Once known as the "Sheriff of Wall Street," New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has resigned because of his involvement in a prostitution ring and is now a target of a federal probe.
During his reign as New York Attorney General, Spitzer ruined the reputations and careers of Wall Street executives to bolster his political ambitions.
For those interested in learning the true story behind one of Spitzer’s high profile cases, I highly recommend the book "King of the Club", written by veteran Wall Street reporter Charles Gasparino.
“King of the Club” is the story of the rise and fall of Dick Grasso: from his humble upbringing to the height of Wall Street as the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and his abrupt departure following a scandal surrounding his $140 million pay package.
The importance of “King of the Club” goes beyond a story about Grasso, Wall Street and the NYSE. The book’s true significance is it provides a real life example of the way a government official like Spitzer can use the power of the state to loot a man of his property and reputation.
It’s a stark reminder of the message of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”: capitalists are vulnerable in a culture that does not appreciate business success. Grasso, like Rand’s character Hank Reardon, found himself in court defending his character and achievements.
In a country that loves an underdog and rags to riches stories, Dick Grasso should be a hero. Unfortunately, because business leaders are viewed with deep skepticism, they are defenseless from the assault of ambitious politicians and a hostile media. Through this lens, Grasso became the poster child for Wall Street greed.
Grasso’s rise to the top post at the NYSE was an amazing feat. Starting at $81 per week at an entry-level position–without a college degree–he gradually worked his way through the ranks.
His path was not easy. Grasso quit on several occasions because he was not chosen for the top job but management always recruited him back; he was too valuable to lose.
As CEO of the NYSE, Grasso had an outstanding record of achievement. He significantly grew the listings of companies trading on the NYSE and aggressively defended the exchange from the NASDQ–a competing exchange. He built the NYSE brand by executing media savvy strategies such as allowing CNBC to broadcast from the exchange floor and created a daily media event surrounding the ringing of the opening bell.