In the meantime, Amazon's "frugality" has come under fire as its warehouse workers complain of being driven to complete more tasks faster, giving up even bathroom breaks in order to meet algorithmically determined productivity quotas; as it's unregulated delivery drivers have caused injuries and deaths trying to get packages delivered on accelerated schedules; and as its online vendors complain that Amazon restricts their ability to compete and undercuts them when they are successful. It is easy to glorify the virtue of thrift when you stand to profit by it. Bezos is a libertarian who believes Amazon's only responsibility is to pay employees for the time they work. That has made him a lot of money. His net worth is now about $114 billion, but only because he gave $36 billion to his ex-wife in the wake of his now much-publicized affair.
What does he do with it, he being so frugal and all? In Franklin Foer's Atlantic article, it all goes back to Star Trek. Bezos's high school girlfriend was quoted as saying, "the reason he's earning so much money is to get to outer space." In his valedictorian's speech from high school, he unveiled his vision of earthlings colonizing space, and to turn the planet to a huge national park. https://www.theatlantic.com/press-releases/archive/2019/10/november-2019-issue-release/599809/. All that, of course, is pure Star Trek. It's no surprise that one of Bezos's prized possessions is an old uniform worn by Patrick Stewart portraying Jean-Luc Picard. Picard, according to the articles, is Bezos's hero. The name of this first startup was makeitso.com. This hero worship has gone to the absurd point where Bezos has been spending time in the gym to bulk up, and shaved his head so that he now even looks like Jean-Luc. We should see him in his Starfleet uniform soon.
Of the country's five top billionaires, Bezos is the only one not to have signed Warren Buffett's and Bill Gates's "giving pledge." Bezos is redirecting his charity. He spends $1 billion a year out of his own fortune to finance his space company, Blue Origin. Bezos calls Blue Origin, which provides "infrastructure for extraterrestrial voyage," his "most important work." He still has visions of getting folks off the home planet and into space colonies. He is still a teen nerd at heart. God bless him.
Yes, it's all a little mad, but there's method in it. Amazon's business is built on the idea of a private value-added tax. Amazon wants to provide logistics for basically everyone and everything, collecting a vig on the vast array of transactions, big and small, that flow through its doors. Amazon's goal is to increase that flow. A colony somewhere out in the expanse, where you must buy everything, including the very air you breathe, is Amazon's ideal environment. That's the way Bezos imagines it. As Jonathan Foer puts it, the would-be Jean-Luc Picard "has built a business that better resembles Picard's archenemy, the Borg." And yet, for all our criticism and concern, Amazon remains so alluringly convenient that resistance is indeed futile. I fear we're stuck with it until a real replicator comes along. Enjoy your raktajino.
Aegis J. Frumento Stern Tannenbaum & Bell
Co-Head, Financial Markets Practice
380 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10168
Aegis Frumento is a partner of Stern Tannenbaum & Bell, and co-heads the firm's Financial Markets Practice. Mr. Frumento represents persons and businesses in all aspects of commercial, corporate and securities matters and dispute resolution (including trials and arbitrations); SEC and FINRA regulated firms and persons on regulatory compliance issues and in SEC and FINRA enforcement investigations and proceedings; and senior executives of public corporations personal securities law and corporate governance matters. Mr. Frumento also represents clients in forming and registering broker-dealers and registered investment advisers, in developing compliance policies, procedures and controls, and in adopting proper disclosure documents. Those now include industry professionals looking to adapt blockchain technologies to finance and financial market enterprises.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Frumento was a managing director of Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, a partner and the head of the financial markets group of Duane Morris LLP, and the managing partner of Singer Frumento LLP.
He graduated from Harvard College in 1976 and New York University School of Law in 1979. Mr. Frumento is a frequent author and speaker on securities law issues, and is often quoted in the media on current securities law developments.
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