Home > finance, news, rant > Charity auctions and hate crimes

Charity auctions and hate crimes

March 3, 2012

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.

Categories: finance, news, rant
  1. JSE
    March 3, 2012 at 9:20 am

    “And ironically, they are not at all charitable”

    There’s a lot of discussion about this in Jewish law, most famously Maimonides’ eight levels of charity, which say that it’s better to give charity in a context where you don’t know who’s getting the money and they dont’ know who gave the money. But giving charity in order to show off your wealth is still charity, it’s just a lower form of charity, and much preferable to not giving charity at all. Here’s a discussion of relevant issues from an Orthodox source:


    Stabbing cabdrivers, however, is RIGHT OUT.


    • March 3, 2012 at 9:42 am

      NIIIICE! I see how you did that.

      And yes, I didn’t mean to say that the end result isn’t charity. That’s for my post about charity auctions that doesn’t contain stabbings.


    • madalife
      March 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      Affluent people often use charity to cover up their greed (e.g.: Bernie Madoff, Raffaello Follieri, John G. Bennett Jr. of New Era Philantropy).
      A charity event reminds me of these verses: ” When you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Do not let your left hand know what your hand right hand is doing, so that your charitable deed may be in secret”.


  2. Darren
    March 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Please pardon the non sequitur, but I read both of your blogs on a regular basis and seeing the two of you chatting it up is like a comic book crossover.


  3. Frank Miata
    March 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Will you be chartering a bus to go to the trial? Please let me know. Thuggery in pinstrips is so romantic; he reminds me of Chambers from preppy murder case daze. If you do hire a bus, will lunch be included?
    Of course, we all know that alleged perp will write a big check and this “misunderstanding” will disappear. I can’t wait to see the new fleet of cabs that the driver will buy with this blood money.
    Thanks so much for this fun post.


  4. Frank Miata
    March 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Dear MB,
    Been reading a bit about ” Banker Gone Wild.” Jennings, the alleged perp, make shis next court appearance on the 9th March in Stamford Suprior Court.The case # 12-0176761. Say, has anyone figured out why it took this long for the cops to get this guy?
    Thanks again for the post. Will there be a tom Wolfe type to wroite this one up for the 2000s?
    Have to decide what to wear to the hearing. Oh, the layer for Jennings has handled other high profile cases. So, we know that Jennings will be bleeding money to cover his ass.His lawyer’s comments as reported in the press are hilarious. Then again, O.J. got off.


  5. Wendy
    March 3, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Re: the charity auction and not-so-charitable motives driving participation – reminds me a lot of the Real Housewives types, ladies of luxury, who sanctimoniously claim that they spend a their time for charity. Really what they mean is they have lots of fancy lunches and various parties every week, but they’re actually claiming it’s altruistic, and not a spoiled, self-indulgent life, no, not at all! Many of these events go to benefit some “foundation” whose actual contributions to any bona fide charitable purpose is limited. And, these events also often involve “hiring” one or the other’s child(ren) so as to give the otherwise-shiftless offspring “jobs” as well as noble purposes. These “jobs” is often where lots of the funds raised actually go. How much actually makes it to truly charitable purposes seems highly doubtful to me.


  6. Wendy
    March 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    to those above who say that charity is charity, and worthwhile – sorry but I don’t necessarily agree that the money went to charity just because MS says it did. I want to know more. I can’t find any mention of what the charity auction the night of this incident was actually intended to benefit. On the “charities” page on MS’s website I see a mention that they have held charitable auctions to benefit Edu-Aid. To find out more, they offer a “click here” link … to a page that’s entirely in Chinese. So, no confirmation of honest to goodness charitable purposes here, and no real way to do any due diligence from MS’s own site.

    If the funds raised actually go to charitable purposes, great. But these guys are pro’s. Color me cynical but I just can’t believe that the funds are not somehow really benefiting MS, unless and until they provide real information showing otherwise.


  7. karen
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