BUSINESS

Carl Schweser, Former Finance Department Chair, Joins Occupy Wall Street Movement

12/21/2011 01:30 pm ET | Updated Jan 14, 2013

Carl Schweser made his money teaching people how to be a part of Wall Street. Now he's spending his retirement fighting against it.

The 68-year-old former chair of the University of Iowa's finance department said that throughout his career he began to see evidence that financial institutions had stopped doing their job and that government regulators weren't doing enough to keep them in check. But it wasn't until the financial crisis of 2008 that he began to fully understand the magnitude of what was happening.

"I taught investments and fixed-income securities and I remembered in all the books on the first day of class it would say the function of the corporation is to maximize the wealth of the stockholder," Schweser said in an interview earlier this month. "But if you look at how everything is set up as a stock holder, you have no control. In effect the major stockholders and management are working for themselves."

Though he may not have much in common with most of the protesters who started gathering in his hometown of Iowa City shortly after the Occupy Wall Street protests began in Zuccotti Park, Schweser said their concerns resonated with him, prompting him to head down to the park in Iowa City to investigate. Schweser, who made millions as the founder of a test prep program that was ultimately bought by Kaplan, is one of many people who have joined the protesters or supported the 99 percent in some fashion.

"I'd go up there two or three times a week at the beginning and I'd just get a chair and get a sub at the sub shop and sit and watch them," he said. "I thought it was kind of neat."

Schweser said that over time it became apparent that financial executives' access to money and power was "just getting out of whack," a sentiment that drew him to observe the protests.

"I kind of knew that it was all screwed up, but then boom, the world starts falling apart," he said.

But Schweser quipped that as the Iowa winter has begun to set in, he's had to scale back his visits to the demonstrations.

"It's gotten kind of cold here and I'm not nearly as tough as they are," he said.

Still, he's done some other "little things" to show his support, such as making rubber stamps that say things like "Occupy Iowa City" and "Shame on Wall Street," and putting them on one dollar bills.

"I just read a book by the British museum about 100 things in their collection that influenced their world and I found out that the suffragettes in England would stamp coins," Schweiser said.

He also let his son, who Schweser described as "kind of active" in the Occupy movement, convince him to make a video discussing his support for the 99 percent.

"Is it fair that I'm sitting here living in comfort after spending a year working with financial instruments, while the people who did the hard work -- that taught my children, built my roads and made this country the kind of place where I could succeed -- are struggling?" he asks in the video.

Schweser expressed a similar sentiment in the interview with HuffPost, chalking up much of his success to chance. He started a business in 1992 aimed at helping people prepare for the Chartered Financial Analyst test. Kaplan bought his company in 1999, and though Schweser wouldn't specify how much he made on the deal, he said that the sum "had a lot of zeros at the end."

"I was lucky and I started teaching people how to pass these exams just when these exams took, and for several years there I was making a whole lot of money," he said. "No matter how you redistribute things there's always going to be a 1 percent, but once you've got more than enough, the question is what are you going to do with your money?"

Schweser said he's donated his money to a variety of his favorite charities, but he doesn't think that it has the same transformative power as what's taking place in Zuccotti Park and around the world.

"When you give your money away it's different because I give my money to the things that are of importance to me, and those aren't necessarily uniformly important on a global basis," he said. "There needs to be some things like health care and social security and infrastructure."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly claimed that Carl Schweser helped students prepare for the certified financial assessment. He helped them prepare for the Chartered Financial Analyst test.

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