Men Behaving Badly, Wall Street Edition

All men are pigs, but not all men are jerks. All women are moody, but not all women are bitches.


I woke up Wednesday morning to the surprising news that Matt Lauer, the longtime host of NBC’s “Today” show, had been fired following an allegation that he had made inappropriate sexual contact with a subordinate, and that NBC had reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident. A few hours later, Garrison Keillor, the creator and host of “A Prairie Home Companion” on Minnesota Public Radio, was fired over “allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him.” Seeing that in the span of just a few short weeks the firestorm over sexual harassment in the workplace had torched the industries of entertainment, politics and journalism, I was wondering when it would be Wall Street’s turn in the barrel.

Based on the sheer quantity of head-spinning news, the answer is easy; take a number and get in line. When all is said and done, nothing screams MEN BEHAVING BADLY more than a lethal high finance recipe of pinstripes, egos and testosterone. I’ll never forget a memo that went around a firm I worked for in the 1990’s, announcing a new company policy prohibiting intra-firm dating. Every member of the firm’s executive committee, all of whom were male, signed the memo, and many of them had divorced their first wives and married their sales assistants.

A Wall Street trading floor is two things; One, it’s a locker room. And two, it’s a boy’s locker room. Crude jokes are shared, the grief gets personal, and the only thing missing is the snapping of towels. The language is foul, the air is fouler, and the strong prey on the weak. The meek may inherent the earth, but a Type-A trading personality possessing bluster and brass ones frequently wears a Rolex and drives a Benz.

Nearly every trading floor I worked on during a three-decade career was 90% male. The 10% of non-males usually sat at their desks and observed the nonsense. That being said, nothing made my day more that watching a female trader, administrator or support person unleash a juicy four-letter verbal assault of her own at a cowering male counterpart who deserved every lash she could deliver. After a stressful day of yelling and screaming at one another, many of the guys and a few of the gals went out for a drink or two (or three) to celebrate or lick their wounds. And that’s when the real trouble would start.

Wall Street is the ultimate “wait your turn” industry, and frustrated underlings usually have to patiently bid their time to get an opportunity at the Big Money. Once they did, my experience was that women traders and sales traders were just as successful as the guys. However, in order to achieve their success, their communication had to be clearer, their skin had to be thicker, and their moxie had to be moxier. It wasn’t right then and it’s not right now. It’s just the way it was.

I’ve seen my fair share of professional bad boy behavior over the years, and I’ve heard a million rumors from both sides of the gender aisle. That being said, I’m sure I’m not immune, and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to any female coworker or customer I may have angered, annoyed or offended with a misplaced word or unwanted touch. My only defense is that I tried my honest best to show dignity and respect to every woman I worked with.

And to laugh at their dirty jokes.

4 Responses to Men Behaving Badly, Wall Street Edition

  1. Leslie says:

    Great piece!!! I never minded the dirty jokes, the watching of porn, the exposing of privates etc . What I did mind was making substantially less for doing the same job!!! I still wouldn’t trade those days for the world… good times!

  2. Rich says:

    You’d have loved our sales traders. Scott and Coleen were famous for their screaming matches. One time Scott yells “I wish you were a guy.” “Why?” Coleen fires back. “Because then I could hit you in the jaw.” Coleen’s retort: “Go ahead and try!”

    Ahh… It was a kinder, gentler time…

  3. Priapus says:

    Heard SHOUTED across the trading floor about a new intern still on the tour with HR person, on her FIRST DAY…circa 1992
    “Have her bathed and brought to my tent”

    The line that would be next shouted, were that today, “one million walking”

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