John LeFevre, author and owner of the infamous Twitter handle @GSElevator, talked to us about why he's distancing himself from his character, his future plans and offered a few pointed thoughts for those who have criticized him.
I’ve noticed your online presence as @GSElevator has largely disappeared. Why?
I’ve always said that I would keep doing it as long as I enjoyed it and had something to say. So essentially, I’ve gotten bored with the character, and to some extent, feel that it has lost its relevance.
I also think I reached a point in terms of illuminating and humorously satirizing certain aspects of Wall Street culture – elitism, classism, racism, sexism, misogyny, etc. – where people (myself included) say, “Okay, dude. It was funny, but we get it already.”
I’m sure there’s still something I can do with over 1 million followers outside of the scope and limitations of @GSElevator, and am working on a few projects that might be relevant to that audience.
You mentioned certain frustrations with how the book was perceived. What issues did you have and with who?
The point of the book was to credibly reveal deviance and corruption in an entertaining and insightful way, all from a totally unique and omniscient vantage point: I did deals all over the world, worked with all of the big banks, and sat above the Chinese Wall, bringing investment banking together with sales & trading.
Instead, it got reframed (by some) around the Twitter account and if I actually worked at Goldman, which is totally absurd. If someone actually thought @GSElevator was about things overheard in elevators at Goldman Sachs, they are an idiot. In my view, it was an orchestrated attempt to smear me and undermine my credibility, as evidenced by some of the dishonest press coverage.
I’m not complaining though; the book peaked at #7 on the NYT bestsellers list and was broadly well received.
Do you have any personal regrets with the content in the book, your actions as @GSElevator or how you were “discovered?”
I wish I had ignored some of the advice from agents and PR people and stood up more to some of the bullies in the media, particularly the New York Times and their paid-for hit piece of a review written by a guy with an undisclosed personal relationship with a someone prominently featured (negatively) in my book. Even today, I still have people citing that review when they want to disparage me, and it’s totally dishonest and unjust.
How has the whole experience affected some of your personal relationships with people in the industry?
This was always a joke. These are just some of the stories we’ve shared for years over drinks in bars. So for the most part, my friends and former colleagues love the book. But I was also very careful to conceal their identities by reassigning anecdotes, amalgamating characters, or changing minor descriptive details. So, there’s no animosity.
Banks have made concerted efforts to change the narrative that Wall Street is a boy’s club. How closely does the PR message match the post-crisis reality on Wall Street? Do you think the culture has changed significantly since the heyday described in your book?
They’re not far off actually. The colorful characters have left for the buy side. The nerds have taken over. Trading floors are more like libraries. It wouldn’t surprise me if banks started adding safe spaces with adult coloring books to help snowflakes cope with their stress.
I joined Salomon/Citi in 2001, so there aren’t that many of my peers still around, but the people I still keep in touch with aren’t happy. They’re just there for the paycheck or because they can’t think of something else to do.
What are your thoughts on Trump? Do they align with those of your friends who still work in finance?
I wrote a piece in 2015 predicting that Trump would win, so I think it’s great. And throughout 2016, I was in the weeds watching Reddit and “The Meme War” play out and thought it was fascinating. We’re currently at a place were a meme, true or not, can be more impactful than a CNN segment, and the implications of this new paradigm moving forward are going to be fun to watch and/or participate in.
Even the bankers I know, who are less conservative or feel intellectually offended by some of the things Trump says and does, think it’s hilarious. But that speaks more to a certain cynicism or nihilistic sense of humor that comes with having worked on Wall Street for a while.
What are you up to these days? Can we expect to hear more from John LeFevre or @GSElevator?
After I wrote the book, I took a couple of years off to hang out with my family, so I’ve been fairly quiet. However, the book is currently in development as a movie with Paramount and Zac Efron. So, I’m involved in that process. It looks quite promising, and could come together quickly. I’m also working on a finance-related TV pilot with a producer in LA, but can’t say too much about that right now.
So my biggest focus currently is my fashion line that I started last fall. Because I had written extensively about my disdain for colorful and gimmicky socks - the fact that too many people conflate socks with fashion sense or personality, and that as a lifestyle choice, I always buy 10 pair of identical socks (no pairing, no sorting) and then throw them all away every 3 months - I decided to start a brand of my own, initially as a subscription service. However, we are soon adding underwear and undershirts – to complete the “neglected top drawer” theme – and will grow the brand out quickly from there.
So far, we’re kicking ass. I essentially found a $20 pair of socks I liked, tweaked the blend slightly, and figured out a way to deliver it to people for $6-7.
I’m also working with and advising a couple of startups in the media space.
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