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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Wall Street takes it on the chin
Customers at Harry's Bar consider the impact of President Bush's speech
Customers at Harry's Bar consider the impact of President Bush's speech

Wall Street is in serious disrepair. Half the road is being resurfaced and heavy police bollards constrict the sidewalks.

The chaos on its surface mirrors the vision of corporate degeneration outlined by President Bush inside a local hotel ballroom earlier today.

Keren Merimah and Danielle Kubilus, both in their 20s and working in communications departments along Wall Street, were sunning themselves on the steps outside a public building, munching a takeaway salad.


How big is the problem anyway? It is just four companies

Adam
"Bush needed to say it. We need to start following the regulations, and we deserve the volatile economy we've got right now.

"It might just make people realise that they have to change," said Keren.

Just a few metres away, Adam - a sales trader who was uneasy about giving his full name - was enjoying a cigarette break. He was more sceptical about the President's chances of changing anything.

"Anyone could have said what he said. The government does have to do something soon, otherwise people are going to start just putting their money in banks.

"But let's not forget that corporate America funds the politicians. When elections come, they need our money. How big is the problem anyway - it's just four companies? I think there's an over-reaction," he said.

A fine line?

Another young man enjoying a moment of calm on Wall Street was John Davis. A self-styled "dot-com retiree", he was in New York for a job interview with a software company that supports the trading floors.

"I'm sure everything that Bush said is on the minds of everyone who's got any interest in the stock market. It's a fine line between being a good capitalist, and just being greedy," he said.

John Davis
"Its a fine line between being a good capitalist and just being greedy"

In the cooler air-conditioned climate of Harry's Bar, just a few blocks south of Wall Street, senior insurance company executive Doug King, was keen to back President Bush's view of 1990's corporate greed gone wrong.

"Most companies are run in an ethical way. But in all that euphoria, greed became a way of life," he says.

"If you give a guy stock options, then of course he's going to want to keep pushing up those quarterly profits, any which way.


In all that euphoria, greed became a way of life

Doug King

"Corporate chiefs set the standards, and the rest followed. The problem is, you can't change human nature. More regulation won't solve it," said Doug.

Walking back into the narrow confines of Wall Street, bell boys were still clearing away the red carpet and trestle tables outside the hotel where the President took his stand.

A question of trust?

Most of the brokers and traders I asked, had been too busy to actually listen to the speech, but they all knew what was coming.

One Stock Exchange clerk, who identified himself only as Brian, said he had stopped work to take it in.

"Corporate America in the end is about the little guy. That's what it all comes down to. They need to trust us, and take a gamble on us, otherwise it's over," he said.

"We need more regulation, even if it means a bit less profit. Things are tight around here and we can't take any more scandals."

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09 Jul 02 | Business
09 Jul 02 | Americas
09 Jul 02 | Business
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