Wednesday's New York Times op-ed by disenchanted Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith is just the latest entry in the long-running genre of Wall Street insiders who have turned to the pen. Here's a handy literary guide to Wall Street angst.
The Original. Michael Lewis. A young bond-trader out of Princeton gets caught up in the 1980s junk-bond madness at Salomon Brothers. Turned out he was a natural and gifted writer. Liar's Poker becomes iconic best-seller and springboard to career that includes Moneyball, The Blind Side, and The Big Short.
The Rogue Trader. Nick Leeson. British derivatives brokers whose trades helped sink venerable Barings Brothers in 1995 and landed him in jail. Leeson's autobiographical confession, Rogue Trader, was made into a movie starring Ewan McGregor. Has reinvented himself as speaker and consultant.
The Chronicler. William Cohan worked as a journalist before embarking on a Wall Street career that took him to the higher echelons of firms like Lazard. Rather than write an angry tell-all, Cohan deployed his writing chops, industry knowledge, and contacts to produce classy, lengthy narratives about key institutions. First came The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Freres & Co. Then he pounced on the first major casualty of the Great Panic of 2008, Bear, Stearns, with House of Cards, and followed up with a book on the firm everybody loves to hate: Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World.
The Stunned Insider. As a managing director at Lehman Brothers, Lawrence McDonald had a front row seat to the most damaging Wall Street debacle in modern history. Soon after packing up his office belongings, McDonald took the pen. His inside story of the Lehman meltdown, A Colossal Failure of Common Sense, became a New York Times best-seller in 2009. McDonald is now a multi-platform guy: a speaker, commentator, writer (he's working on a second book) who still works in the industry.
The Triumphant Jerk. In October 2008, as the financial world was melting down, hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde danced on the graves of many of his colleagues. He released a letter to the Financial Times explaining that he was shutting his hedge fund because he had already made enough money, and no longer wanted to deal with a bunch of idiots. Oh, and the missive included a plea for the legalization of pot. Has not been heard from since.
The Unrepentant. Until Smith's missive, the most famous Wall Street resignation letter delivered on the New York Times op-ed page was one written in March 2009 by Jake DeSantis, an executive at the bailed-out insurance company AIG. DeSantis worked in AIG's Financial Products unit, the one that almost blew up the financial system with its reckless use of credit default swaps (CDS). He was outraged that he was being denied a bonus by the government-supported firm (which had run up massive losses), even though he wasn't directly involved in CDS. According to his LinkedIn profile, since leaving AIG, DeSantis has started a microlending foundation and joined an investment firm.
Daniel Gross is economics editor at Yahoo! Finance
Follow him on Twitter @grossdm; email him at email@example.com
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