On November 9, the day that Pfizer announced its coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective, a video appeared on the Instagram and Twitter feeds of the Wall Street memelord known as Litquidity Capital. It was a fast-tempo mash-up of familiar GIFs from around the web, recaptioned to represent various forces in the markets. In the clip, ecstatic megachurch parishioners are labeled “MFs w/ hella calls”; an NFL player tagged as “the market” somersaults over a defender labeled “Fauci” into an end zone emblazoned ALL TIME HIGHS; a beat-up station wagon representing BEAR CUCKS goes over a cliff. This was market analysis as informative as anything you’d have seen on CNBC that day. The S&P 500 was rocketing to a record high, mom-and-pop traders were buying options with borrowed money, and investors were gambling hundreds of billions on SPACs. In this bulliest of markets, with prices popping on everything from stocks to bitcoin to corn futures, Litquidity has emerged as a giddy and astute observer of finance high and low, followed by Reddit day traders and private-equity sharks alike.
In late April, the anonymous creator behind Litquidity appeared on my laptop screen in a Zoom window with the video turned off. He wouldn’t tell me his name or show me his face; his profile picture was an altered dollar bill that looked like a cross between a portrait of George Washington and stock-exchange legend Peter Tuchman, wearing an N95 mask with the Patagonia logo. With a trace of a southern accent, he described himself as a man of average height with a quiet, reserved demeanor. “Think of a less attractive Clark Kent,” he says. “Similar complexions.” He said he had grown up in Florida, attended an Ivy League school, and went on to work at a couple of big banks and a private-equity firm. In 2017, inspired by a Greek-life parody blog he’d followed as a frat guy in college, he decided to start Litquidity Capital. “It was just going to be a funny thing,” he says: a satire of the “partyish lifestyle” of finance bros. “So, you know, lit is a word for that.”
Wall Street is opaque to most of the world, but every so often one of its members will wander onto the internet to give laypeople a peek at what happens inside. But unlike his pseudonymous predecessors — the Goldman Sachs Elevator Twitter account or the disgruntled blogs of Leveraged Sell-Out — Litquidity spoke in pictures. His memes dissected the farce of high finance, poking fun at everything from the cruel incompetence of his managing directors to the monotonous garb of his colleagues. Meanwhile, at work, he kept up his act as a model employee. Sitting in a bullpen surrounded by co-workers, he got away with memeing on his phone at his desk, in line at Sweetgreen, and, often, in the bank’s toilets. “That was my executive office,” he says, adding that his habit might have been his only tell: “Sometimes they were like, ‘Oh man, this guy’s going to the bathroom a lot.’ ” On certain occasions, colleagues would send him a meme he’d posted five minutes earlier, none the wiser that he was behind it. “That just added to the thrill,” he says.
The double life became easier to conceal last year, when his office started working remotely. By summer, inexplicable, nonsensical events began shaking the markets, fueled by low interest rates and a new force of unsophisticated traders who were stuck at home with cash to burn. It was, in other words, a moment perfectly captured by memes, and Litquidity seized upon the occasion. When traders on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum successfully squeezed short sellers in January, he posted a clip of dancing pallbearers overlaid with GameStop, BlackBerry, and Reddit logos, carrying a coffin labeled the “efficient market hypothesis.” Soon, Litquidity found himself memeing not just to the banker crowd but to an expanding audience of amateurs with aspirations of Wall Street riches. Whereas before he had focused heavily on lifestyle content for his fellow financiers — “the Brads and Chads and their Patagonia vests,” as he puts it — he shifted his attention to the assets people were following online and trading on Robinhood, like memestocks and dogecoin.
“The way people interact with memes has definitely changed. They take them a lot more seriously,” he says. No matter where you fell on the investing food chain, memes were becoming a lingua franca, capable of communicating the absurd motivations driving the pandemic economy. An investment bank’s discounted-cash-flow analysis could never explain why retail traders are “YOLOing” into beaten-down ’90s companies and dubious cryptocurrencies, but an image of Big Bird sitting rapt at the head of a boardroom table just might. “For a meme to be good, it’s got to be funny and true at the same time,” he says.
But even as his follower count doubled, privately he was suffering. “The pandemic struck, and work really sucked,” he says. “It’s been great in terms of money going to banks, but it’s on the backs of people who are getting really overworked.” He began experiencing symptoms of the kind he frequently parodies, particularly among junior bank analysts. “Something was off with my body. You know, little heart palpitations here or there,” he says. A doctor chalked it up to stress, but Litquidity was bothered by the indifference shown to him by senior bankers. “These people clearly don’t give a shit about me,” he says. “I said, F-it, I’m gonna do my own thing.” A few months ago, he quit his investment-banking gig (he was a senior associate approaching the VP level) to focus on his growing brand.
There’s no longer any risk to revealing his alter ego, but, for now, Litquidity is keeping up the façade. “I think people like a good mystery,” he says. His family knows his secret, as do many friends and former co-workers — he has made a party trick out of, after a few drinks, divulging the truth to friends and rendering them “starstruck.” He recalls a weekend in the Hamptons in 2019 when one of his followers, seeing a pool-floatie picture he had just posted on Instagram, DM’d with an offer to get him into the Surf Lodge in Montauk that night. When he arrived, he waltzed up to the guy and introduced himself as, simply, “Lit”; before long, they were sipping from magnums of rosé.
Litquidity has an expanding roster of sponsors that he thinks will eventually bring in enough revenue to equal his banking salary. He’s also recently started investing in modestly sized venture funds and is enamored with the idea that he could one day turn Litquidity Capital into a bona fide investment firm. The day after we spoke, he headed to Miami for an informal confab of potential Silicon Valley expats, including VCs and founders, scoping out the city. He is hoping to lay the groundwork for when he decides to start fund-raising himself, using the clout he has amassed online: “That would just be a meme in itself — memeing a VC fund into existence.”
More From This Series
- My Valentine’s Day Date With Bernie Sanders
- Roger Bennett Is U.S. Soccer’s Biggest Fan
- Everything’s Coming Up Schumer