“I used to work on Wall Street. Don’t throw stones at me,” joked former business analyst Alexis Goldstein at a demonstration outside the Citigroup building in Long Island City, on June 25.
Goldstein, a keynote speaker in the Occupy Wall Street movement and former vice president at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank,addressed a small crowd from Occupy Astoria/Long Island City, who brought their “day of public outrage” to the steps of one of the world’s largest banks, to protest the role private money plays in American politics and to call on government to do more to protect investors against the darker side of Wall Street.
Flanked by police officers, Goldstein gave the inside scoop on Wall Street, while urging federal agencies, such as the Securities & Exchange Commission, to exact greater penalties for those found guilty of defrauding investors.
Far from being a glamorous world of gold cufflinks and pinstripes suits, she blasted away at Wall Street, describing it as “very toxic,” as a “hyper-aggressive” working environment where bitter envy among employees stuck in a hive of cubicles is the rule not the exception.
And, she added, where investor fraud is more common than the general public suspects or could possibly stomach.
Goldstein was joined by former British diplomat Carne Ross and member of the Occupy Wall Street Working Group on Alternative Banking, as well as Brendan Fay and Mark Morone, founding members of Occupy Astoria/LIC.
It was the ‘occupation’ of Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, which they described as the “inspiring moment” that prompted them to “bring the spirit of Occupy Wall Street” back to Queens and mobilize the 99 percent.
Since then they have been knocking on neighborhood doors, as well as organizing picnics and film screenings to draw in greater support. It’s a tactic that seems to be working, rallying almost 200 members of the movement to the cause.
In response to claims by the group that Citigroup did not pay any income taxes in 2010, but made $4 billion in profits,Catherine Pulley,spokesperson for Citibank issued the following statement.
“We understand and respect that consumers have choices when it comes to their banking needs. We are proud that millions of Americans choose Citibank and we will continue to work hard to earn their business.”
Despite the optimism among protestors, a forensic accountant who stepped out of the Citigroup building for a smoking break dismissed the demonstration as “meaningless.”
A former federal regulator in Washington, DC who is now a “consultant for the banks,” he said the system simply leans in favor of those with the deepest pockets and the closest political connections.
He said that while he doesn’t think it is right, it is simply a fact of the political scene.
“Money is power and banks have power and the little guy doesn’t have any money, so he doesn’t have any power. And it’s unfortunate in this country, but that’s the way it is,” he said.