The 17 Nastiest Feuds In Wall Street History

Jay Ghould and Cornelius Vanderbilt

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On Friday, everyone across Wall Street was absolutely transfixed when hedge fund titans Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn, who have been notoriously feuding for a decade now, went head-to-head on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.”The insults were flying with Icahn calling Ackman a “crybaby in the schoolyard” and dropping curse words left and right.  Ackman, who refrained from using profanity, mostly called Icahn dishonest and not a nice person.

The best part, though, was that you could hear the floor brokers and market-makers at the New York Stock Exchange oohing in the background as the epic battle of the billionaires played out.  

Of course, Icahn and Ackman aren’t the first to fight on Wall Street.

With big money and reputations at stake, it’s no surprise that disagreements and quarrels have broken out in the world of high finance.

Sometimes the fights are between bank execs and fund managers and other times the financial media and politicians get pulled into it, too. 

What’s more is the fights between high-powered individuals tend to get thrown into the public spotlight.

We’ve rounded up some of the best feuds in financial industry. Who doesn’t like a good knock-down, drag out?

Dan Loeb vs. Ken Griffin

In 2005, Citadel founder Griffin's poaching of New York hedge fund employees caught the eye of Third Point's Dan Loeb. Griffin, who charges a higher management fee than traditional hedge funders, was allegedly luring the employees away with offers of higher salaries.

Loeb, who is known for his scathing letters to CEOs when he feels that companies he has invested in are not doing well, took up his poison pen and wrote Griffin a scathing letter. In it, he called Citadel a 'gulag' and forbade him from approaching any Third Point employees under any circumstances. He also told Griffin matter of factly that Citadel was 'over-rated' and that Griffin does not know how to manage people.

Here's our favourite bit from the letter:

I understand your need to hire employees from other firms, something that Third Point has not had to do based on the fact that, unlike yourself, I actually enjoy and have talent in investing and am able to nurture others within my organisation whom I hire from wide ranging disciplines such as graduate schools, private equity firms and medicine.

Source: Insider Monkey

Cornelius Vanderbilt vs. Jay Gould

Financiers Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt engaged in one of the most epic feuds dubbed the 'Erie war' in an effort to control Erie Railroad.

In 1868, Gould, a railroad developer who was a member of the board of directors for the company, teamed up with his co-conspirators James Frisk and Daniel Drew to issue a bunch of fraudulent shares of the Erie Railroad's stock.

He was able to legalise his actions by bribing legislators in Albany.

This ended up watering down the stock price causing Vanderbilt to lose about $7 million.

Gould later returned most of that money back, but Vanderbilt lost his attempt to control the company.

Source: Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Source: notablebiographies.com

Bill Gross vs. Jeremy Stiegel

In August 2012, bond king Bill Gross took a few shots at Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel in an investment letter explaining why stocks are going to be horrible investments.

Siegel later appeared on CNBC and explained how Gross's analysis was wrong.

He also appeared on Bloomberg TV and pointed out that Gross had called for the DOW to fall to 5,000 back in 2002 over the next 10 years but that it was at about 13,000.

Gross appeared on Bloomberg TV shortly after that and fired back with, 'Well Professor Siegel is getting a little nasty here but it seems like the gloves are off.'

What's more is in response to Siegel pointing out that Gross's analysis was off when he looked at the hundred year time frame for the 6.6% return, Gross responded with, 'Well Professor Siegel's Ivory Tower again lacks common sense. If wealth is created at 3 per cent a year in terms of GDP and that wealth is divided as it always is by government, by labour, and by business in the form of corporate profits, then its hard to see how one element corporation and stocks can continue to 3 per cent more than real GDP going forward, and that's common sense.'

Bill Ackman vs. Carl Icahn

It started with a 'forgettable' deal in 2004, and became a famous feud that spanned seven years and racked up millions in dollars in lawyer fees between two activist investors.

In 2003, when Ackman's former investment firm was in trouble and he was being investigated by the SEC, he cold-called Icahn and asked him to buy his shares of Hallwood Realty, a real estate company trading for about $60, but Ackman said was worth $140. Icahn agreed to buy the shares for $80, with a deal that he would split the profit with Ackman if he sold the shares within 3 years. When Hallwood merged with another company for $137/share in 2004, Ackman called Icahn for his share of the profit. Well, Icahn reasoned that he didn't sell the shares in the merger even though he did not own them anymore.

A legal battle ensued with poisonous words, where Ackman called Icahn a 'shakedown artist' whose word was 'useless' and also convinced another investor to refuse Icahn's money.

Ackman ultimately won the fight, and Icahn paid out $9 million.

Source: Dealbook

A decade later...

They're still fighting!

Just last Friday, Ackman was invited on CNBC to respond to some criticism he recieved from Icahn on Bloomberg TV the previous day over his Herbalife short.

Minutes into the segment, Icahn called in on live television to confront Ackman directly.

'I'm telling you he's like a crybaby in the schoolyard. I went to a tough school in Queens you know and they used to beat up the little Jewish boys. He was like one of the little Jewish boys crying that the world is taking advantage of him...' Icahn said when Ackman called him up in 2003, adding 'You rue the day I ever met the guy.'

'This is not an honest guy who keeps his word,' Ackman fired back later.

Hugh Hendry vs. Joe Stiglitz

U.K. hedge fund manager Hugh Hendry, a partner and chief investment officer Eclectica Asset Management, has a reputation for his spirited media appearances.

Back in 2010, Hendry duked it out with professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz on BBC's Newsnight.

During the exchange, Stiglitz said that betting on a default was absurd and that's what Hendry was betting would happen in Greece.

Hendry then said, 'Um hello? Can I tell you about the real world?' (Watch it here)

Maria Bartiromo vs. Barney Frank

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) appeared on CNBC's 'Closing Bell' with Maria Bartiromo to talk about Sandy Weill's call to break up the big banks and it was not pretty.

Their conversation changed to the Volcker Rule and subsequently prop trading.

Maria said, 'So you're going to leave it to the banks to tell you this is proprietary trading or this is proprietary trading?'

Frank went off and said, 'Maria, if you want to have a serious conversation without mocking me...'

And when she got to the fiscal cliff issue asking when are the adults going to enter the room, Frank really went off:

'I don't take kindly to being called a non-adult. You know, you remind me sometimes of what your colleague Joe Kernen said when I tried to get the conversation more thoughtful ... he said, 'Oh this is cable TV, not C-SPAN' ... I want to talk seriously about the issues ... you keep changing the subject.'

Maria Bartiromo vs. Eliot Spitzer

Former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Maria Bartiromo had an unbelievably intense interview on CNBC's 'Closing Bell' last month.

The interview turned ugly when the subject changed to Hank Greenberg, whom Spitzer pursued as New York AG.

When Spitzer dropped the word 'fraud' Bartiromo called him out. He replied, 'Facts matter Maria... I know this is cable TV, but facts matter.'

However, it was when Spitzer asked Bartiromo if she read a document that things got crazy and he said, 'You are under oath right now!... I am being very serious right now...'

Bartiromo responded with, 'I am not under oath with you.... I am not in your courtroom, you are on my show!'

Paul Krugman vs. Joe Kernen

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman was on CNBC's 'Squawk Box' to discuss his book, but the hosts seemed more interested in his view of the government's role in the economy.

After his appearance, Krugman blogged the following: (emphasis ours)

...I just did Squawk Box -- allegedly about my book, but we never got there. Instead it was one zombie idea after another -- Europe is collapsing because of big government, health care is terribly rationed in France, we can save lots of money by denying Medicare to billionaires, on and on.

Among other things, people getting their news from sources like that are probably getting terrible advice about any kind of investment that depends on macroeconomics. But it's amazing just how skewed the policy views are too....

Kernen later fired back on Twitter with 'Krugman blogs 'Zombies on CNBC' after interview. Dismissed every fact he didn't like as myth.

Felix Salmon vs. Anthony Scaramucci

Back in 2009, Reuters' Felix Salmon wrote a blog last fall called 'Anthony Scaramucci's sleazy sales pitch'.

Salmon accused Scaramucci, who runs Skybridge Capital, of being a fake TV hedge fund manager and a self-promoter who uses a 'fake-it-till-you-make-it approach' among other jibes.

Scaramucci said he tried to get Salmon fired twice.

They seem to have turned it into more friendlier banter these days.

Jon Corzine vs. Hank Paulson

It's no secret that Corzine, who served as Goldman Sachs CEO from 1994 to 1999, was ousted from his position by then-COO Hank Paulson. Paulson later served in Goldman's top spot until 2006, when he left to become Treasury Secretary for President George W. Bush.

But when Paulson and Corzine ruled Goldman together, a civil war brewed between the two that made their reign at the bank an 'unmitigated disaster,' as Goldman chronicler Bill Cohan wrote. A lot of enmity stemmed from a class of personalities, and Paulson was often irritated by Corzine's ambitions to make the firm bigger.

Source: Vanity Fair

Jamie Dimon vs. Mark Carney

The JP Morgan head's tiff with Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney started when Dimon lashed out at Carney when the Canadian expressed he was in favour of more stringent Basel III regulations during a private meeting at a International Monetary Fund Conference in Washington D.C. last September.

According to witnesses, Dimon 'launched a tirade' against Carney, calling the regulations discriminative against Americans.

Turns out, there's also a chance negative sentiment between the two may have begun brewing in 2010, when Carney used a quip alluding to Dimon and his daughter at a public speech in Berlin.

Source: Financial Times

David Einhorn vs. Bruce Berkowitz

The battle between David Einhorn and Bruce Berkowitz began over Florida land developer St. Joe.

At an investment conference in 2010, Einhorn had publicized a short position he had in the company, believing the struggling company was overvalued.

He said he had emailed Berkowitz, who was a huge fan of the stock, if he would debate him. Berkowitz didn't respond.

That is until an SEC filing was released showing that he upped his stake in St. Joe to 29% as soon as the news broke that Einhorn was short the stock.

Christine Lagarde vs. Bob Diamond

The current IMF chief and now former Barclays CEO had an infamous tussle at the World Economic Forum in 2011, when the two disagreed over the Eurozone crisis.

Diamond said he believed the crisis would continue to progress, while Lagarde--then France's Finance Minister--said she believed the area had stabilised.

Lagarde openly confronted Diamond with an 'I disagree' said pointedly to the then-Barclays head during a panel.

A year later, we all know who was ultimately right.

Source: WSJ

Jamie Dimon vs. Sandy Weill

The relationship between JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and former Citigroup head Sandy Weill has been called one of the 'most complicated personal relationships in modern American capitalism.'

The two began working together when Weill convinced Dimon to come work for him at American Express after business school over Goldman Sachs because he would have 'more fun.' Together, the two were credited with building the Citigroup banking empire together. But it all came to a halt when Dimon left Citigroup abruptly.

Weill and Dimon have both confirmed that Dimon was fired. It seemed there was a clash of personalities near the end of Dimon's tenure at Citi, as Weill felt that Dimon was becoming over ambitious.

Source: CNN Money

Wing Chau vs. Michael Lewis & Steve Eisman

Wing Chau, the founder Harding Advisory LLC, sued Michael Lewis and Steve Eisman over the book 'The Big Short' in 2011. He claimed that Lewis' book about the 2008 mortgage market crash 'falsely depicts him as one of the 'villains' behind the U.S. financial crisis.'

The lawsuit points to a passage that depicted a conversation between him and Eisman--told from Eisman's point of view.

In BI's opinion, though, 'The Big Short' really made Chau seem like a dummy--because he was the one buying up the subprime mortgage CDOs that many hedge funders were shorting and made billions off of.

Source: WSJ

Donald Trump vs. Carl Icahn

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