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Former NYSE Manager Who Said 'If You're Poor, Stop Being Poor' Sues Over 'Daily Show' Appearance

03/13/2015 02:03 pm ET | Updated May 16, 2015
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By Daniel Wiessner

March 13 (Reuters) - A former New York Stock Exchange managing director has filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired for appearing on the satirical newscast "The Daily Show" to discuss Obamacare because his bosses objected to the program's politics.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in California state court, Todd Wilemon says his supervisors at Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (ICE), which owns NYSE and other financial exchanges, had allowed him to appear on Fox News, Al Jazeera and other television stations without receiving permission in each instance.

After appearing in a 2014 segment about the Affordable Care Act on the popular Comedy Central show without permission, however, Wilemon was promptly fired, the suit says.

He claims that while he knew the interview would be edited to poke fun at his opposition to "Obamacare," he thought it would be an effective way to draw attention to controversies surrounding the law.

An ICE representative, also speaking for the New York Stock Exchange, declined to comment on the suit on Friday.

The March 6, 2014 segment of "The Daily Show" challenged the notion that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world, with Wilemon, a managing director for ICE from 2009 to 2014, playing the foil.

His comments, particularly his exhortation that "if you're poor, stop being poor," were widely criticized by left-leaning websites and news outlets. The popular website AlterNet, for example, placed Wilemon at the top of a list of "8 colossal jackasses from the right-wing fringe."

Before he was fired, Wilemon provided information to investors and firms listed on the NYSE's exchanges, as well as making regular television appearances to discuss investing and politics.

Days after the segment aired, Wilemon's supervisors chided him for "mocking the one percent," according to the suit, and he was fired. The suit says his termination violated a California labor law that prohibits employers from curbing workers' participation in politics.

His firing was "due to defendants' own antipathy for the political message of The Daily Show, which is widely regarded as an influential progressive political platform," Wilemon's suit says.

Wilemon is seeking at least $150,000 in damages under California law, but not reinstatement to his job.

Wilemon's lawyer, Richard Levine, didn't immediately return a request for comment.

The case is Wilemon v. Intercontinental Exchange Inc, California Superior Court, San Francisco County, No. 15-544667. (Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, N.Y.; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Christian Plumb)

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