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Inside The Secret Fraternity for Wall Street’s Elite

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Wall Street has long been home to wealthiest 1 percent of the nation. They’re the richest of the rich, and until now, it has been a mystery as to what these people do when they’re not running global finance. Well, the cat’s out of the bag, and it couldn’t be any better.

New York Magazine writer Kevin Roose made it his personal vendetta to find out what the Wall Street titans do in their spare time. For the sake of journalism–obviously–Roose, rather easily, snuck into an annual black tie gathering of financial tycoons as they initiated and inducted new pledges into their secret Wall Street Fraternity, Kappa Beta Phi.

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In 2011, Forbes listed Wilbur Ross as one of the world’s few billionaires with a net worth of $1.9 billion. At the event, Ross, the president, stood at the podium donning Kappa Beta Phi letters. The fraternity, founded in 1929, was started by “four C+ William and Mary students.” Its name is a play on Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s first honor fraternity, which was founded at William and Mary in 1776.

With more than 200 members today, the ranks of Kappa Beta Phi include former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead, hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld, former Bear Stearns CEO Jim Cayne, and former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine to name a few. Clearly, this event was one of the largest gatherings of the most powerful men in modern business. In fact, Roose states that if a bomb had gone off during the initiation dinner–of racks of lamb and foie gras–global finance as we know it would simply cease to function.

This year’s 21 pledges (called neophytes) were required to dress in leotards, gold sequined skirts, and costume wigs. They also had to entertain guests with a variety of acts, most of which hilariously mocked the lack of wealth owned by those of us who are not in the 1 percent. In the grand finale of their degrading neophyte charades, the 21 new members of Kappa Beta Phi changed into Mormon outfits and recited a number from the musical “The Book of Mormon” with original lyrics. That’s when Roose got busted–because the smartest thing to do after sneaking inside the St. Regis ballroom to attend a very secret initiation of the world’s most powerful people is to start recording it on your cell phone.

However, not all of the evidence from Roose’s cell phone got destroyed. I don’t want to reveal all the secrets of the brotherhood, but I will share one overheard joke between Paul Queally, a private equity executive with Welsh, Carson, Anderson, & Stowe, and Ted Virtue, a private equity executive with MidOcean Partners:

Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Hillary Clinton and a catfish?”

A: “One has whiskers and stinks, and the other is a fish.”

Clearly, this ceremony was just a gathering of friends who all happen to be the world’s most powerful investors. What was supposed to be a night of jokes amongst friends got spoiled by a nosy reporter who broke into a closed event in order to publish a two-page story. In my mind, this isn’t journalism’s finest hour. Unfortunately for these financial titans of Wall Street, they’ll be grilled to answer questions as to the happenings of their secret society which was founded as a joke and is still carried on that–they only meet once a year.

Without a doubt, next year’s meeting will still take place in January and initiations will continue, not faltering after a media speed bump. Watch out for the Nard Dawg, as I make my case for Class of 2015, Kappa Beta Phi.

[via New York Magazine]

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