Fat Cat Strut

Posted on February 1, 2010. Filed under: Public Relations | Tags: , , , , |

“I’m flat broke but I don’t care, I strut right by with my tail in the air.”

 — Stray Cat Strut by the Stray Cats

Wall Street firms have been taking a beating by the public for a good while now – and some of their employees have gotten fed up with it.  Just last week, in fact, a rally was held in New York’s Financial District to mark the formation of restorewallstreet.com, a group devoted to “putting the pride back into Wall Street.”  The group was started by brokers and traders who feel the tone and language used to describe their jobs has been unfair, even childish.

Just how bad has the criticism been? Whether you think it appropriate or childish, one phrase sums up the critique of Wall Street these days: “fat cats.”  According to research using Dow Jones Insight, the term “fat cats” has been used to criticize Wall Street more than 6,000 times in the past three months alone. 

Trend of "fat cats" mentions in the news

Specific events, largely related to President Obama, drove mentions of "fat cats" in the news.

However, looking at the trend above, you can see that even this coverage has been event-driven, rather than persistent and pervasive.  The biggest spike hit in mid-December, due to coverage of President Obama’s call on Wall Street to stop lobbying against regulatory reform and boost lending, and his comments on CBS’s 60 Minutes about “a bunch of fat cat bankers” (Dow Jones Business News, 14 Dec 09). 

In fact, 85 percent of stories that use the phrase “fat cats” mention Obama as well, in many cases quoting the phrase from the President.  However, all mentions of “fat cats” in the news haven’t been expressed devoted to criticizing banks.  President Obama received criticism when coverage of “fat cats” spiked in mid-January, due to a stock market plunge precipitated by President Obama’s seeking a new tax on banks.  “It was the fat cats’ fault before.  But now its becoming Obama’s,” wrote the Bernard Condon and Tim Paradis for the Associated Press (24 Jan 10). 

Companies mentioned most often as "fat cats"

"Fat Cats" Company Index

Which companies earned the inauspicious honor of ranking first in the “fat cats” league table?   Goldman Sachs and Citigroup topped the list.  For Goldman, Obama’s bank plans and public outrage over H1N1 flu shot availability drove mentions, while Citigroup coverage focused on paying back stimulus funds.  Many stories also expressed skepticism that Obama’s proposed plans to regulate the banking system would have any real effect on big banks like Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America.  

It seems that categorizations of the nation’s bankers as “fat cats” may be on the decline, as President Obama receives more criticism about the Main Street effects of his criticism of Wall Street.  Watch this space for updates to the Fat Cats Index.

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