Editor's note: This is the debut column on TheStreet by Gary Weiss, an award-winning Wall Street muckraker who has written for BusinessWeek and Portfolio magazines and authored two books, "Born to Steal" and "Wall Street Versus America."
Everyone by now has, I'm sure, heard about Shia LaBeouf. He's co-starring in Oliver Stone's sequel to Wall Street. Seems that LaBeouf did his method acting thing, hung out at a brokerage, and now fancies himself an honest-to gosh stock picker!
First, he said he turned
, and then
that he has talked up
, a short position on
, and something called
There's been a lot of derision directed at LaBeouf, and that needs to stop right now. The poor lad is sick. It's obvious that he is a victim of equityus ignoramrus, a viral infection that deludes otherwise sane people into thinking that they know how to pick stocks (even if they can barely pick a matching necktie). Epidemiologists have begun to call it Shia LaBeouf Disease.
Let's face it: Wall Street is a sick place. Anyone who endured Wednesday's C-Span coverage of Alan Greenspan at the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission can attest to that. Greenspan, who should be ashamed to even be seen in public, had the temerity to disavow the impact of his regulation-hating policies, portraying himself as an impotent bystander and not the Maestro and Oracle we all endured for so many years.
The very act of watching Alan Greenspan is enough to make the brow wrinkle, the voice become hoarse, and the conscience turn limp and waxen. This highly contagious disorder, Greenspan Cholera, is often characterized by an irresistible impulse to read Atlas Shrugged again and again.
You can imagine the impact of this horrid illness on a population already ravaged by the Regulatory Narcolepsy Pandemic that stalked the countryside in recent years. The RNP toxin causes officials of the
Securities and Exchange Commission
to doze off in front of their computers while
, making it impossible for them to
and commence probes of whistle-blowers.
Before we can cure these afflictions, or at least lock up the most violent cases in insane asylums, we need to identify, isolate, tag and classify these sicknesses. What's needed is a Wall Street Disorders Appendix to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The DSM is published every few years, setting forth the latest thinking in the psychiatric community on just what is and is not nuts. The fifth edition, DSM-V, is due out in 2013. That's plenty of time to do this essential work, and as you can see I've already started.
Aside from the three ailments I've described above, here are some others that warrant inclusion in DSM-V:
Chamber Pot Disorder.
This disease strikes without warning, leaving behind a trail of weeping publicists. Its poster child is John Thain. When he became CEO of
(before the infamous takeover by
Bank of America
), Thain was feted as the Abraham Lincoln of Wall Street. A simple man, a Jimmy Stewart character come to life. An honest man. A smart man. Thain the Brain told everyone who would listen (including me) that he had Merrill's
in the hollow of his manly hand. While he was feeding the public that line of bunk, this simple log-splitter from
was flitting around showrooms on Madison Avenue, picking out a $35,000 commode as part of a $1.2 million ensemble of simply darling decorations for his log-cabin-like office. Chamber Pot Disorder does not necessarily imply the victim thereof is guilty of anything untoward --
threw himself a fabulous birthday party in 2007 and was subsequently found guilty of only bad taste. But it can be symptomatic of a more debilitating underlying illness.
This can run concurrently with Chamber Pot Disorder, as it did with Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco International and
fame. Apart from his other ailments, such as Toxic Bonus Syndrome, he had a raging case of The Gimmes when he sent out word from prison that he wanted tens of millions of dollars from his
The Gimmes can spread unchecked among vulnerable populations, as occurred in 2008 when the largest banks collectively came down with the disorder and flocked to the
window and the TARP program.
Dick Grasso Hubursitis.
When Shia LaBeouf was in high school, Dick Grasso was showing how easy it is to ruin the reputation of an arrogant and annoying Wall Street institution by simply being--well, arrogant and annoying. Before Grasso was nailed in 2003 for accepting a $140 million compensation package, the
New York Stock Exchange
floor brokers acted like kids in a candy store with the owner locked in the basement. Grasso's compensation focused attention on this wayward institution, giving rise to the famous disease that bears his name. More recently, the best-known victim of Dick Grasso Hubursitis has been Goldman Sachs. It was one thing when Goldman listed the Treasury Department in its
filings as a wholly owned subsidiary. But it was plain this disease was to blame when Lloyd Blankfein said Goldman was carrying out "God's work."
This disease is characterized by a peculiar form of gigantism, caused by an inflammation of the salary-control mechanism of the left brain. An overflow of gall--including the dread mutation unmitigatedus gallus--is reported in many cases. In 2009 an epidemic of this nauseating disorder was reported, as .
raked in $140 billion, thanks to the taxpayer-funded bailout that preserved their jobs while impoverishing the nation.
Other Wall Street diseases will be the subjects of future columns, as my medical inquiry continues. Some of the people I'll be writing about are sick, others merely sickening. Watch this space.
Gary Weiss has covered Wall Street wrongdoing for nearly two decades. His coverage of stock fraud at BusinessWeek won many awards, and included a cover story, ?The Mob on Wall Street,? that exposed mob infiltration of brokerages. He uncovered the Salomon Brothers bond trading scandal, and wrote extensively on the dangers posed by hedge funds, Internet fraud and out-of-control leverage. He was a contributing editor at Cond?ast Porfolio, writing about the people most intimately involved in the financial crisis, from Timothy Geithner to Bernard Madoff. His book Born to Steal (Warner Books: 2003), described the Mafia's takeover of brokerage houses in the 1990s. Wall Street Versus America (Portfolio: 2006) was a hard-hitting account of investor rip-offs. He blogs at garyweiss.blogspot.com.