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The Ex-Lehman Banker Who Doesn’t Get Why People Hate Bankers

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On Wall Street now, it’s like that old sci-fi movie Logan’s Run. Everyone lives in this bio-bubble world, and the elders know they can’t sustain everyone who’s living there, so they created this ritual called ­Carousel, where when you turn 30 you get elevated to a higher level and then you get killed off. That’s what Wall Street is like. You’re just waiting to get killed off. We all got wiped out in ’08. My old boss moved over to another firm, but he’s concerned he’s going to time out on Wall Street before he can make up everything he lost. This isn’t Lehman-specific. Everyone got hit financially. The feeling is compensation is never really going to come back, which is something entirely new. After the tech bubble, no one questioned it wouldn’t come back. We all knew it would. Now it’s different. It’s just no fun.

It’s too hard to do a deal these days. You can’t make money on deals. And if you can’t do the deal, you’re not going to have fun. Because fundamentally, that’s why we’re in this business—because we’re deal junkies.

It’s just a grind now. I don’t get the whole Occupy Wall Street thing. Nobody is making that much money, and no one is having that much fun, so what are you trying to do? It’s the same outrageous hours and outrageous negotiations; everyone is trying to make a buck. But the money’s not there. I have this problem with my mother: She doesn’t understand we make a product. She doesn’t see it. And Main Street says you’re still getting paid too much: Even getting cut from $1 million to $500,000, they still think you’re earning too much.

As told to Gabriel Sherman


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