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February 20, 1987 - Image 38

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

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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38

Friday, February 20, 1987

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Although the men recently convicted of
insider trading are barred from securities
trading in the United States for the rest
of their lives and cannot "go back to the
game," at least in the same way as they
once played it, Auchincloss may be right
about the amoral attitude most people on
Wall Street hold toward these insider deals.
It is clear, except to the most sanc-
timonious, that notions such as evil and
greed are not opeative. "It's probably
good to catch someone every once in a
while. It keeps everyone on their toes," a
young broker told me before Boesky's in-
dictment shook Wall Street. "It's just
tough on the guy who gets caught."
Most people on Wall Street are quick to
point to the context in which these indict-
ments have occurred. Most obvious is the
enormous increase in sheer volume of
mergers and acquisitions, which is where
speculation from inside (or even public)
knowledge can be so lucrative. At a time
when a single deal can be astronomically
profitable, long-term loyalties to the firm
as well as to customers have diminished.
"You have to talk about how the business
has changed," one veteran investment
banker told me. "We used to have very
strong relations with our clients. Those
lines have faded. The clients are shopping
around more. Now, investment bankers are
loyal to the deal, not the client."
This man was among several to mention
the change in the magnitude of fees as
another part of the changed situation. "It
used to be that a million dollars was big.
Now you can make $20 million to $30 mil-
lion, so that the economic incentive is on
the short-term big fee," he said. The
possibility of greatly increased fees ap-
pears to have coincided with the rise of a
new generation of Wall Street professionals
who, not surprisingly, are in a greater rush
than their parents were to get rich.
"It's a question of your time frame for
achieving your ambition," said a broker in
a small house, where, according to him, op-
portunities for giant fees did not exist, and
which thus did not attract young people
in a hurry. This man spoke of the serious-
ness of the new generation: the way their
eyes are always on money and the things
money can buy. "In my building, even in
the elevator, the young people only talk
business. You never see them flirting. It's
sad," he said.
It has also been pointed out that the bur-
geoning of M.B.A.s has created a new type
of Wall Street professional: a person
trained in "number crunching," though not
necessarily in humanities or the arts. And

M.B.A. course offerings are themselves
changing, with more emphasis on an en-
trepreneurial curriculum.
Most immediately, for many, working on
Wall Street has become a matter of sitting
in front of a Quotron or Iblerate screen.
Not only are the human contacts with
clients gone, but most traders job-hop fre-
quently. Moreover, the screen of stock
quotes moving up and down is utterly
separate from the real companies that
employ real people making real products.
"These guys can generate $150,000 in pro-
fits for the firm on a good day," I was told
by the same broker. "When they see the
chance for all that profit go by on the
Quotron every day, the temptation some-
times has to be to forget the company,
forget everything else and put in their own
bid first."

"Is Jewish guilt a thing of the past?" I
wonder, thinking of Auchincloss's yuppie.
Is that how well assimilated we've become?
"There may still be Jewish guilt, but it may
no longer control behavior," says Henry
Feingold, professor of American Jewish
history at the City University of New York.
We are sitting over a Danish and coffee,
trying to untangle some of the historical
and moral questions I have raised. "Cer-
tainly, the religious and cultural traditions
that made Jews a separate people are
weakening," he says, reminding me that
Jews now suffer from alcoholism, divorce
and wife beating along with everyone else.
If we're talking about a new, cooler, less
guilt-ridden breed of investors on a more
rapid and alienated financial street, does
it make any sense to look for something
particularly Jewish that has gotten these
men into trouble — or might have kept
them out of it?
"Each situation is different and warrants
its own particular examination. Jews are
as bad or as human as anyone else," points
out Rabbi Harvey Tattlebaum, of Thmple
Shaaray Willa on East 79th Street, where
a number of Wall Street professionals wor-
ship. And Hillel Levine comments, "Are
you going to say we have to judge them dif-
ferently just because they had a bar mitz-
vah? Insofar as these men are part of the
larger world, they succumb to the same
temptations."
For reasons of both morality and fear,
not everyone in the Jewish community —
even the same person at all times — takes
such a tolerant view. On the one hand, the
image of Jews cheating financially touches
the heart of Jewish concerns about stereo-
types. "Luckily, anti-Semitism in America

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