Wall Street’s trolls

By Felix Salmon
October 3, 2010

There are anonymous commenters on blogs like mine, and then there are the elite and sophisticated investors invited to join a conference call with Ireland’s finance minister. Which group would you think is better behaved? Silly question, really. It’s not even close:

Mr Lenihan had been speaking for less than two minutes on Friday before a mistake by Citigroup meant that the bank’s clients were all able to be heard on the line.

Between 200 and 500 investors are understood to have been on the call, and as they realized their lines were not muted many began to heckle Mr Lenihan.

Some traders began making what one banker on the call described as “chimp sounds”, while another cried out “dive, dive”. A third man said “short Ireland” before adding “why not short Citi too?”

As the call descended into chaos, with one participant heard to say “this is the worst conference call ever”, Citigroup officials shut down the line.

This says a lot about the effects of anonymity on public behavior, and about the manners of Wall Street types, and about the regard in which the markets hold both Ireland and Citigroup.

But I think it also says something about the way in which even rich and sophisticated investors feel as though they don’t have a voice and aren’t being heard. Remember that the Tea Party started with a rant on CNBC. This is a sign of the times, I think: this kind of fiasco wouldn’t have taken place pre-crisis.

Update: The Irish Times pushes back on this story, quoting spokesmen from the National Treasury Management Agency and the Department of Finance saying that the heckling never happened, and that the Telegraph was sold a line by holders of Anglo Irish Bank’s subordinated debt. The Irish spokespeople might well be right, but so far no one has managed to produce a transcript or recording of the call, which would presumably clear things up.


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“the Tea Party started with a rant on CNBC”

The Tea Party leaders staged a rant on CNBC.

There. Fixed.

Posted by klhoughton | Report as abusive

This sadly shows the calibre of bankers and individual traders these days; like computer geeks, they are fast becoming the kind of people one doesn’t invite to dinner parties.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

I was on a conference call where this happened several years ago. I wish I could remember the company – same kinda thing though – they had the line open, and callers were making noises and shouting, hooting, etc..

Posted by KidDynamite | Report as abusive

“sophisticated investors”
frat boys with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.
there, fixed.

also addendum to above – Dick Armey, astroturfer extraordinaire, got his good friend and entitled frat boy Rick Santelli to stage a rant on CNBC.
there, REALLY fixed.

it’s really a joke that you use the word sophisticated twice in this column to describe these self-serving goons.

Posted by p-rex | Report as abusive

“Sophisticated investors” – are they the ones that do or do not need government bailouts to stay solvent? I keep forgetting.

Posted by ErnieD | Report as abusive