William Cohan’s “House of Cards” makes the case that insiders at Bear Stearns began to agitate for the removal of the firm’s long time boss Jimmy Cayne after Wall Street Journal reporter Kate Kelly reported he had smoked pot in the bathroom during a bridge tournament. The idea was the by this point Cayne had become a public embarrassment in the eyes of his underlings.
Now, in a rather strange article, Janet Tavokoli—who herself once worked at Bear Stearns—asks whether Jimmy Cayne’s alleged sexism killed Bear Stearns. She doesn’t exactly spell out how this could be. At one point she seems to imply that more women might have prevented the disaster. But the focus of her piece is on some decades old remarks Cayne allegedly made to M magazine years ago.
In late 1989, Jimmy Cayne, former president and chief executive officer of Bear Stearns, told the now-defunct M magazine that Wall Street, like bridge, is not a game for women. Cayne alleged women can’t take the pressure and that a woman will “probably have to go to the ladies’ room and dab her eyes.” Grand Master Judi Radin, James Cayne’s female bridge coach at the time, was probably surprised to hear it. [Cayne later denied that the quotes were accurate, but reporter Duncan Christy claimed they were “meticulously accurate.”]
She then describes Kelly’s take down of Cayne. It almost seems—no, it does seem that Tavokoli is saying Kelly was motivated to go after Cayne because of his alleged sexism. Tavokoli says she has spoken with Kelly.
We’d find it shocking if Kelly was really motivated by some kind of feminist hunt for Cayne. She’s a great reporter who does fantastic work. We doubt she’s the kind of ideologue that Tavokoli seems to be implying he is.
Then again, maybe we’re just reading too much into the incoherence of Tavokoli’s argument. But if she isn’t saying Cayne went down because his remarks motivated a feminist to dig dirt, we can’t figure out what she’s saying at all.