18 July 2005

"Some people are just into lavish dwarf entertainment."

When I say that I can't remember the specifics of my bachelor party, this should not be inferred as a criticism of my friends who participated -- far from it. It was just one of those events which was fun at the time but which fades from memory over the years, like the bar exam. I won't even try to remember it in coming years, however, as it and all other bachelor parties have now been officially eclipsed by the Mother of All Bachelor Parties ($ubscription required, unfortunately):
Even by Wall Street's over-the-top standards, the March 2003 bachelor party for Thomas Bruderman, a onetime star trader for Fidelity Investments, was an event to remember.

The festivities began with a trip by private jet from Boston to a small airport outside New York City. There, the revelers picked up some Wall Street traders and at least two women who investigators suspect may have been paid for their attendance, say people familiar with the matter. The partygoers -- including the groom-to-be, who was getting ready to marry the daughter of former Tyco International Ltd. boss L. Dennis Kozlowski -- then continued to trendy South Beach in Miami. The fun included a stay at the ritzy Delano Hotel for some, a yacht cruise and entertainment by at least one dwarf hired for the occasion.

"Some people are just into lavish dwarf entertainment," says the 4-foot-2 Danny Black, a part-owner in Shortdwarf.com, an outfit that rents dwarfs for parties starting at $149 an hour. Mr. Black says he spent part of the weekend on the yacht and worked as a waiter on the Friday night at a high-end Miami eatery alongside what he called "regular size" people. "A good time was had by all," he said, declining to provide further details.

But what really made this a memorable party is that it is now a focus of an investigation into possibly improper gratuities from Wall Street trading firms eager to get Fidelity's business. The National Association of Securities Dealers and the Securities and Exchange Commission are examining which Wall Street firms kicked in money for the weekend party. So far, at least three firms have been embroiled in the investigation. Jefferies Group Inc. paid for the plane, SG Cowen & Co. paid for the yacht, and Lazard Capital Markets paid for some of the hotel rooms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, the party now figures into a broader criminal investigation by federal prosecutors. The U.S. attorney in Boston has impaneled a grand jury to determine whether some of the money flowing from brokerage firms to Fidelity was used to pay for prostitutes and drugs at the party and other events, according to people familiar with the matter. Among other things, investigators are trying to determine if Lazard paid for prostitutes at the bachelor party, the people say.

I can honestly say that when I got out of bed this morning, "lavish", "dwarf", and "entertainment" are three words I did not expect to see in the same sentence before 9 a.m. The rest of the day is downhill from here.

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