Daily Archives: November 6, 2009

Swine Flu and Wall Street — Huh?

Oh boy. Another swine flu shitstorm. And it involves the Wizards of Wall Street. But it’s about more than who gets the scarce vaccine (or not) these days. It’s all about trust.

Here’s the back-story.

A number of big Wall Street firms — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and others — have received the vaccine — while many people on Main Street who fall into the “high-risk” category remain essentially waiting out in the cold and in the queue. And it doesn’t appear that the Wall Street guys and gals have broken any rules or done anything wrong — other than reinforce the public perception that they are, ah, pigs.

Many organizations — business, nonprofits, education, government and so on — arrange for employees to receive flu shots and other medical services at the workplace. When I worked at Goodrich, there was a doctor on staff, even when the company had essentially downsized in Akron to the point where it was just a white-collar headquarters operation. Pretty sweet, actually.

So it doesn’t surprise me that the Wall Street firms do likewise — and getting hold of the swine flu vaccine to administer to their “high-risk” employees — pregnant women, for example — makes sense.

But many don’t trust that those high-risk individuals will be the ones who actually get the vaccine. And the reputation of the Wall Street firms is so bad — and deservedly so — that it is hard to feel good about them getting even equal treatment these days. The thought of them moving to the head of the line, well, where is that pitchfork?

Ah, trust. Once lost, hard to regain.

And once you are viewed as swine, you’re an easy target.

For instance, here are some comments by Sen. Chris Dodd, as reported by Politico:

“It is hard to believe that at a time when even the most vulnerable in our society are unable to obtain H1N1 vaccinations, the government is sending doses to private firms on Wall Street,” Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said in a statement. “People are frustrated by the government’s response to this crisis, and with news like this, who can blame them? “

“Vaccines should go to people who need them most, not people who happen to work on Wall Street,” said Dodd, who’s also readying financial reform legislation that Wall Street won’t like.

And more from the Politico story:

News reports of that large, private employers in New York City – including Wall Street banks – and been sent of the scarce H1N1 vaccines set of a feeding frenzy Thursday. The Service Employees Union International jumped into the fray early, issuing a public call for the Wall Street fat cats to donate their doses to public hospitals.

“It’s bad enough that Wall Street crashed our economy and is back to paying out platinum bonuses after taking trillions in taxpayer-funded bailouts and backstops. But purposely endangering the health of millions of Americans during a public health crisis crosses all lines of decency,” the union’s secretary-treasurer Anna Burger said in a statement.


Anyway, this story ain’t done yet.

Joe Weisenthal, writing on businessinsider.com, reports that the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee will hold hearings on Nov. 18.

Let’s hope that if the Wall Street Wizards testify they have the sense to cover their mouths if they cough.