Report from a meeting of Wall Street's secret, tasteless plutocrats' club

In the process of writing his just-released book Young Money, an investigative look at the bankers who've joined Wall Street since the crash of 2008, author Kevin Roose snuck into a meeting of the secretive Kappa Beta Phi club -- an organization of hyper-rich Wall Street bankers.

Roose recorded the captains of of industry, whose shady dealing had crashed the world economy and plunged millions into untold misery, cavorting on stage, making jokes about poor people and Hillary Clinton, dressing up in drag, and singing an anthem about how much bailout money they'd suckered out of the feds, to the tune of Dixie: "In Wall Street land we’ll take our stand, said Morgan and Goldman. But first we better get some loans, so quick, get to the Fed, man."

New York Magazine has a membership roll of the Kappa Beta Phis, which is a who's who of the richest, most powerful men on Wall Street.

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.

The second thing I realized was that Kappa Beta Phi was, in large part, a fear-based organization. Here were executives who had strong ideas about politics, society, and the work of their colleagues, but who would never have the courage to voice those opinions in a public setting. Their cowardice had reduced them to sniping at their perceived enemies in the form of satirical songs and sketches, among only those people who had been handpicked to share their view of the world. And the idea of a reporter making those views public had caused them to throw a mass temper tantrum.

The last thought I had, and the saddest, was that many of these self-righteous Kappa Beta Phi members had surely been first-year bankers once. And in the 20, 30, or 40 years since, something fundamental about them had changed. Their pursuit of money and power had removed them from the larger world to the sad extent that, now, in the primes of their careers, the only people with whom they could be truly themselves were a handful of other prominent financiers.

Young Money [Amazon]

One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society [Kevin Roose/New York Magazine]

(Thanks, Josh!)

Notable Replies

  1. Old says:

    I don't dislike these guys for their age and wealth. I dislike them for being frat boys.

  2. Doccam says:

    I don't advocate violence as a solution to problems. But man is that hard sometimes.

  3. Ygret says:

    If our government had just applied the law to these miscreants they'd be in jail for the massive frauds they committed. No violence necessary. Now that they have not done so, well...

    Federal and state prosecutors claim to represent "the people". But what happens when they stop doing so? "The people" need to be able to arrest and prosecute directly.

  4. Just the other day a family member was telling me about their interest in getting into the weed biz in Florida (there is a general expectation that it will become legal to grow and sell within the next few years). I mentioned my understanding that it took quite a lot of up-front cash, and she responded that her business partner (a wealthy woman that I do not know personally) was friends with a lobbyist, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, and that lobbyist would likely be able to arrange it such that the bar would be set too high to allow anyone else into the local market (or, at the very least, keep most interested parties out of contention by a variety of legal means).
    It was the first time I'd ever come across that way of thinking, especially in my own family, and it was not a pleasant moment, at least for me.

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