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Top 5 cultural references Wall Streeters use when ripping people off

February 6, 2013: 12:10 PM ET

Wall Street is stuck in the 80s.

FORTUNE -- Libor fixing and a spate of other recent cases against financial firms have once again raised the question of whether the culture of Wall Street is corrupt. It may not always be clear, but what's obvious from the legal complaints is that Wall Street's cultural references are behind the times.

1. Talking Heads

burning_down_the_houseAccording to the DOJ civil suit against Standard & Poor's, an analyst at the firm, after reviewing S&P's ratings on 2006 mortgage bonds, wrote a parody of the Talking Heads song "Burning Down the House," mocking the subprime mortgage bonds that the firm rated highly. The title: Bringing down the house. First verse:

Watch out

Housing market went softer

Cooling down

Strong market is now much weaker

Subprime is boi-ling o-ver

Bringing down the house

Weird Al, your job is safe.

2. Muppets

statler_waldorf_muppetsIn his op-ed, Why I Quit Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith said that traders at Goldman regularly referred to their clients as muppets. They also talked about ripping clients' eyes out, which is less adorable.

3. Captain Chaos

captain_chaosOne of the nicknames UBS's libor traders used for each other when they were fixing rates was Captain Chaos, the lovable alter-ego of Dom DeLuise in the Cannonball Run movies. Not clear why. Libor fixing didn't appear to have taken much super strength, just a phone call or an e-mail and a dated nickname. Dun dun Dunnn.

4. Mike Tyson's Punchout

mike_tyson_punch-outAccording to e-mails uncovered in a suit against Morgan Stanley (MS), investment bankers at the firm considered naming a mortgage bond that ended up going bust after the 1980s video game Mike Tyson's Punchout. Other names put forth for consideration were nuclear holocaust, subprime meltdown and shitbag. They went with STACK 2006-1. Good choice.

5. Trading Places

trading_placesAccording to the DOJ suit filed Tuesday, an analyst at S&P made a reference to the famous Eddie Murphy and Dan Akyroyd film that featured Chicago's commodities trading pits in describing what it was like at S&P in 2007 as the highly-rated mortgage bonds fell in value. The analyst wrote an investment banker, "You should see how it is here right now. It's like a friggin' trading floor. 'Downgrade, Mortimer, downgrade!!!'" Not feeling so good, Billy Ray!!!

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About This Author
Stephen Gandel
Stephen Gandel

Stephen Gandel has covered Wall Street and investing for over 15 years. He joins Fortune from sister publication TIME, where he was a senior business writer and lead blogger for The Curious Capitalist. He has also held positions at Money and Crain's New York Business. Stephen is a four-time winner of the Henry R. Luce Award. His work has also been recognized by the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the New York State Society of CPA and the Association of Area Business Publications. He is a graduate of Washington University, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

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