New Jersey asset manager Wing Chau is suing author Michael Lewis for making him look like "one of the villains" in his best-selling book on the financial crisis, The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine. Chau, who runs the asset management firm Harding Advisory also names hedge-fund manager Steven Eisman, one of Lewis's sources, in the defamation suit, focusing on a passage that recounts a dinner conversation between Chau and Eisman, who made a successful bet in 2007 that the housing bubble was about to burst. But Business Insider says the real villians of the book are "the smart guys who walked away with billions," whereas Chau comes off like a "dummy," or end-buyer suckered into the deal. According to Lewis, Chau's firm became "the biggest manager of CDOs tied to risky mortgages and related derivatives issued [in 2007]," essentially operating as a front for banks while his own firm defaulted.
But whether Chau is the bad guy or the patsy is less intriguing to us than how awesome Chau's lawyers are at drafting a complaint. Here are our four favorite parts from the 37-page complaint:
1. The part where they use Eisman's wife to insult him:
"Eisman has a well-known reputation for being offensive. Even on Wall Street people think he's rude, obnoxious and aggressive," according to his wife who met him while she worked on Wall Street." See what they did there??
2. The part where they offer irrelevant details about Chau’s past:
Wing Chau and his immediate family are Chinese immigrants. His father, Muk Loong Chau, fled Chairman Mao’s China in 1953 to make a better life for his family in America—to pursue the American dream. Mr. Chau was born in Hong Kong, where the family was waylaid for many year while awaiting a visa. Eventually, the family immigrated to Rhode Island, where his father took various jobs at Chinese restaurants, usually working six days per week.
Sure, it has absolutely nothing to do with collateralized debt obligations or the book. But the implication is clear: Michael Lewis hates immigrants. And Chinese food.
3. The part where they offer examples of how the world has changed since Lewis worked as a junior bond trader twenty years ago:
Whatever knowledge of Wall Street Lewis had from working as a trainee and junior bond trader some 20 years earlier had certainly become obsolete. The world had changed—Ronald Reagan was no longer president and the Yankees no longer played in the “House that Ruth Built.” The Wall Street bond market likewise was no longer the world described by Tom Wolfe in The Bonfire of the Vanities—an elitist environment of Ivy League men in white button-down collar shirts and suspenders, talking into telephones while having their shoes shined.
Pretty sure this part was just to prove they did read Bonfire of the Vanities. Well, either that or someone at Momolamken LLP has secret literary ambitions.
4. The part where they object to Lewis calling their client fat:
The book then goes on to take false, and gratuitous, swipes at Mr. Chau’s professional experience and appearance—claiming he “spent most of his career working sleepy jobs at sleepy life insurance companies” and that he “was short with a Wall street belly—not the bleacher bum’s boiler but the discreet, necessary pouch of a squirrel just before winter.”
Comparing someone to a whale is gratuitous, a squirrel analogy is downright polite.