The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum will be convening in Davos, Switzerland in a few days. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Bono, Maria Bartiromo, and other members of the global elite will be there for several days of high-level forums and highfalutin partying.
The notion of global political leaders and Fortune 500 CEOs descending by helicopter on a Swiss village for fondue and off-the-record conversations might seem a bit sketchy to the average American on Main Street. And a closer look at the some of the details raises a few questions about what these folks will be up to in the coming days. Here are 10 somewhat "curious" facts about Davos 2014.
1. The average cost of attending Davos is $40,000
According to CNN, the average cost of attending Davos is approximately $40,000. For businesses, the cost of an attendee's ticket is around $20,000. But then you have to include travel, food, and lodging. A helicopter from Zurich to Davos goes for about $10,000.
2. One of the big themes of Davos 2014 is "income inequality"
Let me get this straight. Attendees are paying around $40,000, so they can talk about "income inequality"? Will there be a breakout session on irony?
3. Just 15% of Davos members this year will be female
This statistic might mean that women continue to be under-represented in leadership positions in business and government. Or it could mean that women are too sensible to waste precious time and money on several days of bloviating in the snow.
4. The most highly represented stakeholder group is government, followed by banking
Among the 2,500 participants, 288 participants are from government. And 230 are from the "banking and capital markets." Could this sort of chumminess be a reason why no senior Wall Street bankers have been prosecuted for their actions in connection with the financial crisis? Nah, that would be a conspiracy theory.
5. The United States Congress is sending 13 delegates
Looking at the delegate list, I count eight representatives from the House and five senators who will be attending Davos this year. Here's the list:
Representatives from the House
Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Kay Granger (R-TX)
Darrell Issa (R-CA)
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD)
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Do we really need this many members of Congress at the event? I suppose there is the possibility that the bipartisan delegation will bond over glasses of cognac and return to D.C. committed to solving our problems, particularly those relating to income inequality.
6. The theme this year is "The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business"
Professor Klaus Schwab, who is the executive chairman of the Forum, writes:
The theme of the meeting The Reshaping of the World: The Consequences for Society, Politics and Business speaks to the need for leaders to fundamentally reassess how the tectonic plates of the world are shifting against each other, so they can predict and respond more effectively to the earthquakes that we know are coming.
Sounds like a forum written by and for Thomas Friedman. And, yes, he'll be there -- as if there were any doubt.
7. "Strategic Partners" pay more than $500,000 for setting the "intellectual agenda of Forum meetings"
According to the World Economic Forum website, its Strategic Partners are a select group of 100 leading global companies that "benefit from and contribute to the global knowledge base through working closely with the Forum to set the intellectual agenda of Forum meetings, driving the insight agenda of its publications and steering the impact of its initiatives."
Unsurprisingly, Wall Street is well-represented among the Strategic Partner firms that pay more than $500,000 for the privilege. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley are all part of this special group.
8. Maria Bartiromo is attending Davos 2014 as a private citizen
Financial television fans (and who among us isn't a fan?) will be happy to learn that Maria Bartiromo will be in Davos, even though a noncompete clause will keep her off the air until Jan. 31. She's attending this year as a "private citizen" and will host a few seminars. Rumor has it that one of the seminars is about JPMorgan and the Bernie Madoff case. I haven't been able to confirm that, however.
9. The most exclusive event badge entitles you to the "Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders"
White badges are for ordinary delegates, who are most likely wealthy by ordinary standards but are considered proletarians in the Forum pecking order. The most exclusive badge, according to CNN, has a holographic image on it. That will get you into the "Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders." According to Felix Salmon, NAFTA emerged from one of these exclusive sessions -- for better or worse.
10. If you are a "Global Shaper" under the age of 30, you will require an invitation to the annual meeting
What does a "Global Shaper" do? Are "Global Shapers" above the age of 30 allowed to just pop in uninvited to the proceedings? Your guess is as good as mine.
The failure of global elites
Just last week, the Financial Times' Martin Wolf wrote about the failures of our global elites in recent years. He notes that these failures, particularly in the financial realm, are "big enough to cause doubts about our elites." Our global leaders need to do better, according to Wolf, or else "rage may overwhelm us all." That might be something for them to consider in Davos later this week.