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February 20, 1987 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-02-20

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6 w
Wall Street


Special to The Jewish News

Why this flurry of
apparently illegal
activity? And why are
we seeing all these
Jewish names?


Friday, February 20, 1987


by do so many of the people be-
ing caught in Wall Street scan-
dals have Jewish names?" I
asked Robert Lekachman, Distinguished
Professor of Economics at the City Univer-
sity of New York and author of Greed Is
Not Enough.
"Do they?" he asks, startled.
Quickly, I run down the list of names,
from Ivan Boesky and Dennis Levine to
five young friends, all Jewish, accused of
operating an insider-trading ring.
Lekachman shakes his head. "Maybe I
didn't want to notice."
"The question is Whether we're going to
wait until some outsider notices that most
of those indicted are Jews, so we can call
him anti-Semitic," says David Singer, direc-
•or of research at the American Jewish
Committee, who has written on Jewish
"So far people are being careful not to,"
I tell him, remembering the discomfort my
question about Jewish names has pro-
voked from all quarters, both on and off
Wall Street. As one Jewish Wall Street
analyst tensely told me, "The Jewish slant
just isn't my cup of tea."
A little history mixed with some current
sociology goes a long way in explaining the
Jewish names of those indicted. Though no
one seems to know exactly how many Jews
there are on Wall Street, exactly which
financial houses they're in or what jobs
they hold, everyone agrees that Jews con-
stitute a strong presence and that some
firms have a reputation for being "Jewish."
(Though Jewish scholars have done in-
numerable studies on such sociopsycholog-
ical issues as Jewish identity, intermar-
riage and political views, no one has really
investigated the role of Jews in the econ-
omy. "This reluctance to look at ourselves
as actors in the economic system is a real
problem," says Hillel Levine, professor of
sociolo- v and religion at Boston Univer-
sity and director of its Center for Judaic
Studies. "Questions need to be asked

about why so many Jews are involved in
finance and arbitrage. Where are Jews be-
ing given access? Where are they closed
Certainly, this Jewish presence in finance
is not new — nor even an American phe-
nomenon. Long kept out of such major in-
dustries as steel and automobiles, Jews in
America have long gravitated toward Wall
Street. Since the time of the Civil War,
Jews have run some of the most prominent
financial firms, particularly those involved
in roles that Yankees rejected, in capital
formation and in developing credit in-
struments. Because they were barred from
commercial banks, Jews turned instead to
investment banking. Goldman, Sachs &
Co.; L.R. Rothschild; Lehman Brothers
Kuhn Loeb (recently bought out by Shear-
son American Express); Bear, Stearns &
Co.; Lazard Freres & Co., and Salomon
Brothers are among the most prominent of
the Jewish firms with long and excellent
Jews have been, and still are, at the top
of the high-risk profession of arbitrage. In
his book, Merger Mania, Ivan F. Boesky,
the arbitrager indicted on charges of in-
sider trading lists such colleagues as Gus
Levy of Goldman, Sachs; Harry. Cohen of
L.F. Rothschild; Salim B. Lewis of Bear,
Stearns, and Bunny Lasker of Lasker,
Stone and Stern. A reputedly "Jewish"
firm that has recently expanded enormous-
ly, partly through its junk bonds, which are
used to finance takeovers and mergers, and
partly through its aggressive arbitrage
department, is Drexel Burnham Lambert,
Inc. A corporate finance chief quoted in the
July 7, 1986 issue of Business Week has
called Drexel "the Libya of investment
banking" because of its "terrorist" role in
takeovers and mergers.
Using a less excited analogy Drexel may
be likened to a K-Mart in relation to houses
that convey an image more like that of
Nieman Marcus. Drexel is where both Den-
nis Levine and Robert Salsbury worked
before their indictments, and Boesky
worked closely with the firm on a number
of his deals. "One theory — which I don't

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