But you just can’t say, ‘Well I want all debts forgiven.’ That is not happening,” says one West Coast trader, who like most still working in the financial services industry, declined to be identified by name in this article.

    The disconnect, says Jason Ader, a former top Wall Street casino analyst turned hedge fund manager, is in part a simple product of Wall Street’s isolation from the hardship out there. Ader says he spends a lot of his time in Las Vegas, one of America’s hardest-hit housing markets, and thus wasn’t too surprised by this fall’s anti-Wall Street outburst.

    “I see plenty of despair in places like Las Vegas, where in some neighborhoods every other house is vacant or foreclosed and lots are overgrown by weeds,” says Ader, who sits on the boards of Las Vegas Sands Corp and a small Nevada community bank called Western Liberty Bancorp.

    But the 43-year-old Ader, who manages $200 million in his hedge fund, says it’s a different story for many of the wealthy who work in finance in New York City and don’t spend a lot of time in states with high unemployment and high foreclosure rates. Living in Manhattan or the Hamptons or hedge fund havens like Greenwich, Connecticut, can lead to a bit of myopia, he says.

    “At first I had friends who were scratching their heads at the protests,” says Ader.


    To put it bluntly, many on Wall Street still see the events leading up to the financial crisis as a case of banks having legitimately sold something – whether it be mortgages or securities backed by those loans – that someone wanted to buy.

    Thomas Atteberry, a partner and portfolio manager with Los Angeles-based First Pacific Advisors, a $16 billion money management firm, says his success “wasn’t a gift” and he had to work hard to get where he is. Atteberry says he understands the frustration many feel about income inequality. But he said the problem isn’t with those who are successful, but rather our “tax codes and regulations.”

    While some members of the financial elite say they are willing to pay higher taxes, they note the picture for Wall Street firms is not as sunny as some on Main Street might paint it. Wall Street banks already are beginning to shed jobs, and consulting firm Johnson Associates Inc. is predicting bonuses for those who remain will shrink by 20 percent to 30 percent.

    Complaints over new financial regulations burdening Wall Street firms are a major reason blamed for the layoffs. Sit down with a hedge fund manager or a top trader and it won’t take long before he or she grabs some spreadsheet that shows all the new rules and regulations coming out of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

    Many of America’s well-to-do, not just Wall Streeters, say they don’t feel particularly advantaged. A recent survey by marketing firm HNW Inc. found that half of the nation’s richest 1 percent “don’t see themselves as being part of that elite group.” Also, 44 percent of those surveyed told HNW’s pollsters they already pay too much in taxes.

    Maybe it is just the ethos of Wall Street, where success is defined solely by who makes the most money, that makes it hard for financiers to feel they’ve wronged anyone. But in a time of 9 percent unemployment and 15 percent of U.S. citizens receiving food stamps, some Wall Street alums say the financial elite are doing themselves no favors by giving the appearance of shrugging off the current mood.

    “I think Wall Street hasn’t taken in how much anger there is out there and they haven’t taken partial responsibility for the financial crisis,” says Brookings Institution fellow Douglas Elliott, who was an investment banker for two decades before joining the liberal-oriented public policy group. “I think both sides – Wall Street and Main Street – misunderstand each other.”

    Some who get paid to advise the rich on how to deal with the media and the public are telling clients to pay attention.

    Robert Dilenschneider, founder and principal of The Dilenschneider Group corporate consulting group, recently sent a report to his clients telling them that many of the protesters taking part in the Occupy movement are not a bunch of unemployed crazies and hippies.

    “The CEOs in big board rooms in Paris, in Zurich and New York don’t normally think about people who are demonstrating in parks,” says Dilenschneider, whose firm advises some of the biggest companies in the world. “In the banking and financial area, we are telling our clients you have to explain more completely what makes up your business and why your profits are what they are.”


    Some of the disconnect is simply a matter of lifestyle and the fact that the super wealthy really do live differently from everyone else. Hedge fund managers and bankers fly around on private jets, live in palatial penthouse apartments overlooking Central Park and have second homes in the country.

    In New York City, the average pay for those working in finance is $361,183, more than five times the average salary of $66,106 for all workers in the city, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

    This disparity in income and attitudes was evident in the response of hedge fund managers like Paulson who portrayed themselves as humble businessmen. Says Wall Street historian Charles Geisst, “Hedge funds may be small businesses in terms of labor intensity, but in terms of capital intensity they are just the opposite.”

    A spokesman for Paulson said he had nothing more to add on the subject.

    Former Wall Street practitioners say the Street does not lend itself to a lot of introspection. “The world of investment bankers and especially the trading floor region is notoriously hermetically sealed,'” says Kenneth Froewiss, a retired JPMorgan Chase investment banker and former finance professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “The walls may be filled with screens beaming the latest news, but there is typically an obliviousness as to what is happening across the street.”


    There are exceptions, of course. Some are saying it may be time for the government which has bailed out the banking system to help millions of struggling homeowners.

    One of those is former top Pacific Investment Management Co executive Paul McCulley, best known for his analysis on central banks and monetary policy when he worked at the world’s biggest bond fund. McCulley, who retired a year ago from Newport Beach, California-based PIMCO to become a consultant with a public policy firm, enjoys the wealth he accumulated in his old role. He lives in a house by the water where he docks his two boats. But he says Wall Street went too far.

    “Our society was ripe for a convulsion about social justice, and Occupy Wall Street was the catalyst for that,” says McCulley. “New York can be very insular. It is not the real world and neither is Newport Beach.”

    Now that he’s no longer working for PIMCO, McCulley is a bit more free to speak his mind. And he says the only way to jumpstart the U.S. economy is for the federal government to get behind a serious program to encourage consumer debt forgiveness and principal reductions on mortgages by banks. (

    McCulley noted that mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been propped up by about $169 billion in federal aid since they were rescued by the government in 2008, yet there’s a “a moral overtone” to the argument against reducing mortgage debt burdens for individual borrowers.

    “Wall Street capitalism has given us a foul stench in our society,” says McCulley.

    The disconnect continues.

    Just this week, top executives at Fannie and Freddie found themselves drawing fire on Capitol Hill for trying to distribute nearly $13 million in bonuses to key employees.

    And the October 31 collapse of MF Global Holdings is prompting some critics to say Wall Street hasn’t learned any lessons from the financial crisis. The futures brokerage house filed for bankruptcy after investors and traders became fearful that MF Global had taken on too much exposure to European sovereign debt in a bid to juice revenues.

    The risky trade was put on by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs Group chief executive. Last year, Corzine was saying Wall Street investment banks had taken on too much risk in the months leading up to the financial crisis. On the lecture circuit Corzine was calling for tighter regulation of Wall Street, even while his firm was borrowing more and more money to bet on some of the riskiest European debt. A Corzine representative declined to comment. (

    William Cohan, the author of several Wall Street-related books and a former Lazard investment banker, said MF Global was acting as if the 2007-2008 crisis never happened: “You would have to be living under a rock if you didn’t get the message of the financial crisis.” (Reported by Matthew Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan, with additional reporting by Sam Forgione; editing by Michael Williams and Claudia Parsons)

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    1. Bonuses might shrink by 20-30%? So instead of a 5 million bonus they get only 4 million? Oh boo hoo hoo. Please tell that to the 50,000 banking industry workers who lost their jobs this year.

      Oh, at my job I also earned a “bonus.” All the honored employees were taken out to lunch at a fancy restaurant! When I explain to my supervisor that I couldn’t eat anything at this event because it wasn’t kosher, they gave me a $50 gift card.

      Think of how much money the banking industry could save, and keep employees, by giving $50 gift cards instead of million dollar bonuses!

    2. “One owner of a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund grumbled in the midst of the financial crisis that he has to worry not only about making trading decisions but also about “all the hassles the come with running a small business.”


      Oh no! Whatever shall he do?!?! Clutch the pearls! *gasping*

      How will he feed his family?!?!

      Jeesh….*shaking my head*

      Who can listen to these people on Wall Street have the NERVE to complain like this?!

      These people are the biggest bunch of greedy, whiny children I’ve EVER seen in my life! And you guys think the Occupy Wall Street people are children?! Pa-leaze!

      Running a multi-billion dollar industry & calling it a “small business”, not to mention Mitt Romney saying things like “Corporations are People too!” & all of the Republicans trying to allow Corporations to have VOTING RIGHTS in this country, as if the entity itself was a “person”…

      Are just SOME of the multitude of things that people are sick to DEATH of & protesting in the 1st place!

      But look how many people will come on here & say things like “Every person has the right to keep their ‘hard-earned’ money” for themselves!”


      THEIR money??

      NOT 100% true, is it?!?!

      • Sherry, I don’t know what you mean. Of course, their income is hard-earned. Investing is a highly specialized, high pressure job.

        And yes, it IS their money. Who else does it belong to? The money that anyone earns by providing goods or services is his money.

        Sherri, you usually are a voice of sanity on this site, railing agains racism of all kinds, and full of compassion for everyone. But I think that you are displaying bigotry against the wealthy people of this country. You are engaging in negative stereotyping. You seem to think that all of them are immoral crooks and cheats. To put a group of people — any group of people — under one negative classification is just hatred and bigotry. You don’t like it when people assume that muslims are terrorists, well I don’t like it when you assume that wealthy people are crooks.

        What do you say?

        • Thank you so much for your post Yovel, I really appreciate it! (:-D

          But I think there is a huge misconception going on, that people like me who protest greed, selfishness, classism, etc., are somehow NOT willing to work hard for their own money, or want everything “handed to them”! On the contrary!

          “Lazy” people don’t stay out in the freezing cold for 2 months on end to fight for those kinds of things! (lol)

          And asking for liveable wages & decent benefits to support your family isn’t “unfair” or denigrating anyone!

          I’m not jealous of rich people & I don’t want their “stuff”! Let them have bonuses, fancy sports cars, speed boats & trips to Cancun for x-mas! I could care less!

          But while they are paying themselves billions of dollars in bonuses… enough money STILL is never “enough” for them! And once they aren’t able to collect on an even BIGGER bonus than the one they got last year & etc…

          It’s *US* (the working men & women of this country) whom they fire, who’s health insurance they start refusing to provide, who’s jobs get moved over-seas, or who loses their home!

          I don’t want their “stuff”- I just want them to pay people like my husband a decent wage for his labor!

          • Sheri, I never said that you were jealous. I never said that you wanted their stuff.

            I just said that you are bigoted against rich people; you assume that all of them are crooks. And I’m afraid that your response confirmed my accusation, because you just persisted in your negative stereotyping.

      • “The disconnect continues.
        Just this week, top executives at Fannie and Freddie found themselves drawing fire on Capitol Hill for trying to distribute nearly $13 million in bonuses to key employees.”
        So who’s the root of the problem???
        Not the banks, but the government that allows it to still go on today!
        Fannie & Freddie is the government!

      • 1) the only whinny people here are the protesters
        2) “But look how many people will come on here & say things like “Every person has the right to keep their ‘hard-earned’ money” for themselves!”


        THEIR money??”

        a) Please explain how you know that they don’t work hard???
        b) why isn’t it their money? if they run a hedge fund aren’t they entitled to a percent of the profits? (Assuming there isn’t fraud involved).

        As Paulson said it best “Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City”

        This socialist thinking is scary……very scary (sigh)

      • Since when is it a sin or a crime to earn money ? Open your own hedge fund if you will, why do they have to share their wealth with anyone? Drop bonuses and hire more people, to do what? are you lookiing for free handouts? everybody here is trying to justify the marchers without the marchers themselves knowing why they are marching and what they plan to accomplish…
        I don’t understand, if Wall street will shut down tomorrow will that create jobs? if the Gov will forgive certain loans is that going to create jobs? NO you may reduce your prior obligations but that still will not give you a legs up for the future…
        The main problem with the American economy is the “trade unions” who incidentely are funding and marching in tandem with the MOW’s. did anybody look to see how much the union bosses are making? and not in investments but rather chiseling off money from the working class the whole union business is a legal rackateering organization with ties to the underworld. They forced business owners and entrepreneur to leave America for the orient. think off all the jobs the supposedly labor protecting unions robbed from the American people through their pocket lining greed…

    3. Some of these fianancial wizards should have gone to jail or at least be charged. They deceived trusting foolish investors , gambled away their money and then left with huge bonuses. Poor snooks who shoplift food are prosecuted. This reminds when I was liberated and SS officer claimed the acted under order and later received their German person for having served the Vaterland killing Jewish children, women and men. These financial wizard knowlingly sold phony financial “instruments” to gullible investors in the name of the invisible hand. Mr.Greenspan claimed the financial market will correct itself, it did.

      • I am also a survivor of Shoah, and I find your intended analogy between SS officers (one of whom murdered my brother in front of me) and American men and women who work in the American financial market to be BEYOND DISGUSTING. You are a PIG.


    4. I don’t see any reason why they could. The comitted financial fraud and went away scott free. They broke the fiduciary trust robbed poeple of their hard earned money and left their positions with large bonuses, fiancial gains. Fuld the CEO of Lehman Brothers made a huge profit. No penalties under the civl code. All we need more suckers to hand over the money and sell them more default certificates.

    5. the issues also is hedge funds and such type of business do not produce anything of value just move money and make money with zero benefit to anybody but themselves

      that is why the anger it at them

      I wonder if a labor works hard to fix something in Paulson house and asks him for 1,000 and says I worked hard if he would pay?

      while gates and jobs (I know he died) ) are super rich one does not see such anger at them since they at least make a product or other rich of industries .

      amazing they say we need to charge 5 for a debit card since we are losing money at the same time giving out 100’s of million in bonuses and teh CEO making more money than he ever made about 300,000,00 and say sorry no money for you we are cash tight

      • “Hedge funds … make money with zero benefit to anyone but themselves.”

        What are you talking about?

        Hedge fund managers make money for their clients. They provide a service for which they should get paid.

      • “the issues also is hedge funds and such type of business do not produce anything of value just move money and make money with zero benefit to anybody but themselves”

        HUH?? As far as I know they usually try and make a profit for THEIR INVESTORS, and then take a % of those profits, Sorry I didn’t realize that was a crime.

        In addition, they usually employ numerous people from Traders, research analysts, IT to secretaries. So before you start screaming that their is no benefit to anyone but themselves, please reconsider the tens of thousands of jobs Wall Street produces and the ample effect it has on all other industries in the vicinity (i.e. restaurants, car service, clothing stores etc).

        Lastly, the state counts on BILLIONS of dollars in revenue from Wall St. So again before you complain please realize that 1/2 of the programs/services that you and most NYers are on would be drastically cut if it wasn’t for Wall St.

        • Let’s see. How about the companies taking securities backed by risky home mortgages, slicing them up into very small segments, re-combining them into larger notes and then marketing them as quality investments? And then, betting that these new “quality” investments would fail? This is exactly what Goldman Sachs and Paulson did. How about the tax structure that allows hedge fund managers to take their profits as capital gain so they can pay lower tax rates than for income? Can you do that? It has been very well documented that there are fewer jobs created by additional money being given to the wealthy than by money going to the middle and working classes. No one is saying it is bad to be rich, to work hard, or to make money. We’re saying it is bad to cheat, to use your wealth and power to change laws to benefit you financially, and to destroy the economy and livelihoods of millions of other people who work just as hard.

      • “ the issues also is hedge funds and such type of business do not produce anything of value just move money and make money with zero benefit to anybody but themselves”

        Huh? What are you talking about? They are in the business to make money for their investors who include endowments, foundations and pension funds (private, public, union etc.) that have the average Joe’s money invested. So just because they have a successful business and are doing well, you and your ilk find it necessary to demonize them. I just don’t get it.

        Also, the reason why BOA added the debit card fee was because they had streams of revenue taken away from them by Dodd-Frank. In the business world, when you have an expectation (forecast) of profitability that your investors (which includes the average Joe trading who invests some of his money in the stock market) count on, you have a fiduciary duty to find a way to get back to the levels of profitability you expected.
        Think about it, if you count on getting a $3,000 bonus every year that you depend on to pay part of tuition with it and along comes the government and raises your taxes by $3,000 (effectively removing that stream of revenue), what would you do

    6. The OWS people arent protesting against wall st types who’ve committed fraud, whom everyone agrees should be in jail. Theyre protesting against everyone who makes a lot of money. They think no one should be allowed to make a lot of money, or keep that money, and the money should be taken from them and given to everyone else. There is no reasonable basis in halacha or secular ethics for this ideology.

      • Wall street is a computer steered gambling joint, yes stocks are an option but not the financial instrument peddled on Wall street , they are fancy , finely ornamented asher yozor paper

      • Please don’t believe the hype. The media isn’t interested in hearing what an average middle class working citizen has to say, they prefer to broadcast the crazies because that makes for more interesting news. However the OWS movement has many different people involved, some are hard-working people, some are unemployed, some are rich, some are poor, etc. Stop putting thousands of people in one category and stereotyping them.

        • Well thought out posting and I am sympathetic even though I will not protest. Wall street generated fortunes for some of its employees by selling so called financial instruments worth zero. Hitler stereotype and so did his cohorts

    7. Also, I’d really like to add: What good is religion, if it isn’t teaching you the values of kindness, sharing, compassion & charity?!

      I feel like telling all of the greedy people to just “Go Gault” then, if they don’t like it here, and don’t feel like paying people a decent liveable wage!

      Let them all go move to China, where they can rip people off & pay them $2.50 an hour for slave labor, if they don’t want to pay people fairly here! (lol)

      But here in America… the working people of this country have some dignity & self-respect, and there is no reason to treat us like slaves & keep cutting our health care, benefits, worker’s rights & pensions… just so they can keep their billion dollars worth of bonuses rolling in every year!

      Give me a break!

      • As a 3rd generation American, grandpa was born in NY in 1920, I can say that what makes America great, is the ability TO VOTE. True Americans don’t “take to the streets” (civil disobedience or worse) but vote to get the person elected that we feel will “improve” the issues. And then we vote them OUT when they don’t do good.
        Skip the violence and the rhetoric and go vote!
        Anyone that condones this behavior is UNAMERICAN.
        If you don’t like how this Country is set up, YOU should move to another Country, don’t tell others that they should move because you think that they keep too much of their own money.

        • Ok, you CLEARLY have never been used & taken advantage of, by the wealthy & powerful in this country… or you’d be singing a different tune!

          Back when you were raising your children… your wife could probably stay home w\your children, and you could work hard, make at least a liveable wage, and could support your family w\pride & dignity! America ran like this for the middle class for decades & decades!

          And then all of the sudden… Reagan comes into office & there goes the Unions & worker’s rights! Then Clinton comes in & there starts NAFTA! And then Bush gets in… and well… we know what HIS Presidency did to this country! I don’t have the space here on VIN to type it all out!

          Point is: the Middle class has been under attack in this country for the past 3 decades, going on 4 decades! And people like you, just want the banksters to keep lining their pockets, firing the lot of us, reducing our health-care & benefits, or sending all of our jobs overseas so they can become EVEN richer!

          Their salary is never “enough” for them… no matter how many millions & billions a year they make!

          But the rest of us pay the price for that greed!

          Trust me!

          • So you condone violence to express your opinions!
            That’s what you imply if you agree with OWS movements.
            So in your philosophy, you agree to destroy other peoples property, disrupt others livelihoods (stop people from going to work) all in the name of getting back at Wall Street executives. How bird-brained can you be? Wall Street is governed by laws set forth by government. The excessive bonuses that all agree were wrong were condoned by Obama! Go protest (peacefully) in Wasshington and vote him out. Nothing short of that will bring needed change.

            • No, absolutely not. I have ALWAYS stated on here, that I support the OWS movement as long as it remains non-violent, they’re not rioting, destroying people’s businesses, breaking into businesses, etc.!

              They haven’t been doing ANY of that! But… there HAS been violence, and we need to take a good look as to *WHY* there’s been violence! Because for 2 months…. there wasn’t!

              And then… the riot police show up, destroy everyone’s personal property, destroy over 500 books, (including a Sefer Torah, c’v’), and in other cities, people have been HOSED like animals, pepper sprayed RIGHT in their faces…. even while ALREADY detained & sitting on the ground! People are being shoved, kicked, a woman was dragged around by her hair, another was punched in the face, am 84 yr old woman was pepper-sprayed right in the face, a Iraqi veteran’s skull was bashed in…

              Come on! Who is causing violence here?!?!

    8. I Jewish trademark according to the way I was raised is honesty, an erlicher Yid. Wall Street was not honest, transparent or fulfilling the trust of those entrusting them with their money

    9. All these “Torah observing” specimens making postings on this website should remeber that inn Vayikra there is written do not put a stumbling before the blind. Medrashim tell us it means that if the person is unaware of the value of the item he is selling or if he is buyer of an item does not understand the value you must explain to him the value . Wall Street failed and all these Torah observing “executives” went along with the dishonesty or plainly speaking ganeiva


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