Wall Street's big guns never had much taste for tackling the industry's image problem head-on by publicly refuting the misinformation spread by its critics. Now that Lloyd Blankfein et al have belatedly settled for the display of "contrition" that critics long demanded, the defense of bankers' reputation is left to lesser-known figures like Thomas Belesis.
Belesis, the 35-year old CEO of a small three-year-old Wall Street firm called John Thomas Financial, put together a "protest rally" Wednesday to launch an organization whose stated aim is "bringing the pride back into Wall Street." Reading the coverage on the New York Times and other sites, I had real trouble telling whether the group and rally were meant as parody, or for real. For one thing, the event was indoors, at lunchtime, on Thomas Financial's 23rd-floor trading room at 14 Wall Street.
A press release had promised hundreds of brokers and traders would show up. But the Times says:
About 30 of the attendees were from elsewhere on Wall Street. The rest were the brokers and traders at John Thomas. Since the rally was held on the firm's 25,000-square-foot trading floor, where some 100 brokers had their desks, most of the attendees were basically working.
Belesis himself added to the atmosphere of parody when he told a Times reporter, "It's cold out," to explain his choice of site for the rally.
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