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July 8, 2008

Extreme Wealth Just Isn't Enough

-- by Dave Johnson

Part One of the unfolding story was about the vulnerability of the elderly -- perfect targets for exploitation.

In Part One the Bermuda-based (HA!) "buyout" firm Lazard, LLC. set up Atria Senior Living which an "affiliated entity" owns.

Atria houses seniors, and collects a monthly fee, which ends up in Lazard's (affiliated) bottom line. ... Atria has been reducing services, raising rates, cutting wages, and generally treating the residents and employees like money trees that exist to be squeezed.
Part Two is about extreme wealth.

At Atria the seniors are captive, the services are cut, the rates are increased and the employees paid as low as possible. You see, there's always a waiting list of elderly people who need "memory care"' or assistance taking showers. These are the lucky duckies who have some money to pay to live at a place like Atria; there are few choices and if you don't have the money in America you are on your own. (Imagine being too old to even be able to shower by yourself but not have enough money to even pay an Atria. Welcome to today's "free market" America.)

The money is squeezed in ever greater amounts. And at the top of this food chain is a guy: Bruce Wasserstein. It seems he just has to have more and more and more. Already extremely wealthy, it just isn't enough. It's never enough and it seems the more you get the more you need. You need it bad enough to squeeze more and more money out of old people too frail to even shower without help. You need to so bad that you keep the wages of people as low as you can and you do everything in your power to keep them from forming a union. You need that money. You need that money. You need that money. And you do what you have to do to get even more.

Bruce Wasserstein, is Chairman and CEO of Lazard. Wasserstein was paid more than $42 million for the year 2007, a year when Lazard’s stock lost more than 14% of its value. He then signed a new five-year contract with Lazard worth more than $100 (not counting bonuses). So far this year their stock has dropped almost 10%.

Wasserstein and Lazard just have to have more and more. Elderly people who can't take care of themselves and low-wage workers are weak and vulnerable. Does this mean that we as a community of people join together and protect them? No, this makes them an easy target in today's America, so Wasserstein and Lazard have stepped in to harvest this vulnerability. They just have to have more. Already extremely wealthy, they just have to have more.

See the Brave New Films video, Gouging Grandma: Billionaire Bruce Wasserstein:

Bruce Wasserstein is the chairman and chief executive officer of Lazard, Ltd. and Lazard Group. He buys companies, cuts costs, and drives up their value—often for a quick profit at the expense of customers, consumers and workers. He is worth more than $2 billion.

Wasserstein and Lazard need to get their greed under control, take responsibility for their own actions and their own greed, stop cutting services and raising rates at Atria, and allow the employees to unionize.

This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

Posted by Dave Johnson at July 8, 2008 12:24 PM

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