A glimpse inside a Wall Street society dinner

A friend calls it going “native”. When wealthy people live in a world of such extreme privilege, special treatment and favor that they lose all sense of reason and perspective on the reality of life outside their world. They convince themselves that they deserve all of their benefits because they are smarter or harder working than others…without recognizing all of the privileged access, influence and often unfair advantage (government contracts, taxpayer bailouts, insider information, regulatory forbearance and rare opportunity) that flows their way.

Recently financial chieftains have publicly lamented in op-eds and interviews that they are being unfairly persecuted for their success. When journalist Kevin Roose donned a rented Tux and strolled into a ballroom of banking elites at dinner, he was able to witness the .0001% as they relaxed in a room of their peers. The display was predictable: Wall Street insiders in all of their true, entitled, colors.

“Recently, our nation’s financial chieftains have been feeling a little unloved. Venture capitalists are comparing the persecution of the rich to the plight of Jews at Kristallnacht, Wall Street titans are saying that they’re sick of being beaten up, and this week, a billionaire investor, Wilbur Ross, proclaimed that “the 1 percent is being picked on for political reasons.

Ross’s statement seemed particularly odd, because two years ago, I met Ross at an event that might single-handedly explain why the rest of the country still hates financial tycoons – the annual black-tie induction ceremony of a secret Wall Street fraternity called Kappa Beta Phi.
Kappa Beta Phi

“I’d heard whisperings about the existence of Kappa Beta Phi, whose members included both incredibly successful financiers (New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead, hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones) and incredibly unsuccessful ones (Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld, Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne, former New Jersey governor and MF Global flameout Jon Corzine). It was a secret fraternity, founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, that functioned as a sort of one-percenter’s Friars Club. Each year, the group’s dinner features comedy skits, musical acts in drag, and off-color jokes, and its group’s privacy mantra is “What happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis.” For eight decades, it worked. No outsider in living memory had witnessed the entire proceedings firsthand.”

See the whole recount of the evening here: I crashed a Wall Street secret society.

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