In this month’s issue of Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis
wrote a compelling piece on Serge Aleynikov,the former Goldman Sachs computer programmer convicted of stealing the bank’s secret algorithms. Now there’s a Q&A with
Lewis about the article on VF’s site.
If you haven’t read the story, Lewis comes down decidedly on the side of Aleynikov, making the case that Goldman used all its institutional power to target a man who had done nothing wrong.
In his Q&A, the author remains as fiercely critical of the bank. To a question about the Goldman’s “Stalinist” influence on the government, he replied:
…I think if you took lock, stock, and barrel, Goldman Sachs and moved it from New York to Moscow and forbade any employee from leaving so that they had to keep doing what they were doing but in a different context, I think they would flourish.
The judicial system gets the same treatment — Lewis says the Judge in Aleynikov was “intellectually dishonest. Or incompetent.” High frequency trading, the whole reason why Aleynikov was employed at Goldman, gets the side of Lewis’ tongue as well. To those who say it provides liquidity he says:
There’s a line in The Big Short; one of the characters, who was cynical about the subprime-mortgage market, says, “When I hear Chinese Wall, I think you’re a f—ing liar.” I feel that way about liquidity. When I hear the word liquidity, I think you’re a f—ing liar. If this is liquidity, we don’t need it.
The best moments of the Q&A, though, are when Lewis meditates on culture, the American dream, and why the tragic hero of the story was able to give himself over to Wall Street and accept his fate.