2nd Annual Lehman Brothers Award for the Creative Destruction of Wealth

Every year, my company selects an entity to recognize for their outstanding contribution to creative wealth destruction. Last year’s Lehman Brothers Award went to The DAO, a dumb smart contract that led to an even dumber bailout. We’ve since seen a whole bunch of copycat token offerings, each one bigger and stupider than the last. Pathbreaking pioneers, those DAO creators were.

This year, we chose to honor Google. Since 2014, Google has spent over $265 million on corporate diversity initiatives. After three years of unprecedented effort, Google’s gender gap and racial-demography gap are bigger than ever.

What an exemplary waste of resources!


But wait, there’s more! Google has unlocked many additional achievements deserving of recognition. In the past year alone, the company has received the following honors:

Well done, Google. In your futile quest to discriminate against nobody, you have instead managed to discriminate against *everybody*.

[sustained, thunderous standing ovation]

Our most heartfelt congratulations to Sundar Pichai, Eric Schmidt, and all the other executives who worked so hard to make this happen. In closing, I leave you with some inspirational passages to empower and motivate your workforce in the path forward.

A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers by Lawrence McDonald and Patrick Robinson

Joe Gregory was a regular, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum financial sycophant, devoted to his master, Richard Fuld, but with few of the necessary tools and instincts to serve as president of Lehman Brothers. He suited the boss fine, however, since he posed not even the semblance of a threat and would do anything in the world for the chief.

Joe’s fixation was a subject called diversity. He was consumed with it. His aim was the mission of inclusion. He had an entire department devoted to it, headed up by a managing director. Great rallies were staged in New York’s auditoriums, with free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres served for up to six hundred people, all listening to Joe or one of his henchmen pontificating. “Inclusion! That must be our aim!” he would yell, as if we were running a friggin’ prayer meeting.

In Joe’s view, it was the culture of the corporation that mattered. Joe believed that inclusiveness would carry us to victory. If the culture was right, then all would be right. Which was all very well, but down in the trenches, where a trader might sweat blood to make a couple of million dollars, most of us were a bit tetchy about Joe Gregory going off and spending it on a cocktail party for six hundred people.

That might not have been fair to him, but that’s the way it seemed to us. Especially when it emerged that the top dog in diversity was earning well over $2 million a year and that the diversity division had a bigger budget and more people than risk management!

The Devil’s Casino: Friendship, Betrayal, and the High Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers by Vicky Ward

Gregory’s diversity program was derided in part because it was as big and expensive to run as some of the revenue-producing divisions. It was more expensive and had more employees than all of risk management. Behind his back, senior executives called the program “Joe’s social science project.” Someone nicknamed him “the Oprah Winfrey of Wall Street.”

Gregory wasn’t dissuaded by such grumblings; he knew the attention and money that Lehman spent on diversity made for good public relations. Indeed, Harvard Business School would even publish a paper on Gregory’s diversity program and its accomplishments.

4 thoughts on “2nd Annual Lehman Brothers Award for the Creative Destruction of Wealth

  1. Well put but I think you omitted a couple of things:

    The Nazi and racists content on youtube getting all the “apple pie” brand advertising (Tide, Walmart, etc) by “accident”.

    The sexist rant by one of their employees about how the statistically low ratio of women in STEM Software Development jobs proved women were inferior at programming because of their temperament. Completely ignoring the fact that the culture in Tech is driving the ratio of women in Tech down to historically low levels while the rest of STEM is reflecting a historically high ratio of women in tech.

    The cancelling of a open forum on the sexist culture at Google because of “security problems” at Google preventing them from purging the employees threatening and menacing women who complained about systematic discrimination and tracking (glass ceiling) their careers at Google.

    The unmentioned 50+% asian numbers in Tech which started with racism and supposed cost savings that is now sustained by those same racist attitudes and employed foreign nationals’ hiring practices.

    1. I don’t think a hostile culture is driving down the ratio of women in tech. The culture is far more female-friendly now than it was in the 80s and 90s (the percentage of female computer engineers peaked in the early 1990s at 37%). Recent misbehavior just gets a lot more attention thanks to social media.

      I *do* think immigration has impacted diversity numbers, since most H1B workers are Asian/male (https://elaineou.com/2017/08/26/the-mystery-of-the-vanishing-tech-workers/).

      I also think all the diversity initiatives are a big wasteful PR stunt and that Google’s exec team doesn’t actually give a rat’s ass about diversity.

  2. I still do not understand why it is bad that most tech workers in Northern California are white and Asian. I went to Cornell, and most my friends were white and Asian. They still are. Why is this so bad? If you hold recruiting events and no black or Latino students show up, what are we supposed to do? I have interviewed precisely one black candidate (hired him), and he was the only African-American who ever applied for a job that I was hiring for. All of these diversity objectives strike me as unrealistic. I am down with anti-discrimination policies, but the silliness of demanding hat firms hire candidates who simply do not exist makes no sense. If minorities wanted to work in tech they would be filling up the ivies and Stanford just like Asians do (it is easier in finance because so many jobs can be done by liberal arts graduates).

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