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February 11th, 2009
06:15 PM ET

Wall Street Mocked American Values

Thomas Frank
Wall Street Journal

The announcement last week that Trader Monthly magazine was ceasing publication was one of those moments when a chance arrow of history scores a perfect bull's eye on a deserving target. The current recession, brought on at least in part by Wall Street's bonus lust, has claimed countless innocent victims. But in this case it has finally delivered a comeuppance to our era's loudest, gaudiest, cockiest champion of Wall Street excess.

Those who still single out former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain as a symbol of extravagance should take note. Yes, the man once spent over a million dollars having his office remodeled and went on to arrange questionable bonuses for the year in which Merrill lost billions and sold itself to Bank of America.

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Filed under: Economy • Ethics
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Artie D

    The stock market is the problem not just ML. The market was over priced and they were all responsable to drive it to the condition that it is in today. I do believe in the free market system and I lost alot of money, but the stock holders did not cause the problem. Big business would rather invest their money in off shore facilities for cheep labor but that labor force does not put any money back into our country. Any company that builds these facilities that are based in our country shuld not receive any tax breaks or incentives or TARP money. The products that are produced outside the US (cars & appliances) are no cheeper to the US consumer. The market should be regulated to equalize the playing field.

    February 12, 2009 at 9:23 am |
  2. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    P.S. They are TRAITORS to the United States of America and every good thing our nation stands for.

    February 12, 2009 at 7:17 am |
  3. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    Get this you neo-con MORONs. American Capitalism is about providing goods and services at FAIR Market Value usinfg American Workers with an American Industrial Infrastructure. It's not about making money at any price to theAMERICAN consumer while outsourcing jobs and our industrial infrastructure to the Slave Labor Colonies of COMMUNIST China and SOCIALIST India ! . It's not about GREED. There is an element of social responsibility associated with American Capitalism that is completely non-exixtant in G W Bush's version of 'Capitalism'. At bestt theses GREED mongering MONEY CHANGERS of the TEMPLE 'Wall Street' are stupid fools and at worse Criminals who should be incarcerated ! We should never trust them ever again !!!!!!!

    February 12, 2009 at 7:16 am |
  4. Joyce Huber

    This may sound like I'm making it up, but it's true. Any suggestions would be welcome.
    My husband died of brain cancer in 2003. Unbeknownst to me, he was mentally impaired when he retired from the Port of NY & NJ Authority in 1996. He filled out his retirement form by marking option O which meant I'd get nothing. This was from pressure from co-workers who are convinced by NY state retirement who want all widows to get zilch. I don't want that so he filled out another form asking to have it changed to option 2 that would give me half. He had it notarized and gave me a copy. But, he was not mentally competent and no one knew it. He thought he was paying our bills, but was putting them in his mailbox, that was actually on top of his home desk. He was also the Finance Administrator for the Aviation Hall of Fame of NJ and wasn't making their deposits or paying their bills or mailing anything anywhere–just putting it on a pile on his desk. He seemed depressed, but never complained of anything but "sinus" headaches.
    As it turns out he had brain cancer for many years, but we didn't know.
    He died in 2003 and at that time I discovered that he never sent in the retirement form. We were married for 32 years and were happy and always were close. When I explained to the woman at NY state retirement that my husband was a teddy bear, but mentally ill from a brain tumor she said get an attorney to contact our attorney and we may be able to straighten this out.
    My husband had worked for the Port for 32 years (same as our marriage). He was an electrician. There had been a class action suit in the works for all the electricians who died young of cancer because they were exposed to askeral, a banned carcinogen. I thought my husband's cancer was from exposure to radiation when he had a project for several months in 1987 erecting a microwave tower system to link airports communication systems on top of the former world trade center in NY. There were no safety measures for roof workers in place until 1999.
    So, I contacted a NJ attorney -Brian Campbell–to contact NY state retirement. I was devastated with grief when I lost John (aka Jon) and I left this to the attorney to deal with.
    I later found out that the attorney took this as an opportunity to make money for himself. He made me give him all the medical records etc and told me he had to start a workman's comp dependency case for me. I gave him a book with a TOC of research material and info.
    He went to a medical records company, got a terrific, but secret to me, report that stated the job caused my husband's cancer and death. He took that to his pal, Howard Conkling, a Port Authority attorney and they got a $55,000 out-of-court settlement that they split and probably with Judge Stephen Tuber too. They made me go to court and get a witness etc. Campbell told me he couldn't get a medical report and I would have to hire John's busy neuro-oncologist to go to court. He told that doctor (Lewis Attas of Holy Name & Englewood Hospitals) he could only talk about certain studies.
    Meanwhile my attorney or the PA's hired a Dr Zrada to go to court and lie and say cigarette smoking caused my husband's cancer and death. My husband didn't smoke other than casually 40 years prior. The surgeon general and CDC (center for disease control) state unequivically that cigarette smoking does NOT cause brain cancer.
    Back in 2004 one of the attorneys in Campbells office mistakenly read me the $55,000 settlement. Campbell's secretary at that time told me –in a freaked-out voice–that was a cleaning person playing jokes on me. Again, I was grieving and in a fog so although it made no sense I just accepted it.
    I live in Florida. They made me go to court in Jan. It cost me quite a bit to go up there. The case was dismissed for lack of burden of proof on my part. It wasn't until CAmpbell's new secretary sent me a bill for his expenses. I called the medical report company that a copy of a check was made out for and asked "What's this for?" They said which medical report do you want–the one he wanted for court (had to pay for or the other one?) I said both. They faxed me both. I was shocked to find that Campbell had this excellent report, but asked for another that said the job did NOT cause the cancer or death. Even that one said unless John was exposed for long durations ... he was and my witness would have testified that as most of the electricians died young of cancer. Both reports would have worked. But the good one was turned down and the bastard had the nerve to send me the copies of checks he wrote–not expecting me to call the companies.
    Meanwhile, I called the witness who had retired as an exec with the Port Authority and he could not beleive this. He had me write it all down and send it to the PA's general cousel Darrell Buchbinder who turned it over to his attorney asst a Mr Williams (I forget his first name). He sent me a letter that it was turned over to their inspector general, Michael Nestor (not in that job this year). Nestor called my witness and read him the riot act. Ignored me completely until I called. He said there was no check for $55,000. I asked him where he looked. He changed to "It's not my jurisdiction." I called Williams and told him I felt like I was dealing with the Mafia. He said– It's not our job to discipline our lawyers. Clearly they condone bribes. They had to bribe most Newark politicians to get this legal center built–that I remember my husband telling me. Anyway, I gathered all the evidence and sent it to the Ethics committee of the NJ bar association and they –being part of the "boys club" refused to do anything.
    No other attorneys would take my case for fear of reprisal from Judge Tuber. I took all my medical reports and had CDC people ready to talk to the judge via phone that the PA's doctor was completely wrong–that doctor claimed his info that cigarette smoking from 40 years prior caused brain cancer came from the CDC website.
    - I went back to court Pro Se armed with evidence that my attorney purposely lost the case, a witness to the conversation about the $55,000 check, tons of evidence that the cancer was caused by the askeral and/or the radiation. Again, I went to NJ court and faced Judge Tuber who was higher than a kite (I brought a witness)–Tuber said "I refuse to read anything you brought. It might be New evidence and the paperwork says "review" - He refused to hear the case even though it was assigned to him and hadn't the decency to let me know not to bother traveling up there. After legally blowing me off, Tuber openly asked the PA attorney -"You owe me for this , then paused and said $100 for transcripts. - I worked in advertising long enough to know he meant he wanted $100,000. The court report looked horrified. Judge Tuber has absolutely nothing to do with transcripts or their cost. I complained to his boss who sent me a letter saying he couldn't get me a change of venue or do anything at all. I complained to the FBI who said - sue the attorney for mal practice– A silly idea as no attorney will sue another. I complained to the state police who made jokes about how corrupt NJ is. I complained to the governors office who sent it to the State Attorneys office. An aid got back to me parroting what happened in the court. Ignoring the out-of-court settlement that's not on court or state records. No one wanted to talk to any witnesses or do anything at all. The state police said contact the US attorneys office. The US attorneys office said they couldn't get involved if no one else was interested. It had to come from law enforcement. My local sheriff's office said move back to NJ or they wont do anything. A retired PA attorney told an inbetween friend that they had to bribe both judges and lawyers and he was glad to get out with the buyout. Meanwhile the statute of limitations was up on simply contacting NY state retirement and trying to straighten things out.
    I told a lady friend in Illinois that if I had a shotgun in my hand when I went to court and Tuber refused to hear what I had to say or read theevidence I brought I would have shot him. I'm a 61-year old woman who's never even gotten a traffic violation. I'm law abiding. So for me to say that shocked my friend, who is an attorney. She said there's no law enforcement in Illinois either. That's when people start taking the law into their own hands.
    So, I'm stuck with a $1500 bill for Dr Attas, which I'm paying back $25 to $50 per month. I had to pay at least $2,000 in travel costs to NJ and quite honestly I'll never trust anyone who works for government again. One of the attorneys for the PA told me under promise of not mentioning his name that they do have to pay off the judges and attorneys to get the cases to come out the way they want them. so they are taking public money and giving it to judges and lawyers to hurt their own employees. Now Campbell has moved to Union City, NJ where he can sucker Cubans who have trouble speaking English into his "workers comp" scams. He has a huge case load of people who think he's helping them. I was particularly easy to use as I was grief stricken and willing to supply whatever info he needed. Since I live in Florida, (not considered a part of the US by New York/New Jerseyites) I don't count. I contacted AARP for an attorney and got John Frederickson who conveniently let the 45 days to go to appellate court elapse without doing anything at all. He said he would.
    It's not wonder lunatics think we're a nation of capitalist pigs and want to kill us all. They are certainly correct where the Port Authority is concerned. So, do a show on when attorneys suck and rip off the people they are supposed to help. It's quite a good scam that Campbell, Conkling and Tuber have.

    February 11, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  5. Jim M

    I guess you could call "Trader Monthly" the Wall Street version of PRAVDA.

    February 11, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  6. Rose from Muscoy, Calif

    Is anyone looking over these CEO'S? Like the GOVERNMENT!

    February 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm |