Why would BofA pick a "let them eat cake" strategy? The
timing certainly couldn't have been better for the Occupy Wall Street folks.
They seized on the debit card fees, and feeling the pressure, BofA nixed its
plan earlier this week. Chase, Wells Fargo and others also canceled plans to
charge debit-card fees. The protesters have vowed to close accounts with
fee-charging institutions, designating November 5 as "Bank Transfer Day."
Wall Street may have started small, but it spread like a brush fire. The first
protests sprang up in New York, then quickly spread to San Francisco, Los
Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and to Europe, Asia, and the Americas. According to
OccupyTogether.org, "meetups" are currently taking place in more than 1,500 cities.
similarities between Zuccotti Park and Tahrir Square are striking: people
living in tents for weeks; peaceful protests occasionally turning violent; demonstrations
spreading to other cities; an upper class unable to empathize with the
frustrations of the protesters; anger at a privileged group that receives
favorable treatment from the government; the dismissal of the disaffected as a
radical fringe group; and a protest empowered by the Internet.
surprises me most is Wall Street's failure to appreciate the power of the
Internet. If you make a great proportion of your profits by leveraging the
Internet in the financial world, why wouldn't you be concerned about others
using its leverage to spread their frustrations?
the Internet that the financial world has to thank for the explosion of financial
services industry and its ability to generate immense profits. Without the
Internet it would be impossible to trade $4 trillion in currencies every day; high-frequency
trading, which now accounts for almost two-thirds of stock trading volume, could
not exist without Internet-facilitated information flows.
what lessons should Wall Street have learned about Internet-driven protests
from Tahrir Square and its own experiences with the Internet?
in a highly connected environment, even a small group can spread an economic or
thought contagion. Wall Street firms, as well as most citizens, were victims of
the financial contagions that spread throughout the world economy during the
2008 Financial Crisis. As Timothy Geithner recently observed, "This
interconnectedness is not a trivial issue; even a relatively small country could
threaten the world financial system."
true for a small country could be true for a small group.
second lesson is that the little people -- let's call them the $5-a-month people
-- now have a powerful collective voice. Regis McKenna, the Silicon Valley
public relations guru, once told me, "Never pick a fight with someone who
buys ink by the barrel."
little guys are now leveraging barrels of virtual ink, while directing the
application of the real ink as well. According to a Pew report, recent anti-Wall
Street protests accounted for 7 percent of news coverage -- almost twice the
level of coverage devoted to the war in Afghanistan.