Charney, too, could have stopped this long ago. He could have taken the deal Harms offered—to let bygones be bygones, to move to another part of the department. He could have answered one of the many headhunter calls that mid-level associates receive. But Charney—by virtue of his principles, his paranoia, or his naïveté—chose to go all the way. He deserved justice; he thought he was entitled to it.
During our last interview, a few days before the countersuit was filed and his lawyers persuaded him to stop talking to the press, Charney seems strained—but his only regret is how other people behaved. “Since I went to complain in May,” he says, “my disappointment in the conduct of people in positions of authority who could have changed this … Disappointment isn’t even the word. It’s the extreme.”
Would he have done anything differently? He shrugs. “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what people think.”
The case is his new career now. And nearly everyone believes that once it ends, so will his life as a corporate lawyer. When I ask Charney about this—if he thinks he’ll have to change careers—I’m not prepared for his answer.
“I truly don’t know,” he says. “In an ideal world, this would run its course, the people who have done something wrong would be punished, and the firm would take steps to change the environment. I would come back and return to my career.”
After everything that has happened, he still dreams of working at Sullivan & Cromwell.
“Is that impossible?” he asks.