Before They Occupied Wall Street

With protests continuing across the country, seven provocative features on the financial industry and its excesses.
7 stories

As the Occupy Wall Street protests spread to cities across the United States, it's only fitting to look back at stories that shed light on what triggered all this discontent. The obvious author to start with is Matt Taibbi. "Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?" he asked in a provocative Rolling Stone essay. "Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them."

Henry Blodget is more forgiving, though he agrees that Wall Street helped to bring down the world economy. "The magnitude of the current bust seems almost unfathomable—and it was unfathomable, to even the most sophisticated financial professionals, until the moment the bubble popped," he writes. "How could this happen? And what's to stop it from happening again?"

Etay Zwick concurs that there isn't anything new about Wall Street and the rest of society having divergent interests. "More than a century ago, Thorstein Veblen—American economist, sociologist and social critic—warned that the United States had developed a bizarre and debilitating network of social habits and economic institutions," he writes. "Ascendant financial practices benefited a limited group at the expense of the greater society; yet paradoxically Americans deemed these practices necessary, even commendable. Far from lambasting the financiers plundering the nation’s resources, we lauded them as the finest members of society."

John Cassidy reminds us that there is sometimes a backlash—he tells the story of Eliot Spitzer, who went after Wall Street with rare aggression. Of course, it's as common for public servants tasked with reining in Wall Street to wind up cashing out by working for one of its firms. "Why do some of the most capable public servants in America, people like economist Peter Orszag, keep circling back from Washington to Wall Street?" Gabriel Sherman asks.

Those features and more await below.

From the Web

Why Do Public Servants Like Peter Orszag Leave Washington for Wall Street?

Why do some of the most capable public servants in America, people like economist Peter Orszag, keep circling back from Washington to Wall Street? One guess.

Apr 2011

The Bank Job

One of the biggest disconnects on Wall Street is between the way Goldman Sachs sees itself (they’re the smartest) and the way everyone else sees Goldman (they’re the smartest, greediest, and most dangerous). The author explores how their firm navigated the collapse of September 2008 and which lines it’s accused of crossing.

Jan 2010
From the Web

Why Wall Street Always Blows It

The magnitude of the current bust seems almost unfathomable—and it was unfathomable, to even the most sophisticated financial professionals, until the moment the bubble popped. How could this happen? And what’s to stop it from happening again? A former Wall Street insider explains how the financial industry got it so badly wrong, why it always will—and why all of us are to blame.

Dec 2008
From the Web

Predatory Habits

How Wall Street Transformed Work in America.

Dec 2010
From the Web

Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?

Financial crooks brought down the world’s economy—but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them.

Mar 2011
From the Web

Wall Street’s Naked Swindle

A scheme to flood the market with counterfeit stocks helped kill Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers—and the feds have yet to bust the culprits.

Oct 2009
From the Web

The Investigation

How Eliot Spitzer humbled Wall Street.

Apr 2003