Twenty years ago, the World Trade Center—the heart of New York’s financial district—was attacked by terrorists hellbent on destroying America. When New York was attacked, we were all attacked. We mourned together. In the aftermath of that tragedy, thousands of young men and women, including me, signed up to make sure it would never happen again. Thousands lost their lives.
I know, because I was there, in Iraq and Afghanistan, where two of my fellow Marines in our Special Operations Task force were killed in 2014.
There’s been much written recently about our wars and about 9/11. But today I want to turn my attention toward you, Wall Street. When America was attacked and New York was attacked, you were attacked and we stood with you.
But then, Wall Street, you spent 20 years undermining our national security and betraying us, the very people who spent the last 20 years risking our lives in the War on Terror.
I was an active duty Marine for 13 of those years, spending the last four at the Pentagon. I had direct insight into how our military works at the highest levels. The more I saw, the clearer it became: Wall Street sold out our men and women in uniform for profit.
I witnessed this firsthand in 2011, between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The American people had just come to your rescue, bailing you out after you gambled away our economy. Yet, again and again, the same Marines and soldiers who had signed up to defend you in the wake of 9/11 came to me begging for help as you illegally foreclosed on them in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. You didn’t care. You threw the people who put their lives on the line out onto the street in the middle of a war, in violation of the law. I had to fight you every step of the way as you squeezed them for profit.
You put money over Marines.
Then there were companies like iRobot. Most people know it as the maker of the Roomba, but the company was built on a foundation of taxpayer R&D funds that the Pentagon pumped into it to build robots to help the troops. It was a beautiful partnership, leading to the PackBot, a robot that saved soldiers from improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Until Wall Street came in and broke it up. A former Goldman Sachs executive saw an opportunity for his hedge fund to make a quick buck. He bought some stock and used it to attack the founders of iRobot for their efforts to serve the troops. He described iRobot’s research in support of our troops as “egregious and abusive” behavior toward shareholders, and ran them out of the defense business.
Vice Admiral Joseph Dyer, an iRobot executive, met with a Wall Street analyst who was pushing him to get out of the business of supporting our troops. He asked the analyst “What about patriotism?”
The reply: “Joe, what is it about capitalism you don’t understand?”
You put profit over patriotism.
The American people have a right to know the way Wall Street supports companies like TransDigm, the “Martin Shkreli of defense contracting.” In the same way Shkreli bought de facto monopoly rights over obscure medicines and jacked the prices up to obscene levels, TransDigm purchases monopoly positions on aircraft parts and robs the taxpayer for profit. If the Pentagon balks at the price, the company gives it a choice: pay the price, or your service members will. They hold military missions and lives hostage for profit, and who supports them?
You do, Wall Street. Your analysts tout TransDigm’s monopoly position and what a “great business” it is for extracting wealth from service members and the public. Major banks such as Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Citi, UBS, Barclays, Credit Agricole CIB, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and Royal Bank of Canada make money financing TransDigm’s debt, and hedge funds and institutional investors are its major shareholders.
TransDigm is just one among many. The Pentagon has stated unequivocally that one of the greatest threats to our military is Wall Street’s “business climate that has favored short-term shareholder earnings (versus long-term capital investment), deindustrialization, and an abstract, radical vision of ‘free trade,’ without fair trade enforcement.”
The harmful practices, championed by nearly every hedge fund and investment bank, have severely damaged America’s ability to defend itself today and in the future.
Wall Street has preached a set of practices that have fundamentally changed our national security for the worse. Rich executives’ deadly focus on profits above all else has actively contributed to the deaths of American service members. They have proven time and time again over these last twenty years that they don’t care about us.
So here’s my message to you, Wall Street:
Stop putting money over Marines and profit over patriotism. Stop killing our troops.
If you give a single damn about the service members who joined in your honor, to defend you, now would be the time to show it.