“I’m on a crusade here,” said Dylan Ratigan, the host and co-creator of CNBC’s kinetic investment roundtable Fast Money. “I’m all worked up.”
As the catastrophe in the financial sector has subsumed the headlines and thrust the American taxpayer into the thicket of Wall Street arcana, Ratigan and his colleagues at the financial news network have approached their jobs with renewed passion.
And so it was fortuitous that last Friday Fast Money was the last of four national forays out of the show’s usual studio at the NASDAQ in Times Square. There have already been pilgrimages to Miami , Chicago and San Jose. This time, Ratigan and company didn’t have to go far. They were set up at Jazz at Lincoln Center ’s Allen Room with its sweeping glass wall and lovely views of Columbus Circle and Central Park, where they faced a live audience – some of them investors; all of them taxpayers and many understandably aggrieved.
One of them was Michael Chiklis.
The star of The Shield appeared in the audience and during a web-only Q&A session after the live program and wondered if Wall Street had simply become a “ponzi scheme.”
“I’m a value guy,” he said, appropriating Ratigan’s microphone. “How do you assess value when there’s no transparency and the floor keeps moving?”
Jeff Macke, one of the experts on the Fast Money panel - who was wearing a hot pink tie that matched his ears - for once seemed at a loss for words.
Chiklis continued: “How can we incentivize people to be thieves?”
Ratigan whispered something in Chiklis’ ear after which the actor amiably relinquished the microphone. Chiklis is a loyal CNBC viewer and Fast Money fan, he said later. He was in New York to promote his new movie Eagle Eye and was staying at the Mandarian Hotel, which is in the same Columbus Circle high-rise as the AllenRoom. He switched on the TV, he said, “Fast Money comes on and I look and I go, wait a minute, that’s my view.”
He took the elevator down to the theater and talked his way into a front row seat. Later, he agreed to tape an on-air promo for CNBC.
The show included an appearance by billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn, who took a seat between Ratigan and Karen Finerman (who has a well publicized crush on Icahn).
Icahn regaled the panel and the audience with Borscht Belt shtick including a rant about the “moron” CEOs who spend money on corporate jets and $3,000 rounds of golf while their companies are circling the drain.
Icahn’s fury was in tune with Main Street populism as lawmakers spent last week hammering out the details of the government’s $700 billion bailout package - the major sticking point of which was the assurance that the taxpayer-funded rescue package would not include golden parachutes for irresponsible CEOs.
“Capitalism works because greed is balanced out by fear,” said Ratigan. “If the taxpayers don’t get mad, we’re doomed.”
It seems everyone is sufficiently miffed.