Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let them drink Veuve Clicquot

We visited NYC this weekend to see how our holdings - Wall Street - were faring. After poring through the books late into the evening Saturday, I started Sunday leisurely, reading the NY Times. In it, I read that the...

Obama administration is increasingly concerned about a populist backlash against banks and Wall Street, worried that anger at financial institutions could also end up being directed at Congress and the White House and could complicate President Obama’s agenda.

Why would people be so angry? Surely it wasn't about AIG (the company that's received more than $150B from the US taxpayer) paying $165MM in executive bonuses to the very clowns who pushed the company and the global economy to the very brink. I mean, come on, AIG is contractually bound to fork over the bucks. It's not like they can afford a crackerjack team of lawyers to get them out of those pesky contracts - remember, they're broke. Except for the $165MM.

No, I think what's really pissed off Americans is these dancing fools described in another NY Times article (the photo at right is sourced from the article, too). While millions of Americans lose their jobs, their retirements, and their homes, each Saturday afternoon these idiots...

Spend $500 on two magnums of Veuve Clicquot Champagne at Bagatelle on West 13th Street in the meatpacking district, and the bottles are delivered to your table with lighted sparklers stuck in their corks.

Spend $2,500 on a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot and some magnums of Dom PĂ©rignon, and the lights dim, the D.J. cues up the theme from “Superman,” and a waiter is hoisted onto the shoulders of his fellow servers. With a tablecloth knotted around his neck as a makeshift cape and his arms outstretched, he carries one of the blazing bottles of bubbly to your table.

As the waiter soars through the air, he does so against a backdrop of patrons fist-pumping Champagne flutes, flashing cameras capturing pictures ripe for Facebook and a dozen young women clad in sequins, stilettos and Chanel bags climbing onto chairs, banquettes, even tables — any elevated surface that is sturdy enough to dance on.

Thank God for Facebook.

Granted, not all of these morons are "investment" bankers; one fist pumper is "a 28-year-old who lives in Gramercy Park and works for a TriBeCa advertising agency." I won't ask how someone in that job can drop $500 on bubbly. However, never fear, there are "investment" bankers lurking around in the dark nooks and crannies of Bagatelle and Merkato 55.

Whatever diversion these afternoons bring, some acknowledged that the sight of the young well-to-do partying hard when many financial firms are being castigated for profligate spending could appear embarrassing. [You think?]

A man who works in finance and was standing near the bar of Merkato 55 the following Saturday started to talk about this issue, but then he had second thoughts, saying he could be fired for drawing attention to the subject in the news media. Any overt display of conspicuous spending, he added, even if not a dime was expensed to a corporate account, would not sit well with his employer. “Excess,” he said, “is frowned upon heavily.” [Unless it's contractually required]

As for how he and his fellow Wall Streeters could still afford such afternoons, he said: “We all made so much money in the past five years, it doesn’t matter.”

A 29-year-old man who works for a large investment management firm and was at Bagatelle’s brunch one recent Saturday and at Merkato 55’s the next, put it another way: “If you’d asked me in October, I’d say it’d be a different situation, and I don’t think I’d be here. Then the government gave us $10 billion.”

There you have it - that's why Americans are pissed off. We gave Wall Street $10 billion and they're spending it at Bagatelle and Merkato 55 on overpriced bubbly. BTW, did the owners of these establishments really think through the idea of being profiled in a NY Times article now?


Anonymous said...

This is what makes me sick and angry. Their unrepentant and out of control greed did serious damage to this country, and they don't even care.

As a reader of Kevin Depew, I have always thought that his belief in a major changing of the tide regarding accumulations and display of wealth, while true to an extent, was a bit over the top. Now I am not so sure. Who knows how much worse this will get and how these events will affect the psyche of my generation.

When these companies do go under, and based upon the idiots in the article it is only a matter of time, at least they wont have a job. People with an MBA and a resume that reads like a menu of failed institutions wont receive sympathy or a job. But at least they'll have their 401K.

monkeyrotica said...

I wouldn't eat up what's left of your liver worrying about these clowns. They'll get what's coming to them as soon as NYC is walled off and turned into a prison colony. Only Snake Plissken will be able to save them then.

Anonymous said...

In a way I dont see this as so bad. Part of the problem with the economy is confidence. For whatever reason, these fools still have the money to do things like this. Good for them. Thanks to their continued spending it keeps a number of NYC restaurenteurs and winemakers employed.

Should these fools pull in their horns, and quit spending (even thought they can full aford it), all it does is deepen the cycle. Restaurants & winemakers go out of business, lay of hundreds of employees, the cycle continues...

So really the thing to do is figure out what the well to do want to spend their money on and provide it. Fill that niche, bleed them of their money, and maybe hire a few people in the process.

Bottom line. Thank god for the excessive spending by those that can afford it.

Keith said...

Anonymous at 11:40:

Yeah, I think this is called "the trickle down effect." It's been around since the 1980s and has never worked.

Anonymous said...

Actually its called the "paradox of thrift" and is the biggest risk we face toward going into a japan style liquidy trap. Thankfully, it doesnt seem likely at this point.