January 22, 2012


Wall Street’s not-so-secret "secret" fraternity, Kappa Beta Phi, held its annual black-tie dinner last week.

Kappa Beta Phi's membership is a roster of Wall Street power brokers past and present, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg , former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Mary Schapiro, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and former Goldman Sachs Chairman John C. Whitehead. About 15 to 20 new members are inducted each year after having been nominated by members and approved by the group's leaders.

Kappa Beta Phi, whose name is a play on Phi Beta Kappa, the academic honor society, is more about cornball comedy than high finance. Its Latin motto "Dum vivamus edimus et biberimus" is freely translated as, "While we live, we eat and drink." Like Phi Beta Kappa inductees, members of Kappa Beta Phi also receive a fob, or key. Phi Beta Kappa's key includes a hand pointing at three stars that symbolize the society's principles: morality, friendship and learning. Kappa Beta Phi's key has images of a hand, a beer stein, champagne tumbler and five stars. The stars represent Hennessy cognac and the hand is there to hold a glass.
Part Friar's Club roast, part "Gong Show," Kappa Beta Phi's annual dinner is held for the official purpose of inducting new members, who sit at a long table with a black tablecloth at the front of the room. The inductees, "Neophytes" in Kappa Beta Phi parlance, must perform a variety show for the old crowd.

Underneath chandeliers in a ballroom at the St. Regis, fraternity members feasted on a dinner of rack of lamb and crème brûlée, while some audience members threw things at performers - the incoming members - including petit fours and napkins dipped in wine.

Not surprisingly, the evening's entertainment took aim at the Occupy Wall Street movement:

The Occupy movement was fodder for several after-dinner skits. In one, a documentary filmed during the protests, James Lebenthal, a bond specialist, joked with a protester whose face was appeared to be tattooed.

“Go home, wash that off your face, and get back to work,” Mr. Lebenthal told the protester.

Reached through his daughter on Friday, Mr. Lebenthal declined to comment.

In another skit, William Mulrow , a senior managing director at the Blackstone Group, put on raggedy clothes to play the part of an Occupy protester. Emil W. Henry Jr., a managing partner at Tiger Infrastructure Partners and a fellow new Kappa, joined him dressed as a wealthy baron.

“Bill, look at you! You’re pathetic, you liberal! You need a bath!” Mr. Henry said, voice full of mock indignation.

“You callow, insensitive Republican!” Mr. Mulrow said. “Don’t you know we need to create jobs?”

For the evening's finale, the inductees sang a parody of “I Believe,” a song from the hit Broadway show “The Book of Mormon.”

In the original version of the song, a down-and-out Mormon missionary offers a passionate defense of his faith. On this night, though, the financiers turned it into a playful paean to their industry. (“I believe that the Lord God created Wall Street. I believe he got his only son a job at Goldman Sachs.”)

Off-key and raucous, the financiers raised their voices once more.

“I work on Wall Street. And Wall Street just believes.”

Representative Barney Frank, a frequent target of the fraternity's offensive brand of humor, wasn't spared this year, either. However, it was noted that the gatherings have "become divisive" among members in recent years, leading some to skip attending the annual dinner.

“The skits can be offensive and I don’t want to sit through it,” said one fraternity member who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

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