I arrived in Washington DC on January 27th, and one by one I met the men and women who had gathered on that cold winter night at the Dubliner Restaurant in the Phoenix Park Hotel. It was an apropos spot for a meeting of like-minded individuals committed to a cause. We were gathered at two long tables in a room off to the side of the main bar. It felt like a room where a friendly town hall meeting might take place. Each person in attendance was willing to spend the next two days standing on a sidewalk as the wind whipped off the imposing glass edifice of the Washington DC headquarters of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), adding a sharp wind chill to the already frigid temperatures. They were here protesting the injustice of manipulative and deceptive trading practices, including naked shorting. These practices are just the tip of the iceberg for a broader systemic problem facing a corrupted financial services industry and had impacted every person in the room.
Grassroots movements like Occupy SEC 2023 and CEOBLOC are a double-edged sword. While the community aspect of these movements is key to creating the authenticity necessary to effect change, it is also the greatest obstacle to ultimate success. Success for a movement such as ours meant not focusing on the things that divide us but staying focused on the stories that unite us. One by one, I heard everyone’s stories, each very different in many ways, but always the same in one. The 99% were getting abused by the 1%.
The financial system is broken and it is time to hold those behind the curtains accountable for the damage they have done. The greed on Wall Street goes deeper than most of us realize. I have watched it my whole life. My biggest weakness was my numbness to it all. Good people are fighting over lies. I ask myself how we as a society, as a country, let this all happen?
The battle against the corruption of Wall Street became personal for me when, as a Chairman and CEO of a Nasdaq-listed company, I couldn't protect the investors in my company. We are a small New York City technology company, which has been fighting to survive for the last three years against extremely challenging headwinds, including abusive trading practices damaging the value of Creatd’s stock.
The underlying greed that had become a systemic part of doing business on Wall Street and, in particular the publicly traded stock markets, shocked me, and even then I wasn’t yet sure how to fight back. I hadn’t found my voice. I was truly overwhelmed by the extent to which any purpose of a collective good had given way to an exploitation of the weak by the strong.
Much like the people I met at the protest, I started to tell my story to anyone that would listen. It was the beginning of an ongoing recovery process. Soon, many people were telling their stories. Many of their companies would not recover. We consoled each other with tales of our financial battles. We left all of our differences at the door and listened. There was no single race, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, economic status, or political party that defined this community; there was just a spirit of camaraderie as we united around a common cause. Our diversity was forgotten as we embraced the common hurt that we all felt at having been betrayed by a system we had been taught to trust. Finally, together we are beginning to be heard.
Now we need a revolution in the stock market. We need radical change. And as in all revolutions, those corrupted by power will yield when the strength of the crowd overwhelms them. That strength is built upon each of us telling our stories.