I went to an old friend’s funeral the other day. I remembered the days when he was robust, healthy and basically ran most of the USA’s companies.
But, those of us who loved him and worked for him knew he was dying for awhile.
We remembered him as a magnificent host: lavish lunches, big parties in his downtown office: confetti, cheering, celebrities in the balcony. The public even got to watch through a big glass window. They were outsiders, of course, and we were pretty sure they really envied us.
He took us on trips: Scandinavian cruises. Meetings in Beaver Creek, Aspen, Palm Beach, Palm Springs. Some of us even got to ride in one of his private jets. And, the parties, oh, the parties. Boats and booze. He paid for it all. We had apartments midtown and places in the Hamptons. We DID The City, night after night, usually starting at Harry’s.
He gave us tickets and the limos, stocked the skyboxes, and we went. The thing is, we never really did much to get the perks. Sure we sold the products we were told to sell, and maybe pushed one or two a bit for a special prize, but it wasn’t hard work. Not like working in a factory — we didn’t actually produce anything. We just sold intangible stuff. Clients came to us. We didn’t have to work very hard to prospect or anything. Our guys paid huge money to Madison Avenue to conjure up enticing campaigns with celebrity spokespersons like Bill Cosby and Stockard Channing who touted our stuff, and the clients rolled in. And we got paid big bucks with fat bonuses. It was grand.
I guess that’s part of what killed him. You know, trying to keep up appearances when your internal health is decayed. He saw the end of the big bonuses for doing nothing much, and he saw the clients becoming a little better educated about his products... and he couldn’t take it. It was all that media attention. In a way, the attention killed him. At least he stayed away from the drugs and hookers. Oh, wait. That’s right, he didn’t. But the drugs and hookers didn’t kill him.
He had been dying a long time.
Toward the end, friends hunkered around him, some trying to pretend that nothing was wrong, that it wouldn’t end. It was almost touching how they tried to look the other way so as to not see all the ugliness going on right in front of them. The autopsy said death was due to “respiratory failure.” My guess, though, is that the final breaths of our clients — faithful until the end (well, nearly the end, anyway) realizing that all the stuff we sold them was only so much paper, no substance — that was where the respiratory failure was. Financial literacy killed him.
Well, he’s gone now and mourned by us old timers. We reminisced about “the way it used to be”. No more. Ever. It hurt.
Standing at the grave site, I looked around at all the Armani suits, Hermes ties, cashmere scarves, and Rolex watches, I realized we were witnessing the end of an era of opulence not seen since ancient Rome. Still, it was a grand funeral, even though some old friends were guarded, in handcuffs. As I mourned my old friend, Wall Street, age 230 at death, I knew we were all just high-paid hucksters — empty suits (but they were expensive suits). We didn’t contribute a dime to the gross national product or anything. But, who cares? We were once the engine of American Finance. Our customers didn’t know we were actually a high-fashion casino built on quicksand. We did not stimulate any economy other than our own. We created no jobs, except paper-pushing, created no products, invented no new technologies. No matter. We made a boatload of money, and we sure had fun.
July 17, 2022
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Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.