Charity auctions and hate crimes
I read an absolutely incredible story last night on Bloomberg.
This Morgan Stanley executive William Jennings (co-head of North American fixed-income capital markets) is being charged with a hate crime. Let me piece it together a bit.
On December 22nd Jennings hosted a charity auction at Morgan Stanley until 6pm, then went to Ink48, a hotel in midtown on the west side. After partying on the rooftops for some time, and drinking, his car service didn’t show up fast enough for him so he hailed a cab to take him to Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and three kids in a $3.4 million house.
When he got to Connecticut, he got into a fight with the cab driver and ended up refusing to pay, stabbing the guy in his hand with a knife (which required 60 stitches) while using ethnic slurs. Then he went away to Florida for two weeks on the DL. My favorite line from the article:
Jennings fell asleep during the trip, the driver said. Once at the destination, though, Jennings said “he did not feel like paying” because he was already home.
Up for debate and the trial: did he really refuse to pay or was he just arguing his fare? Was it really 60 stitches or is that an exaggeration? Did he really use ethnic slurs? I’m throwing in these questions because I want to be correct and because the overall point of my post won’t depend on these details anyway.
Not up for debate: he stabbed the cabbie, it was definitely an argument over money, and he was worried enough to go to Florida for two weeks.
Okay, now that I’ve summed this up I’m gonna connect it to charity auctions. Yes I am.
I’ve been to charity auctions myself. I want to devote an entire post to describing what such an event consists of; for now take it from me that they are orgies of self-congratulatory arrogance. And ironically, they are not at all charitable in the sense of being generous and tolerant.
They are in fact celebrations of self-centeredness, displays of careless overabundance. Yes, I’ll pay $120k to go to Australia for a week to golf, and I’ll do it for the poor children, and by the way also because I can afford to throw away such money and especially by the way because everyone in this room now knows that.
So I think it’s extra deliciously ironic that this guy went from that atmosphere to arguing with an Egyptian cabbie over a $200 fare (or maybe $300, if we want to be generous to Jennings and believe his “extortionist cabbie” sob story).
But my point is that, although the cab ride was a different atmosphere from the charity auction, his was not a different attitude at all: both parts of his evening centered on assumptions of entitlement and selfishness and the idea that he is somehow outside the regular rules and cannot be held accountable like normal people. From the article:
He then went on vacation to Florida, police said. Jennings told officers he subsequently called his lawyer after a friend told him police were looking for a suspect in the stabbing incident, according to the report.
“Jennings said he didn’t know what to do — he just wanted the whole thing to go away,” Darien Police Detective Chester Perkowski said in a court document filed with the report.
The part about the car service not showing up is absolutely key: these guys use car services a lot, and when you do that, you get used to not paying for such trivial little things as rides, or for that matter food or drinks. All such things are handed to you for free when you are this important (read: rich). Paying, writing a check or what have you, is reserved for ostentatious displays of wealth. I know hedge fund guys that don’t even carry money in their wallet because they never use cash. Actually I don’t know them personally but I know that this is true because they brag about it in the elevators.
I’m not trying to generalize this story – most Morgan Stanley execs haven’t been charged with knifing down working class cabbies. But it’s impossible for me not to see the consistency in the two events.