Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Micheal Cleverly, The Vile Plutocrat
Submitted by: Editor


The old ski town of Aspen Colorado seems to have been embroiled in its own brand of mini-class war for most of the winter. This may be what happens when the skiing stinks, people have nothing better to do than take themselves seriously.

First there was a little dust up over a Health and Human Services official’s misguided gesture when he gave a homeless troublemaker a one-way ticket out of town. The official felt that he was saving the individual a little jail time, but the town that was the recipient of said troublemaker was a short on gratitude, and some people thought exporting the disenfranchised was a little elitist (see “Unloved in Aspen” in the Aspen Bureau archives).

Most recently, a proud member of the one-percent rented out an entire hotel, bar, and restaurant, for one of the busiest weekends of the winter. The occasion was a scion bat mitzvah. 

Surely this sort of thing has happened before and gone unnoticed, but it was hard to overlook this time because the hotel in question was the storied Jerome, right in the middle of town, on Main Street, and it was Winterskol weekend.

The story broke and The Aspen Times, which is located adjacent to the hotel and is utterly gutless, let out a little bleat in its Cheers and Jeers column about not being able to go next door for a pop over the four-day period. The Aspen Daily News, by contrast, addressed the question that was on everyone’s mind. Who is this guy?

Daily News editor Carolyn Sackariason gave the good folk of Aspen the lowdown on yet another superrich party animal:

“The part-time Aspen resident and Wall Street executive who has rented the entire Hotel Jerome this weekend is named in a lawsuit against former Bear Stearns & Co. that claims the company allegedly took millions of dollars from clients in the name of profits and bonuses, according to media reports.

Jeffrey Verschleiser’s party plans for his daughter’s bat mitzvah also include festivities at the Aspen Recreation Center tonight. The city-owned facility will close today at 4 p.m., instead of the normal 9 p.m., according to city officials. 

Verschleiser, who now reportedly heads Goldman Sachs’ mortgage division, rented the Hotel Jerome, including the popular J-Bar, for more than $500,000, and up to as much as $1 million, according to sources. The hotel and its bar are closed to the public from Thursday until noon on Monday.

His alleged business dealings that allowed such extravagance are under intense scrutiny outside of Aspen. Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, who has extensively covered the financial corruption that shattered the national economy, in his blog Friday wrote that Verschleiser’s actions in Aspen “crystallized the moral dementia of modern Wall Street in one little vignette.”

Verschleiser’s role as a manager of the Bear Stearns mortgage trading team was brought to light in multiple civil lawsuits filed against the company and its new owner JP Morgan last year, according to journalist Teri Buhl, who broke the story for The Atlantic

The Federal Housing Finance Authority, a government regulator, has named Verschleiser individually in its multibillion-dollar mortgage fraud suit against Bear/JPM. Buhl first broke news about emails showing that Bear traders were telling executives that mortgage securities they were selling to investors were a “sack of sh*t.” Verschleiser allegedly was aware of the state of those securities, writing in an email to a colleague that Bear should not waste money doing due diligence on the financial products. At least two investors have sued Bear Stearns or J.P. Morgan in U.S. District Court in New York, and Buhl also has reported that the New York Attorney General is investigating Verschleiser’s team for potential criminal acts. The civil fraud suits involving Verschleiser’s alleged actions are expected to go to trial this year. Whistleblowers continue to come forward, detailing how the Bear Stearns mortgage trades had a mantra of “Bear Don’t Care,” according to an article on Buhl’s website.

The lawsuit by Assured Guaranty, a bond insurer, against J.P. Morgan alleges Assured was defrauded in a $337 million mortgage-backed securities deal. “‘Bear don’t care.’ That phrase — used by underwriters Bear Stearns retained to review mortgage loans for its mortgage-backed securitizations, including the transaction at issue in this manner — succinctly captures the callous disregard that led to the current dispute, Bear Stearns’ ultimate demise and, in good part, the financial crisis that still plagues the world’s economies,” the lawsuit says."

The “outing” of this guy, who is clearly the poster boy for corporate greed was met with a mixed response. Some, those who felt that renting such a high profile venue on a big weekend was an obnoxious, ostentatious, display of money spewing, were grateful for the background check. Others were furious.

There’s nothing to compare to the joy of watching toadies fall all over themselves to leap to the defense of the poor downtrodden superrich. And in case you didn’t already know it, you discover quick that these types of people are absolutely sure that it’s nobody’s business but their own how the rich spend their money. Realtors are always first in line when a sucking up to the rich opportunity presents itself, and so a realtor named Shellie Roy bemoaned the end of the fine Aspen tradition of respecting the privacy of celebrities. All this accomplished was to enlighten the town as to how, exactly, that woman defined celebrity. Some people were enraged that the negative comments were ruining a young lady’s bat mitzvah, and it was no one’s business that daddy was the lowest sort of scum. Another letter to the editor writer, Scott Writer, pointed out that all things good in Aspen came by the largess of the wealthy. The sky, the mountains, the snow, the pristine hiking, the wildlife…. the fifteen thousand square foot third or sixth homes that resemble resort hotels, the once vital downtown that has been turned into Rodeo Drive Jr. with boutique after boutique selling crap that no one on earth really needs, the airport full of huge private jets, the gated enclaves, the restaurants no one can afford. None of this could be possible without rich tourists, and to question what they want to do, and how they want to do it is “out of line.” 

Said lines were being drawn.

As the controversy was playing out, no one among the critics objected to the fact that the event itself was a young lady’s bat mitzvah. Anymore than they would have objected had it been a baboon’s first communion, or a bunch of Mayans renting the place out for some human sacrificing, the event wasn’t the problem. Until, The United Jewish Appeal, in a nasty letter to the Daily News, announced that they were boycotting the paper, thus suggesting that the outing of the scumbag was an anti-Semitic thing and not just an anti-scumbag thing.

 Mr. Verschleiser’s defenders, including Mr. Writer, tried to cloud the issue by suggesting that the critics were unfairly beating up on the hotel itself and the worker bees therein, even though not one single word had been written to that effect. The fact is that the Jerome management was simply honoring a commitment made long before by the previous owners, and what do the poor chumps who just work there have to do with anything?

On the flip side of things, The Aspen Times finally discovered some intestinal fortitude when columnist Andy Stone wrote: “I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see that — once again? Still? As always? — Those whose swollen wallets and swollen egos are always on display, high in the air like a baboon's testicles, are demanding their proper respect.

We must show appreciation for their generosity as they strew a few coins to the peasants.

And equally annoying are those among us peasants who are eager to express exactly that appreciation — and bare savage fangs at any who fail to join in the chorus. (How dare you refer to Mr. Attila as a “Hun”? He's a respected international entrepreneur.)

No names need be mentioned. The villains of today are but the latest incarnations of their kind. Each of them is just one more Hells Angel having a go at the poor little town of Aspen, as she lies spread-eagled like a prom queen at a gang-bang.

And what bothers me on this bright January morning isn't so much the exact details of what they're up to. It's their attitude.

Those who crave our love are, perhaps, a little pathetic. But those who demand it are despicable.

And once they get what they have demanded, like all cads, they smirk and move on.

If I may refer back to that distasteful prom queen image, no one respects a participant in a gang-bang in the morning — no matter how alluring they might have considered her when the ill-fated evening began.

People used to be happy just to come here.

Now it seems that the only thing that makes some people happy is regarding their own personal magnificence in the mirror of their egos.

And they demand that we all join them in that appreciation of themselves.

Like royalty, they are so used to having servants do everything for them that they need us to be happy that they're here, since they are not capable of being happy about it themselves.

We have developers who not only want to have their way with the city, they want to be thanked and appreciated afterwards. (I'm working hard to resist returning to that disgraceful prom queen simile.)

We have people who don't want just to flaunt their wealth; they want the rest of us to express amazement and appreciation for that flaunting.”

Stone goes on to point out that these people deserve what they get. Every once in a while, along with the people who respond to the rich the way they wish, there’ll be someone who just thinks they’re jerks, and says so.

So the class war in Aspen goes on. Some people think the rich should be left alone to do exactly what they want, whenever they want to do it. And other people, like the author of this article, are jockeying for position to get to be in charge of executions when the revolution is over. 

Posted by Editor on 01/24/12 at 10:56 AM •  (0) Comments


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"America does not have an aristocracy or a plutocracy."
Art Pope