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Good but Not Great - Weill is no hero
on July 13, 2004
'Bonfire of the Vanities' and 'Barbarians at the Gate' are great books of this genre, since they refused to cast the Wall Street characters as heroes, but display in full their naked greed, fear, and ambition. Langley tries mightily to cast Weill as a 'David' going up against the WASP 'Goliath' and winning, and omits the obvious and profound hypocrisy of Weill:
- Despite Weill's emphasis on stock options - not cash - as financial incentives for his employees, Weill himself became the highest and most overpaid CEO by getting the slavish board to grant him obscene amounts of CASH for his compensation.
- Weill and Dimon are responsible for laying off tens of thousands of people in their career, and their ruthlessness are in full display in Langley's book. As the saying goes, cruel people are equally sentimental. The depth of self-pity of Weill and Dimon when they themselves get fired are simply revolting in their hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
- Weill's monstrous capacity for decadent self-indulgence is biblical in its scale. While becoming hysterical against employee benefits that are measured in pennies, he gets equally hysterical when faced with scrutiny of his fleet of corporate jets, ironically by his right-hand man, Jamie Dimon.
Weill is a modern day equivalent of the rail road and oil robber barons of the last century, i.e. megalomanic monsters who squeeze every penny out of his employees to expand his empire, and then spends the money to re-cast himself as a pioneer, benefactor and philanthropist.
Langley had to make many compromises in order to get access to Weill's world and played right into his hand. In the last 100 pages of her book, the author appears to be increasingly star struck, focusing on the lavish lifestyle and adulation of an aging tycoon surrounded by sycophants.
If Langley had the courage, she would have pointed out the obvious: Weill is no David, but indeed the very description of the "rich man" described in Bible:
" There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day... The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hell, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame... But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. "