By Donald Kaufman
As he recounts in New York magazine, journalist Kevin Roose was able to infiltrate a secret Wall Street fraternity party in January 2012 that was attended by many of the top financial moguls of our time.
In a strange scene vaguely reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”—without the whole mass orgy part and with leotards and sequins—some of America’s most powerful people come together, this time at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, for an annual black tie Kappa Beta Phi summit. Founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, Kappa Beta Phi is a secret fraternity of fat cats whose current membership included (when Roose crashed their party) then-Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Home Depot billionaire Ken Langone, Morgan Stanley bigwig Greg Fleming and JPMorgan Chase Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee.
The leader that year was billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, who invited 21 new members, or “neophytes” (one of whom was hedge fund billionaire and Obama donor Marc Lasry), into the fold. Also among the attendees was AIG CEO Bob Benmosche, Wall Street lawyer Marty Lipton and former Bear Stearns chief Alan “Ace” Greenberg. The night consisted of speeches, chants, political theater, alternating displays of machismo and drag and even a popular number from “The Book of Mormon.”
Unfortunately for the rest of us, Roose was not able to stay for the entire night, as he was ejected when someone caught him recording and forced him to confess that he was (at the time) a New York Times reporter. He was offered hush money but declined and instead released pictures, recordings and his account of everything he saw, as he recalls in NY mag:
“I wasn’t going to be bribed off my story, but I understood their panic. Here, after all, was a group that included many of the executives whose firms had collectively wrecked the global economy in 2008 and 2009. And they were laughing off the entire disaster in private, as if it were a long-forgotten lark. (Or worse, sing about it — one of the last skits of the night was a self-congratulatory parody of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” called “Bailout King.”) These were activities that amounted to a gigantic middle finger to Main Street. …”
Roose’s piece includes audio footage and photos from the scene—definitely must-read material if you haven’t seen it yet.
—Posted by Donald Kaufman.