Friday, November 15, 2013

Petition Organizer Responds to NYSE CEO's Refusal to Halt "Russia Day"

From: Bert Leatherman
To: Duncan Niederauer, CEO, New York Stock Exchange
Date: November 15, 2013

Dear Mr. Niederauer:

Thank you for your personal response (below). I certainly appreciate you considering the petition asking you, as CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, to cancel the Exchange's "Russia Day" bell-ringing ceremony and other events scheduled for November 18. I also equally appreciate your email's thoughtful tone. In the final analysis, though, what you have sent me is, respectfully, a collection of empty words that do nothing to change the reality that you, under the cloying guise of "dialogue" and "engagement," are actively promoting investment that goes directly to support a government that is fixated on completely destroying the humanity of the gay people subject to its abusive rule.

Unlike Jim Silkenat, who leads the ABA; Regina Pisa, who leads Goodwin Procter; and Michael Bloomberg, who leads the city your stock exchange calls home -- all of whom have very publicly chosen not to support Russia Day -- you seem unable to put principles before profit. Thus, for every HIV clinic volunteer in Russia who has his eye shot out for sport, for every gay adolescent with disabilities who is abducted and brutally beaten for show, and for every gay youth who is raped with bottles and baseball bats, I pledge my every effort to remind the public, both before and long after Monday's event at the Exchange, that you led the drive for investment to support a regime that encourages such horrific abuses and that you indelibly stained the reputation of the institution that was entrusted to your care.

The foremost moral imperative for any successful business leader is to use the hard-earned fruits of his labor -- both financial and reputational -- not simply for his own comfort but for the betterment of the least around him, including those who suffer from violent state-sponsored pogroms simply because they were born to love someone of a certain gender. Alas, if only your heroic efforts to amass wealth had always been matched by a heroic concern for the welfare of others along the way! Instead, you're able to facilely point to "employee resource groups" and "panel discussions" that provide a veneer of respectability to your decision to support the Putin regime and its reign of terror on LGBT youth. You glibly claim you want to make "opportunity available to everyone, equally" and that you are "committed to supporting equal rights for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation." How your words ring hollow, not just to me but to the gay teens in Russia who are having their heads split open by baseball bats and their anuses split open by glass bottles, all with state sponsorship! I urge you to ask them if your actions promote equal opportunity and equal rights, as you claim.

What a man leaves behind -- his legacy, his mark -- is not his wealth but his principles. I'm afraid that, in the final count, you will come up sorely lacking, for your immense personal wealth -- made, it seems, by a willingness at times to conveniently ignore ugly truths for the sake of making yet another marginal dollar for yourself and the firm you lead -- will do nothing to undo the damage to your legacy by your decision to put profit before principles in this instance. I can assure you that those of my generation will long outlive you and that when we endeavor to educate future generations about humanity's past follies in the hope that such follies will never again be repeated, my gay brothers and sisters and I will do everything in our power to remind posterity that it was not only Neville Chamberlain but also Duncan Niederaurer who failed to rise to the occasion when faced with perhaps the most pressing human rights issues of his time and who chose the comfort of looking the other way instead of doing the hard, uncomfortable work of looking injustice straight in the eye and staring it down with principled resolve. In this instance, such resolve would mean shutting down Russia Day, the only action that would register on the radar of a cold, calculating regime like Putin's that is driven by money and power. It may sound hyperbolic, but through your inaction you indeed have on your hands the stain of collaboration with what has the potential to become the fascist horror of our era. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., all that it takes for such horrors to take root and flourish is for men of goodwill to do nothing, as you have chosen to do with regards to the abuse of LGBT Russians. Believe me, despite your protestations to the contrary, the Putin regime will view the polite gesture of "an attendee or potential investor ... express[ing] concerns over [LGBT] issues" as nothing; indeed, I feel confident Mr. Putin will be grateful for your efforts to promote "jobs, growth, and sustainable development" that only reward his behavior.

On behalf of the more than 1,000 people who so far have petitioned you, I hope Russia Day is a roaring and profitable success for you and the Exchange, and I hope you remember that every dollar you and the Exchange make from future business generated by the event will have been earned on the backs of gay teens with broken teeth, broken arms, broken noses, and broken spirits. Gay Russian youth forced to drink urine at the hands of neofascist, state-sponsored gangs raise a toast to your decision and take a hearty swig, all to the cheerful clinking sounds of a modern-day Kristallnacht funded by the fruits of investments promoted by the firm you lead.

Yours sincerely,
Bert Leatherman

On Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 8:50 PM, Duncan Niederauer wrote:
Dear Mr. Leatherman,

Thank you for your letter and petition raising these concerns to our attention. As i hope you would expect, we take these issues extremely seriously.  As I hope you are aware, the NYSE has been a longstanding and leading advocate for LGBT rights.

Events like “Russia Day” provide an opportunity to foster dialogue on a number of topics. In fact, it would not surprise me in the slightest if an attendee or potential investor were to express concerns over the issues raised in your petition. What we plan to do on Monday is to convene a forum for business leaders and other interested parties from across the globe to meet and discuss economic policies promoting entrepreneurship, financial market development and job creation.  In no way should this event be viewed as an implicit or explicit validation of any Russian government or social policies. We abhor discrimination of any kind and, consistent with many of the LGBT organizations with whom we have collaborated, believe we can make a difference through dialogue and engagement – sharing our experience that jobs, growth and sustainable development can only be achieved when opportunity is available to everyone, equally.

In closing, we are proud to have an active employee group that seeks to raise awareness and understanding within the company of issues relevant to LGBT employees.  We also have a long history of using the NYSE as a platform to raise public awareness and understanding of issues relevant to the LGBT community at large. Listed below, please find a list of all our recent activities around both employee and public engagement.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention, and for permitting me the opportunity to reiterate the NYSE’s commitment to supporting equal rights for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation.


--- Employee Engagement ---

NYX Pride & Allies
Established in 2007, NYX Pride & Allies is an NYSE Euronext employee resource group whose purpose is to encourage and leverage the contributions of NYSE Euronext’s LGBT and supportive employees; to help to raise awareness and understanding within the company of issues relevant to LGBT employees, the business community and the community at-large; and to support workplace fairness and the equal treatment of all employees, regardless of sexual orientation.

--- Public Engagement and Philanthropic Support ----

Post DOMA Panel Discussion and OPEN Finance Leadership Awards
On November  11, 2013, NYX Pride in partnership with OPEN Finance presented a moderated panel discussion on the Supreme Court repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Fourteen Wall Street and professional services firms signed an amicus brief in the case of Windsor v. United States which examined the business case for marriage equality, setting forth the argument that DOMA created unnecessary costs and administrative burdens for both employers and employees by forcing employers to consider married same-sex employees differently from their heterosexual counterparts.  Attended by over 300 business professionals, the panel included Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who argued the Windsor case, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, Fred Sainz of Human Rights Campaign, and was moderated by author Andrew Solomon.  OPEN Finance, a volunteer network of LGBT leaders in financial services, presented awards to 14 firms that gave support to the brief that led to this historic moment in LGBT civil rights history.  NYSE produced and hosted the panel discussion event and a cocktail reception on the trading floor.

Gay Pride Month
NYSE Euronext continues to bring visibility to LGBT community partners and workplace issues during Gay Pride Month with a featured Opening or Closing Bell ceremony.  On June 28, 2013, LGBT military service members representing OutServe-SLDN rang the Closing Bell to commemorate June as Pride month. The ceremony was preceded by a panel discussion by three service members for an employee and invited guest audience.  In past years, Gay Pride Bell partners have included StartOut, a network of LGBT entrepreneurs, the Interbank Roundtable Committee, a network of LGBT employee resource groups at 28 financial services firms, and many others.  Social media campaigns surrounding Gay Pride bell event included a guest blog post by Walter Schubert, first openly gay member of the New York Stock Exchange.  NYSE Euronext has featured a Gay Pride Bell since 2005.

The Trevor Project
On June 20, 2013, representatives from The Trevor Project rang the Opening Bell to highlight the Trevor Live 2013 NY Gala.  The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.  It provides life-saving and life-affirming resources including our nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone. The Gala brought together top entertainers and corporate leaders to support the organization’s life-saving, life-affirming work for LGBTQ youth in crisis.

Anti-Bullying Panel Discussion
On May 17, 2013, the NYX Pride ERG co-produced with other employee resource groups an anti-bullying Panel Discussion for NYSE employees which engaged experts from the Trevor Project, End to Cyber Bullying (ETCB) and the New York Civil Liberties Union in a discussion on how to identify, prevent and stop bullying of all kinds and provide support to young people who might be in a bullying situation.

AIDS Walk New York
With a Bell Ringing on May 11, 2013, NYSE provided promotion and visibility to the 27th annual AIDS Walk New York benefitting Gay Men’s Health Crisis and 41 other important tri-state area AIDS service organizations.  Since 1986, AIDS Walk New York has raised more than $133 million for HIV programs and services in the tri-state area, and has grown into the largest AIDS fundraising event in the world. In 2013 alone, 30,000 participants, many of whom were members of more than 3,000 corporate and community teams, raised over $5.5 million for AIDS service organizations.  NYSE Euronext has provided support and visibility to the AIDS Walk in this way since 2009.

PFLAG’s Straight For Equality Awards
NYSE was a sponsor of PFLAG’s Straight For Equality Awards on April 4, 2013.  The Straight for Equality Gala aims to honor and celebrate some amazing straight allies whose selfless support of the LGBT community truly embodies the spirit of Straight for Equality and PFLAG.  It is the only national event dedicated to honoring the contributions of straight allies working to move equality forward for their GLBT friends and family.  PFLAG is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 350 affiliates in the United States.  NYSE Euronext has been a PFLAG sponsor since 2009.

National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce 2013 Financial Services Diversity Leadership Awards
On January 14, 2013, NYSE was host and sponsor of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce 2013 Financial Services Diversity Leadership Awards with over 200 guests in attendance.  On 1/11/2013, NYSE provided advance visibility to the Awards when representatives of NGLCC and the National Business Inclusion Consortium rang the Closing Bell.  The NGLCC is the business advocate and direct link between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) business owners, corporations, and government, representing the interests of more than 1.4 million LGBT businesses and entrepreneurs. The NGLCC is committed to forming a broad-based coalition of LGBT owned and friendly businesses, professionals, and major corporations for the purpose of promoting economic growth and the prosperity of its members.  NYSE Euronext has hosted the event since 2007. I am confident that if you reached out to Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, who lead NGLCC, they would confirm our longstanding commitment and partnership.

International Family Equality Day
On May 9, 2012 NYSE recognized International Family Equality Day, the first worldwide acknowledgement of gay and lesbian families, with a Closing Bell ceremony featuring the Family Equality Council and representative families.  TheFamily Equality Council connects, supports, and represents the three million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender in this country and their six million children. They are changing attitudes and policies to ensure that all families are respected, loved, and celebrated—including families with parents who are LGBT.

God's Love We Deliver Volunteerism
NYX Pride, the NYSE's LGBT Employee Resource Group, joined with other financial services firm employees on March 21, 2012 to prepare meals for God's Love We Deliver, a New York City nonprofit organization that improves the health and well-being of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition.

Sent from my iPad

On Fri, Nov 8, 2013 at 5:11 PM, Bert Leatherman wrote:
Dear Duncan, Marsh, Dominique, Lawrence, Albert, and Scott:

I hope all is well with all of you. Thank you for your stewardship of the New York Stock Exchange, one of America's most important economic institutions and a leading symbol of our nation around the world. I have always held the NYSE in high esteem, but as a gay man concerned about human rights, I was startled to see that on November 18 the NYSE will host Russia Day ( As a former management consultant at McKinsey & Co., I recognize the importance of corporate policies and actions on a firm's public image. When I attempt to reconcile the NYSE's recent steps to embrace LGBT issues and support LGBT employees with the exchange's willingness to promote Russia as an investment destination, I am perplexed.

Over the past year or so, gay Russians have increasingly suffered shocking violence at the hands anti-gay neofascist SA-like gangs that the Russian government allows, and even encourages, to roam freely. These gangs, which post videos of their exploits online, complete with the perpetrators' names and faces (see, e.g.,, wreak physical and psychological havoc on LGBT Russians -- especially LGBT youth -- with impunity. Sadly, LGBT Russians and their sympathizers are barred from speaking up for their rights by a recently enacted law that bans any gay-positive speech throughout the country, under the dubious guise of protecting minors (

Respectfully, your promotion of investment in Russia seems analogous to advocating investment in Germany in the 1930s or South Africa in the 1980s. I urge you to consider the effect that your actions may have on the NYSE's image -- and on your own professional reputations -- and I urge you to cancel the event. Already, Mayor Bloomberg has ended the city's sponsorship of Russia Forum NY also scheduled for November 18 (, and James Silkenat, president of the American Bar Association, has withdrawn as the event's keynote speaker ( an online petition that drew nearly 700 signatures yesterday alone ( A few months ago, President Obama canceled his summit with President Putin due, at least in part, to similar concerns (

Continuing to sponsor Russia Day on November 18 would make the NYSE complicit in the Putin regime's abuses of LGBT Russians through the exchange's involvement in promoting investment that goes to support the Putin government. However, given the exchange's recent steps toward engaging LGBT issues, I am hopeful that you will cancel the event and, in doing so, will approach the matter of LGBT human rights in Russia with principle and will preserve the dignity of the NYSE, an important symbol of American strength and values around the world.

Yours sincerely,
Bert Leatherman

P.S. To help you understand the viscousness of Russia's treatment of its gay citizens, I have attached the following photos:

- Three photos of a young gay Uzbek in Novosibirsk being dowsed with urine and raped with a bottle and baseball bat at gunpoint (as proudly posted with impunity by the lead perpetrator on his social media profile) before sustaining reportedly fatal injuries from the baseball bat. The Russian police denied all knowledge of the incident.

- Two photos of "trophies" from "safari hunts" that resulted in the brutal beating of gay teens

- Several photos of a gay teen with disabilities being attacked by a neo-fascist gang shouting anti-gay slurs

- A photo of a transgender Russian being severely beaten

- A photo of a young gay man being tortured and forced to drink urine and then being beat over the head with two baseballs bats

- A photo of a gay man being abducted and then tortured and prodded with an electric device

- A very young gay teen entrapped, kidnapped, verbally abused, and sprayed with urine

- A young gay couple abducted, mutilated, and forced into degrading acts

- A young gay black man captured and mutilated before having watermelon smashed in his face and being forced to make racist gestures

- A gay teen entrapped and beaten in a public park for all to see

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