A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 15, 2012
Muppets (derogatory name for financial clients)

"Muppets” are puppets originally created by Jim Henson (1936-1990). Muppet characters are almost universally loved by both children and adults. 

On March 14, 2012, the New York (NY) Times printed an Op-Ed piece by Greg Smith, an executive director at the financial firm of Goldman Sachs, titled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” Smith wrote that he had seen “five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets.’” Although “Muppet” characters are usually viewed favorably, calling financial clients “muppets” (puppets) is a derogatory use of the term. It’s not known when this financial use of “muppet” first began, but the Op-Ed went viral throughout the media, popularizing the “muppet” nickname.

The term “muppet trade” (for “sucker trade") has been used in the United Kingdom since at least 2006.


Wikipedia: The Muppets
The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by “The Muppeteer” legend Jim Henson starting in 1954–55. Although the term is often used to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark owned by Mia Warner in reference to the original characters created by Henson.

Henson has said the word “Muppet” predated the show Sam and Friends. He would sometimes tell people the term had been created by combining the words “marionette” and “puppet”, but he says that it was really just a made-up word.

Wikipedia: Goldman Sachs
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE: GS) is an American multinational bulge bracket investment banking and securities firm that engages in global investment banking, securities, investment management, and other financial services primarily with institutional clients. Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869 and is headquartered at 200 West Street in the Lower Manhattan area of New York City, with additional offices in major international financial centers. The firm provides mergers and acquisitions advice, underwriting services, asset management, and prime brokerage to its clients, which include corporations, governments and individuals. The firm also engages in proprietary trading and private equity deals, and is a primary dealer in the United States Treasury security market.

Former employees include Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson who served as United States Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, as well as Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada since 2008, Mario Draghi, governor of the European Central Bank and Mario Monti, the Italian Prime Minister.

New York (NY) Times
Op-Ed Contributor
Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs
By GREG SMITH
Published: March 14, 2012
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
(...)
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
(...)
Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

MarketWatch
March 14, 2012, 11:05 a.m. EDT
Am I a Goldman Sachs client or a muppet?
Commentary: Former executive rips firm in public resignation

By MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Greg Smith called the reason for his resignation an “integrity problem” at his former firm, but what about Smith himself?

Smith, who quit Wednesday as executive director and head of the U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe, Middle East and Africa for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., unloaded a broadside that — for all of its tangents — will sting the firm for years. Read Smith’s resignation op-ed published in the New York Times.
(...)
The problem for Goldman is that Smith’s main charge rings true. He alleges that the firm has subjugated clients in favor of profits. He relays that Goldman bankers call clients “muppets” and treat them as such. He lays the blame at the feet of Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s CEO, and Blankfein’s top deputy, Gary Cohn.

think-progress
Muppets (n): Goldman Sachs clients, according to Goldman Sachs
Posted 14 hours ago

The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC, March 14, 2012)
Moore talks Goldman Sachs, Muppets
MICHAEL MOORE, filmmaker:
>> yeah. first of all, let me say this. nowhere in america, other than goldman sachs is it considered an insult to call somebody a muppet. these are the most be loved. they are loveable sing about rainbows and give you cookies. nobody hates the muppets but think they it is an an insult to call somebody a muppet. they are going after their own. they are ripping off rich people . and my guess is that tonight there are millions or thousands of rich people asking themselves the question, am i a man or a muppet? so, you have to see the movie.

NYTimes.com—Dealbook
March 14, 2012, 8:09 pm
Name It; Clients Are Called It
By JULIE CRESWELL
(...)
The topic of name-calling on Wall Street landed on the front burner Wednesday after an executive director from Goldman Sachs, on his last day at the company, wrote an Op-Ed column in The New York Times in which he said that the investment bank often derided its customers as “Muppets.”
(...)
But it is hard to top Wall Street for dark humor. In an e-mail, a former Wall Street stock broker, who is now independent and did not want to be identified, said clients were often described as “pikers” (small fish), “marks” (easy prey) or “pawns” (will do anything asked no matter how ridiculous).

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Thursday, March 15, 2012 • Permalink