It wasn't surreal, but it was certainly different.
Everett Stern, an anti-money laundering (AML) functionary for HSBC turned-whistleblower, added another "turn" to his pedigree. He turned to the Occupy Movement for help.
This came about one Sunday afternoon in August, when Stern visited the Occupy "Alt.Banking" group in a crowded room on the Columbia University campus. He came there to share the story of his unsuccessful attempts to seek criminal indictments against HSBC bank execs for their past -- and ongoing -- violations of U.S. money laundering laws.
Being "veterans of the war" in their own attempts to publicly expose HSBC for profiting on a laundry list of offenses, the Occupiers' listened carefully.
They could not but respect Stern's credentials, his having been featured in Matt Taibbi's "Gangster Banksters - Too Big To Jail" in Rolling Stone and in a Thomson Reuters special report "HSBC's Money Laundering Crackdown Riddled with Lapses."
He knew what he was talking about, and he had the goods.
And, the question was asked: Why was a young, eager person, unabashedly self-described as a "Right Wing Republican," choosing to approach an Occupy working group for help?
"Because I need you."
It is not easy being a whistleblower. It's almost always a downside experience.
You can be blacklisted for life in your profession, experience a severe drop in income and employability, find yourself scapegoated and reviled by your peers, and not-so-kindly asked to go away. As quickly and quietly as possible.
And, no matter the importance of what you did, the depth of your evidence, the benefit to society which might result from your revelations -- employers will move quickly to disown you. Governmental watchdogs and enforcement groups seem reluctant to engage with you.
It is because of his frustration with that latter experience, especially, that Stern sought out Occupiers -- themselves veterans of like scenarios suffered simply by protesting corporate abuses.
"I was honored that Everett Stern chose to share his experience with us," says Cathy O'Neil, the Alt.Banking organizer and head. "He is able to give us a mountain of information and point us in the right direction to apply effective pressure. In turn, we are able to give him an army of supporters and a populist megaphone with a proven ability to get the public's attention."
"I was told that I would be crazy to approach people in Occupy," Stern admits. "I might not agree with all aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but Occupy cares, and they make it known and make it public."
Apparently, this is a message that his contacts at the CIA where he first reported HSBC improprieties, and agents he met at the FBI, and a flock of attorneys and a top-tier public relations firm either could not, or would not, make public. Evil would not be seen, nor heard.
"I believed that when the evidence I helped gather resulted in an HSBC $1.9BB fine, that this would continue to criminal action. That didn't happen," Stern laments.
"This, in spite of the bank admitting to funding terrorism and laundering money and in spite of the fact that the bank has blood on its hands. The fear of a subsequent market collapse was offered to me as the reason for this mere slap on the wrist."
He continues, "My father instilled in me to be a good person. His definition of success was not money. It was to help people. That mission to help people was instilled in me. My father's ethics and principles are what allowed me to stand up to this bank and risk my life."
Gee, that kinda sounds like Occupy-Style Family Values.
Stern: Let's You and I Celebrate Our Birthdays, Occupy
As fortune would have it, both Occupy and Everett have a birthday coming up. His 29th will take place on Thursday, Aug. 29. Occupy's 2nd birthday follows 19 days later, on Sept. 17.
Invitations have been exchanged between the alt.banking group and Everett. Occupy will come to Everett's birthday -- scheduled to take place in front of the HSBC headquarters in NYC where he intends to make a special press announcement -- and Everett will come to Zuccotti Park, where his new BFFs will celebrate OWS's second birthday by announcing the release of a book detailing the inequities of the banking system.
Can this new mutuality of efforts comprise a new path which might be taken by people on the left and the right of the spectrum? That rare "common ground?"
This is not a political or a "99 percent issue," Everett emphasizes. "Banks financing drug cartels and terrorists affects every single American. I went to Occupy not because I am a major supporter of the movement. I went to Occupy because they care enough to hit the streets, carry signs and send a message that I also believe in."
Some might call them strange bedfellows. Others, familiar with the wisdom of the saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," think that such collaborations will only increase.