British bankers behaving badly: Money men of London looking for a thrill

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While politicians and diplomats often talk about our "special relationship," the truth is that America and Great Britain have always had a healthy level of competition. Whether the battleground of choice is classic rock (Elvis vs. the Beatles), geek heartthrobs (Daniel Radcliffe vs. Elijah Wood) or sports (David Beckham vs. the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB), the rivalry has always been there, simmering just below the surface.

Our transatlantic tiff has now erupted into the world of finance. You see, while America's financial services employees are buying guns and whining about pay packages, Britain's money men are having lots and lots of sex. In fact, according to Illicitencounters.com, "A discreet and confidential extra-marital dating service for women and men," there has been a huge increase in the number of bankers who are trolling the site. More than 5% of the site's estimated 380,000 members are currently employed in financial services.
Looking for a Shoulder to Cry On

Recently, Illicit Encounters conducted a survey to determine the top ten reasons that Britain's bankers are looking for lovers. While answers like "for the thrill" and "because they feel entitled" are pretty obvious, the biggest reason was that they wanted "to feel loved." Given that the public outcry at Britain's bankers has been almost as spirited as our own attacks on the moneyed class, this shouldn't be surprising. After all, it has to be depressing to hear, day in and day out, that you are responsible for the total destruction of the global economy. Little wonder that Britain's bankers, like America's, might want to get a little positive feedback.

Then again, for those of us who have watched the antics of our own steely-eyed Dick Fulds, arch John Thains and condescending Lloyd Blankfeins, it is a little surprising to learn that money men have feelings, just like real people.

The sexual escapades of Britain's bankers extend far beyond the confines of Illicit Encounters. Through much of November, Britain's tabloids seethed with the torrid tale of Mark Lowe, the founder of hedge fund Nomos Capital. According to Jordan Wimmer, a former investor relations worker at Nomos, Lowe engaged in some particularly foul behavior, including making her watch while he had lap dances, trying to kill her, and hiring a prostitute named Ling to follow him around during meetings with international clients.

Compared to this, the reports of Bernie Madoff's sexual escapades seem pretty tame.

American Frathouse

When it comes to crude sexual misbehavior, Wall Street didn't always trail so far behind Paternoster Square. In fact, one could even argue that American financial services workers more or less wrote the book on sleazy frathouse antics. Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis' 1989 account of his career on Wall Street, depicts a testosterone-driven world filled with gambling, fighting and sexually outrageous behavior. Similarly, in his recent account of the Wall Street meltdown, Michael Osinski describes traders gathering daily to hold -- literal -- pissing contests in one of the bathrooms at Kidder, Peabody & Co.

So what happened? Well, an early warning came a year ago when Manhattan Lawyer Edward Hayes began noticing that many New York money men were shedding their "high-end girlfriends," the expensive pieces of arm candy that -- as much as a Rolex or a cottage in the Hamptons -- were a sign that one had indeed made it. Coupled with the sale of vacation houses and art collections, the plunging high-end girlfriend index suggested that Wall Street was hedging its bets, at least socially. In the ensuing year, this trend has only increased.

Leveraging the Recessed Libido

Of course, the whole banker sex thing might be a little exaggerated, and many of the people claiming to be bankers on Illicit Encounters might actually have other jobs. Then again, given the extreme unpopularity of money men right now, it's worth asking why anyone looking to impress a lover would want to admit to working in the financial sector. In all likelihood, vast numbers of bankers are actually pretending that they are employed in more socially acceptable professions -- like pig farming, port-a-john maintenance, and radioactive waste disposal.

Still, the financial markets are a competitive, testosterone-fueled place, and it's hard to imagine that Wall Street will stay down for long. As the paycheck scandal subsides and Americans adapt to their newly-lessened circumstances, it seems likely that finance guys will again begin to challenge their transatlantic brethren in the battle for bad behavior. Then again, given the trouble that Wall Street caused the last time it felt its oats, this might be a good contest to let the British win.

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