Politics

Ex-Knight Capital CEO resigns from police board over Twitter posts on Muslim profiling, Pelosi and sexual harassment

Key Points
  • Thomas Joyce, former CEO of high-speed trading firm Knight Capital Group, resigned from the Darien, Connecticut, police commission after a complaint to town leaders about his Twitter posts.
  • Joyce in his tweets had called for law-enforcement "profiling" of Muslims, urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "please wear a neckline a lot higher," and said that the arrest of a man in New York for grabbing a woman by the behind was "simply ridiculous."
  • Joyce currently is interim CEO of Nanobeak Biotech, a life sciences company.
Thomas Joyce
Danny Moloshok | Reuters

Thomas Joyce, former CEO of high-speed trading firm Knight Capital Group, resigned from the police commission of his Connecticut hometown after a complaint to town leaders about Twitter posts that included calling for law-enforcement "profiling" of Muslims.

Joyce, who now heads the life sciences firm Nanobeak Biotech, also had written in tweets, which were cited by the complaint, about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in sexist terms, and said that Hollywood figures who dressed in black during an awards event to protest sexual harassment were themselves "dressed like sex objects."

"Gee, shocking ... A young Muslim man trying to kill people. Where have I heard that before?" Joyce wrote in a September 2016 tweet. "Time for profiling, not for PC."

PC is an acronym for political correctness.

In August 2018, four years after the Republican was first appointed to the Darien Police Commission, Joyce in a Twitter post seemed to criticize New York City police for arresting a man who had groped a woman.

"A guy in NYC was arrested and made to take the perp walk for grabbing a woman's behind," he wrote in that tweet.

"Arrested!! Simply ridiculous. The system has gone haywire," he wrote in the tweet, which like the others is now unavailable online because his Twitter account has been deactivated.

Joyce's resignation from Darien's police oversight board last Thursday came weeks after the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police sparked protests nationwide and calls for reform of abusive law-enforcement practices.

Joyce, who served as Merrill Lynch's head of U.S. equities earlier in his career, resigned as CEO of Knight Capital in July 2013, shortly after the firm was taken over by another high-speed trading company, Getco.

That takeover came nearly a year after a software glitch caused Knight to buy unwanted positions in nearly 150 stocks, leading to a whopping $440 million loss.

In the past year, Joyce became chairman and then interim CEO of Nanobeak Biotech, which specializes in mobile noninvasive disease detection.

Nanobeak currently has a reimbursable Space Act Agreement for the development of gas sensor technology with the federal space agency NASA, according to government records. The value of that agreement was not immediately available, a NASA spokesman for the agency's Ames Research Center told CNBC.

In April, Nanobeak announced that it had terminated its founder and then-chief science officer and board member Jeremy Barbera for undisclosed reasons.

A press release about the move noted that Joyce, among his roles at the biotech firm, also is "currently on the Board of Blackstone / GSO Secured Lending fund, a business development company managed by a Blackstone affiliate."

Last week, a Darien resident named Reed Barthold wrote to the town Board of Selectmen about Joyce. Barthold earlier in June wrote an opinion article in a local newspaper titled, "Darien has the opportunity to right previous wrongs and take action," which criticized bigotry and racism.

"Shrouded in wealth and opportunity, the town of Darien has continuously failed to fulfill basic ideals in human equality despite our resources," Barthold wrote in his op-ed.

Barthold, in his letter to the Board of Selectmen that called for Joyce's resignation, wrote he and "many other residents" believed Joyce had made objectionable comments "repeatedly, and finds himself an actor in the degradation of this town and country's very ideals."

"Calling for profiling, sexualizing & objectifying women, and defending assault are unbecoming of any public official, but especially a police commissioner whose function it is to set and enforce the proper standard for socially responsible police behavior, consistent with public safety," Barthold wrote in the letter, which he shared with CNBC.

The letter included images of a number of Joyce's Twitter posts.

Source: Twitter

The most recent posts cited were from Feb. 20, when President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address to Congress.

Joyce in a tweet had written the post to the Twitter handle of the California Democrat Pelosi, saying, "You probably know this but you look like a fool tonight. Guess you sucked too many lemons tonight or perhaps realized what a debacle you started a few months ago."

"And BTW, next time please wear a neckline a lot higher. Oh man .. ," Joyce added to Pelosi.

In July 2016, Joyce wrote, "All these attacks are from young Muslim men. It's time for profiling."

In April 2017, Joyce wrote on Twitter, "Are you kidding me?? Trump talked about 'grabbing.' Bill Clinton stuck a cigar where it didn't belong. Were women 'wounded' by that??"

That tweet was a reference to Trump having bragged, during an "Access Hollywood" taping in 2005, of grabbing women by the genitals without their consent, as well as to President Bill Clinton's having used a cigar as a sex toy on a White House intern.

In January 2018, Joyce wrote on Twitter that he had "Watched a lot of the Golden Globes. Found it interesting that so many of the women wearing black to protest sexual harassment had their breasts hanging out, dressed like sex objects. Kind of a mixed message."

Joyce resigned at the request of Darien First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson, on the same day that she received Barthold's letter, according to The Darien Times.

Stevenson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

In a statement published by The Darien Times, Stevenson said, "Commissioner Joyce's comments are not reflective of the high standards and ideals required by the first selectman and Board of Selectmen in our appointments to the Darien Police Commission."

Joyce declined to comment to CNBC on Tuesday. But he pointed to a statement he gave to The Darien Times.

"I understand that some of the tweets I made on my personal account are insensitive," he said in the statement.

"I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve the Town of Darien as Police Commissioner for the past several years, during which time I always acted with the utmost integrity and always had the interests of the people of Darien at heart," Joyce said.

Barthold, whose complaint led to Joyce leaving the Police Commission, said that the resignation "was proximate to my goal."

"I did not set out to unseat any official from any position. My goal was and still is to identify the oppressive, ignorant nature of American tendency, and begin to right those wrongs," Barthold said in an email to CNBC.

"I'm glad officials all over the country are starting to be held accountable — I'm glad this town is starting to be held accountable," Barthold wrote.

Darien Police Chief Donald Anderson told CNBC that while he had a good working relationship with Joyce as a police commissioner, Joyce's tweets are "clearly not in line with the Darien Police Department or practices" of the department.

"Those tweets were a complete surprise to me and to the commission," said Anderson. 

"I never heard or saw anything of this nature" from Joyce during his tenure on the commission, the chief said. "It was a complete shock."