Why didn't the financial press adequately inform the American public that its national economy was a colossal scam? Maybe because this meltdown has given the financial press the Story of a Lifetime.
They're positively basking in it. CNBC's enjoying record ratings -- the financial news channel now out-draws MSNBC and can command a higher price for commercials that comes with it. In the print media, take a gander at the current issue of Fortune, which seems to be eager to capitalize on the celebrity of established fraudsters like Bernard Madoff, even as it strives to anoint new fraud celebrities. This week, the magazine has found another shyster with a Manhattan penthouse and a Palm Beach County cash cow: Marc Dreier, whose financial derring-do earned him the following rave review in Fortune's cover story:
While Madoff did his dirty work in seclusion behind locked doors, Dreier allegedly duped his victims with the theatrical, improvisational daring of a high-wire aerialist. Despite the pain his crimes have wrought, a dark side in each of us cannot but admire the sheer nerve of the man. (Think of Leonardo DiCaprio's heroic impostor in the film Catch Me If You Can.)
Um, I can "help but admire the sheer nerve of the man." To channel Jon Stewart, this is "not a fucking game."
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Fortune has yet to post the article on its website, but the upshot is that Dreier allegedly sold phony debt obligations to a bunch of hedge fund managers who were supposed to be really, really smart. As if any of us can still be amazed that Wall Street top guns were duped. Dreier's alleged fraud came to a mere $700 million.
The article says that Dreier's currently under house arrest at his "terraced condominium" in midtown Manhattan. The glamour! The firm itself was called Dreier & Baritz, and the latter, securities attorney Neil Baritz, ran the office on Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton, or at least that was the appearance. According to Fortune, Baritz left the firm in 2002, not long after another supposed Dreier partner in Oklahoma settled a lawsuit that accused Dreier of mismanaging clients' escrow funds.
Another revolting trend that Fortune has pounced upon: the soon-to-arrive financial fraudster trading cards. Who wants to bet the marketing genius behind this plan will be taking out ads in Fortune?
For those who want to bring their hatred of Fortune to full bloom, here's an article from Columbia Journalism Review that will do the trick. And for those curious about Dreier's story, here's a version from the New York Times.