There are no beggars, no factory workers, no coal miners, hospital nurses, outsourced office hands or middle school teachers who figure prominently in Plutocrats (Penguin Press, 336 pages, $27.95), Chrystia Freeland’s new book on rising income disparity. (Call-center workers at startup whiz Tony Hsieh’s Zappos do make a cameo.) That’s by design. It’s Ms. Freeland’s stated intent to examine the widening gap between the mega-rich and the rest of us through the lives and careers of the men—yes, men—at the top. (The book’s full, ominous title is Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.) That means, as her discussion of the distaste affluent Americans have for the word “rich” suggests, a study of the plutocrats on their own terms, and not, say, according to the 99/1 rhetoric posited by Occupy Wall Street.
And so the book is populated by financial, technological and emerging-market entrepreneurs peering down from their mountaintops, as well as the closest cousins of the fortunate few: the elite artists, artisans and thinkers who cater to, study or simply swim in the slipstream of the extremely rich.
JPMorgan’s board of directors is weighing lower bonuses for CEO Jamie Dimon and other top executives in light of the $5.8 billion trading loss the firm suffered this year, according to The Wall Street Journal; Citigroup is also looking at executive pay in an attempt to appease shareholders.
Kweku Adoboli, the former UBS trader Read More
Nearly a month after former Citigroup chief executive Sandy Weill called for the break-up of the biggest U.S. banks, current Citi CEO Vikram Pandit told the Financial Times that the bank is sized just right.
How to define ‘subprime?’ The answer may determine the fate of the government’s case against three Read More
Saturday night the skies grew ominous as The Observer rounded the bend toward Fairview Farm, located right on the water in Bridgehampton. Luckily, we were greeted by giant white tents arranged for “Unmasked,” the Alexander Soros Foundation’s Global Witness Gala.
Like his father, 26-year-old Alexander Soros is quickly becoming a well-known figure on the philanthropic scene, most noticeably with a donation of $250,000 to Jewish Funds for Justice. Although this was his foundation’s first public event, the names on the host committee were enough to fill a Weinstein dinner party.
It’s Friday, it’s 90 degrees out…we don’t want to spend the rest of our afternoon putting out fires here at The Observer. Still, it’s worth mentioning that the New York Times profile today of Albrecht Muth and Viola Drath, the “social ponzi schemers” who rose to prominence in the 90s based on little more than elbow grease, fake stationary and humble-brags about Henry Kissinger (“When I speak German to Henry Kissinger, he starts talking like a little boy” is something we all aspire to put in our Twitter bios) does lend itself to speculation on who will be the new “Worst Couple in Georgestown.”
Except it will be “The Worst Couple on 5th Ave.”, or possibly “The Worst Couple of the Aspen Ideas Festival.”
And so the Grexit continues to be nigh: George Soros may handicap Greece’s June 17 election in favor of the pro-bailout parties deemed more likely to keep the nation in Europe’s monetary union, but better-safe-than-sorry still applies. If you’re a Greek saver, that may mean stashing some euros under your mattress. Read More
Probing MF Global: Two former back-office employees at MF Global, the broker-dealer led by Jon Corzine until its collapse last year, warned superiors that the firm was using clients’ funds to cover its own obligations. The misuse continued anyway. Federal investigators are focusing on Edith O’Brien, a former treasurer at MF Global; Ms. Read More
Muted response: As the clock ticked past Facebook’s scheduled open, Nasdaq stayed mum on the technical glitches that delayed trading in the social media company’s stock by 28 minutes. The resulting chaos lasted hours, causing confusion over who had bought and sold how many shares at what prices—and leading to about $115 million in losses Read More
The Banking Crisis
Nonprofit and public sector tenants took a total of 2.6 million square feet in 2011, approximately the same amount it leased a year earlier, but committed to much larger leases than in the previous year, according to a new report released yesterday by Cassidy Turley.
UPDATE: This story was revised October 18 with new information including an updated number for the total amount of funds raised by the protest. It was originally posted on October 14 and ran in The New York Observer print edition Wednesday, October 19.
“George Soros money is behind this!” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners two weeks ago, feeding speculation that the “99 percent” agenda espoused by the Occupy Wall Street protesters has filthy-rich backers—a claim picked up by Reuters and heatedly debated in the media. Soros money? If only. Around the time Reuters was walking back its headline, “Who’s Behind the Wall Street Protests,” later revised to “Soros: Not a Funder,” protesters were voting on whether to spend $3,000 on brooms and trash cans to clean up the occupied plaza in order to avoid eviction by the city.
Back in July, when local activists hammered out the logistics of the Occupy Wall Street protest, they were planning for little more than an urban camping trip. Committees were established to handle security, medication and sanitation. Nourishment was a major concern. Fundraising was an afterthought.
Still, onlookers are rightfully eager to follow the money. Politics have been so dominated by financing for so long that a major movement without major backers seems unthinkable. Last week, Republicans announced a new Super PAC determined, according to The New York Times, to “raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to defend the party’s majority next year”; meanwhile, President Barack Obama raised more than $42 million for his re-election campaign over the last three months.
Donations are flowing into Occupy Wall Street as well, though on a much smaller scale; as of Tuesday the protest’s general fund has raised approximately $294,000, according to members of the finance committee on Tuesday (although the committee is still refining its balance sheet in advance of giving it to a CPA). That’s enough to keep the demonstrators well-fed and livestreaming, but it’s not Soros-level treasure.