Friday, March 10, 2017

"What in God’s Name Is Happening at the World’s Largest Hedge Fund?"

Bess Levin writing at Vanity Fair but sans the DealBreaker post tags.
From The Levin Report, March 6:

Bridgewater tears into The New York Times for reporting its founder fired an employee for not watching a video of its co-C.E.O. being interrogated over whether or not she typed an e-mail.
Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, announced last week that he would be relinquishing day to day control of the firm and that, separately, co-C.E.O. Jon Rubinstein, the firm’s fourth chief executive in a year, would be leaving the company after it was mutually decided that he was “not a cultural fit for.” Indeed, a lot of people are not a good fit for Bridgewater, where employees are required to criticize each other in order to achieve “radical transparency,” meetings are videotaped and archived for later viewing, and people often cry in the bathroom. Twenty percent of new hires leave within the first year. Dalio himself has said it can take up to 18 months to get used to the Bridgewater way of life. Now, thanks to a weekend report by The New York Times, we have yet more insight into the Westport, CT firm.

The story goes like this: five years ago, management committee member and co-C.E.O. Eileen Murray was investigated by then general counsel James Comey—yes, the same James Comey who now heads the Federal Bureau of Investigation—over an e-mail. Specifically, whether or not an e-mail had been typed by Murray herself or by her assistant. Because this is Bridgewater, the investigation was taped and distributed for viewing by everyone at the firm. Over the course of multiple interrogations, described by those who viewed them as “intense,” Murray maintained that she had typed the e-mail. Comey and several other top executives thought she was lying. Naturally, the series became knows as the “Eileen Lies” tapes. Remember, this is about the matter of whether or not Murray physically typed an e-mail. But wait, there’s more!
Videos of the interrogations were edited and later rolled out in a serialized fashion, a Bridgewater version of a reality TV show, said the former employees who saw them. The videos also served as a case study as part of “homework,” a firm practice in which employees review and analyze recorded meetings and internal debates.
It would have been strange enough if the whole affair started and ended with the co-C.E.O. of the world’s largest hedge fund being interrogated, on video, by a man who would later become the director of the F.BI., and those interrogations were then circulated as homework for employees of said firm. But it didn’t end there:
When a few employees did not complete a homework assignment, Mr. Dalio stepped back in, sending a companywide e-mail firing at least one of those employees, according to three people who saw the email.
Even though “Principles,” Dalio’s unofficial company handbook (that employees are quizzed on) emphasizes that “firing people is not a big deal,” the incident reportedly did not go over well. At a meeting following the firing, “a number of Bridgewater executives complained that Mr. Dalio had made a rash decision,” according to the Times. Later, Dalio reportedly backtracked and said “the episode was not meant to be taken seriously, and that he was merely trying to shake things up” and no one was fired.

When reporters at the Times asked about the incident, the firm responded in a totally reasonable way that was even slightly self-deprecating, suggesting it has a sense of humor about some of the stuff that goes on there and how it could be viewed as slightly odd by the outside world. No, just kidding. Here’s how it actually responded:
“This five-year-old piece of ‘news’ was released by management to everyone in the company as part of a continuous flow of tapes given to all employees to provide them with inside views into what is going on in management. This situation was intended to show how seriously we take even trivial misrepresentations. This ‘lie’ was about a trivial matter—Eileen said that she typed an e-mail that her assistant had typed. If it were indeed a serious matter we would not have kept Eileen in her role at Bridgewater. The management committee later apologized to Eileen for the situation and we are grateful that she accepted. Due to a leak to the media, a mountain has been made out of a molehill. The way The New York Times is reporting the situation is both damaging to Eileen’s character and a misrepresentation of what happened. Eileen Murray is an industry icon who has been widely recognized for her character as well as her accomplishments.”
You see? It was just an elaborate simulation wherein a guy who would go on to become the director of the F.B.I. interrogated an employee over an e-mail—which was so not a big deal—and the founder of the firm fired someone in a companywide e-mail for not watching the tapes of said interrogation, but then took it back because he was just trying to shake things up!...