Friday, December 20, 2013

1268 What a Figure!

1268 What a Figure!

How much is your life worth?  In dollars.  There aren’t real standards for this kind of thing.  But now we have something of an idea.  And the figure is $205,000 and change.  

Let’s be a little more specific.  205-thousand, 167 thousand dollars and 17 cents.

Where’d that come from?

It came from the settlement reached between American Airlines and Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm with the single largest number of civilian deaths in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Twelve years after the fact. Nine years after the start of the suits.

Here are the ugly figures.  The settlement: $135 million.
The number of Cantor Fitzgerald employees who died: 658 (out of about 1,000.)

Before anyone gets a penny, the settlement goes to federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein, a Clinton nominee from 1998 and now with senior status.  His decision is due -- nominally -- on January 13, a Monday. There isn’t a lot of doubt that he’ll sign off on it.

Now, since companies can’t sue each other for wrongful death, where does this money go?  To the relatives and estates of the victims.

Cantor’s position was and is that American should have prevented the hijackings.  
And is AA ready to pay with a smile and a “thank you, sorry about that?”  Nope.

American says it was the government’s job to prevent the attacks.

Oh.  You mean the company that has long been a leading opponent of  regulation is telling us the government has an actual function and failed at it?

“Not our job.”

Don’t cry for the airline.  The money comes from the insurance companies.  But don’t for a minute think that those policies include “accident forgiveness.”  There’ll be a newly drafted premium bill any day now, and it’s going to be almost as ugly as the corporate response.

And the families?  When the dust settles, they’ll each walk away with a few bucks.  And that’s not much of a trade off for the lives of the victims.

Let’s not wax sentimental about what great guys the people of Cantor are or were.  It took CEO Howard Lutnick only days to stop the paychecks of the dead.

Lutnick had a lousy reputation on the street.  Pushy, punk-bully 40 year old.  He didn’t die that day because he was late to work.  Had to drop his kid off at off at school.

Why didn’t he just pack it in and go out of business?  He told the newspapers “We had to keep going.” And going he kept, along the way providing ten years of health insurance for the families and a good chunk of the profits.
So, Lutnick is a flawed hero, but a hero nonetheless.


--So just what IS Cantor Fitzgerald, anyway?  It’s basically a middleman between people who want to buy US Treasury bonds and one of only 21 companies authorized to deal directly with the fed.  They do other things, too… but bond trading is the main deal.

--This should not be big news to you.  Everything on Wall Street is a middle man and many are middlemen between middlemen.  Makes you wonder what, after commissions, your investments really cost.

--Target was the target and 40 million of us may have had our credit and debit accounts “compromised,” as they put it.  That means someone may have your credit card number, its expiration date and the security code on the back.  A real confidence builder, this.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

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