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How Out of Touch Is Wall Street?

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Here are eight things you might not know about Wall Street and the trader culture. Is Wall St. out of touch with the plight of middle-class America? You be the judge:

  1. In 2009, the head of Citadel's High-Frequency Trading division was so insulted by his paltry $85 million bonus that he left the firm.
  2. There are no wireless mice on most Wall Street trading floors. Traders cannot be trusted with anything that could double as a projectile.
  3. Goldman Sachs internally refers to its customers as "muppets."
  4. Sound effects are all the rage on trading floors. Some firms use a cash register sound for good trades and a siren for bad trades. The most popular sound effects, by far, are those drawn directly from The Simpsons, with "D'OH!" and "Woo-Hoo" indicating failure and success respectively. In his excellent book Dark Pools, Scott Patterson tells of one event on a UBS trading floor in which a rapid series of bad trades caused a computer to scream out five hundred "D'OH!'s" in four seconds, ruining The Simpsons forever for all traders involved.
  5. At one large HFT firm, it was the very tall and intimidating CEO's policy, if your strategy was losing money, to walk over to your desk, hover over you, and continually ask you why the f*ck were you losing his money.
  6. Several years ago, a technologist with whom I collaborated pointed to a group of traders at the bar in the Charlotte, N.C., Wachovia building atrium and said: "Those guys buy new airplanes more often than you or I buy new cars." He wasn't exaggerating.
  7. A successful trader took some colleagues out to a strip club one night in N.Y. and charged what he thought was only $20,00 to his corporate card (must have been one hell of a night). When the bill came in, it was $200,000. Of course, an extra zero is considered little more than a rounding error on Wall St.
  8. Talking about Goldman Sachs, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti commented on a stolen piece of software from their equity trading division: "... somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways." Hmmmmm...

I'm sure there are so many more stories, I'd love to hear some of yours in the comments.