Scene Last Night: Bob Rubin, David Rubenstein, Hip-Hop Hamilton

The Museum of American Finance’s gala last night brought out Bob Rubin, “the last Treasury Secretary -- and the last person in finance -- to be unanimously confirmed,” said David Rubenstein, co-chief executive officer of Carlyle Group, as the two stood in the museum at 48 Wall Street.

Rubin clarified: the vote was unanimous, 99-0, with Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, absent.

Those were the days.

Over the weekend, Lazard’s Antonio Weiss withdrew from pursuing an undersecretary position in the Treasury to avoid a difficult nomination process stirred by anti-Wall Street Democrats led by Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Rubin and Rubenstein agreed that working in the profession is a decent qualification for government posts (Rubin left the helm of Goldman Sachs for his).

“I hope people won’t get discouraged,” Rubenstein said. “I hope people have enough wisdom to see they deserve these positions.”

The museum itself may have a role in smoothing the way. John Herzog said he decided to found it the morning after the 1987 crash, when it hit him how few Americans probably understood what had happened. At the time he was chairman and CEO of Herzog, Heine, Geduld, a market maker in over-the-counter securities.

The museum has 50,000 visitors a year, Deputy Director Kristin Aguilera said.

Summers on Bitcoin

It has offered classes on financial products and the history of derivatives and is starting a financial literacy program for girls. An event on Feb. 11 will feature former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers in a “fireside chat” on Bitcoin. Current exhibitions cover the Federal Reserve, stocks, trading and banking.

“It would be good for people to understand how our financial system works, but it’s complicated,” Rubin said over the din of cocktail chatter.

Museum trustee Glenn Kaufman, who manages a family office (he is son of economist Henry Kaufman), said the museum helped him solve a conundrum.

“My kids ask me, ‘Dad, what do you do?’ I take them here and they get it,” Kaufman said.

David Cowen, the museum’s president and a Deutsche Bank alumnus, gave Rubenstein, the honoree, a brief tour.

Hamilton’s Duel

“This is Dodd-Frank,” Cowen said in front of a glass case displaying the unwieldy document, maybe not as thrilling to look at the original Magna Carta that Rubenstein owns. “This is Ben Strong’s cane,” he continued, referring to the first governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

A bronze sculpture of Alexander Hamilton mid-duel -- pointing a gun -- hovered over guests including Citigroup’s Peter Babej, as well as Bob Appel, Dan Lufkin, Morris Offit and Joel Ehrenkranz. The museum is located on land the Bank of New York began using in 1797.

The event raised $1.1 million, with Rubenstein receiving the John Whitehead Award, named for the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs who left that post to serve as deputy secretary of state. Whitehead was unable to attend. In a note read to guests, he said he’d had “very difficult medical problems in recent days.”

Tony-, Emmy- and Grammy-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda kicked off the dinner at Cipriani Wall Street with an excerpt from “Hamilton,” his just about sold-out hip-hop musical about the founding father, which opens at the Public Theater next week.

Carlyle Group’s Olivier Sarkozy and Eliot Merrill, Tishman Speyer’s Katherine Farley, and TCW Group’s David Lippman had front-row seats for Miranda’s performance, which included the rap riff “Hey, yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry and I’m not throwin’ away my shot.”

Rubenstein, accepting his award, also invoked Hamilton by reading what he identified as a letter from the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, addressed to the 300 guests.

“I certainly made my share of mistakes in life -- one of them was obviously agreeing to a duel by someone I could not stand,” Rubenstein read from a piece of paper he’d unfurled. “In those days it was harder to get back at someone by just shorting their stock or engaging in a proxy fight.”

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