“In an effort to boost morale, Mr. Cohen arranged in July for a local “Super Duper Weenie” hot-dog truck to swing by SAC’s office and dispense free food. — WSJ, September 24, 2013
July 23, 2013
The place: SAC Capital Headquarters. The time: middle of the trading day. The mood: Not great.
An IM chime rings in Steve Cohen’s ear. He turns to the far left of his seven screens, minimizes one or two computer programs, and sees that it’s from SAC president Tom Conheeney.
“U got 1 sec?” Conheeney asks.
“Is it impt?” the Big Guy responds.
Across the office, Conheeney looks up and catches Cohen’s eye. He starts to type a response, stops, and holds down the Backpace button. Types again, Backspace again. Type, Backspace. Type, Backspace. It’s a delicate matter. The SAC president eventually settles on a simple, “Yeah. It kinda is.”
“Fine,” Cohen replies. “My office, 30 seconds.”
30 seconds later, in Cohen’s office.
Cohen: What’s going on?
Conheeney I asked [SAC general counsel Peter Nussbaum] Nussy and [SAC CFO Dan] Berkowitz to join us, they should be here in a sec.
Cohen leans on his intercom and barks at his secretary, “Where the fuck are Nussbaum and Berkowitz,” as the men walk through the door.
Cohen: Glad you two could join us.
Berkowitz: Sorry to keep you waiting, boss.
Cohen: Alright, Tom, what is this all about? I know you wouldn’t pull me out of my chair in the middle of the trading day if it weren’t for good reason.
Conheeney: I’ve been hearing reports that morale has taken a big hit since we were slammed with the failure to supervise charge.
Cohen: That’s what you dragged me out here over? A couple of rumors?
Conheeney: It’s not just rumors, sir. I’ve been making a few calls around to headhunters to get an idea of what they’re hearing. It’s not good. They’re all getting our employees’ resumes. Today on the way to work I could have sworn I saw one of our CR Intrinsic guys talking to someone from Bridgewater at a rest stop on 95. And, it’s just a sense I get. No one walks with a spring in their step anymore.
Berkowitz: I’ve noticed that too, sir.
Nussbaum: Okay, fine, Tom, people are unhappy, and I’m sorry about that, but people have been unhappy before and life goes on. This isn’t pre-school, we’re not here to hold people’s hands and wipe away their tears, we’re here to work. So why did you call us in here?
Conheeny [Clearly exasperated]: Yeah, people have been unhappy before but wake up guys, things are not like they were before! This is no longer the SAC that can simply expect people to stay because the pay is so good and because they believe that urban legend about getting a ride with Steve on the Zamboni on the anniversary of their 25th year at the firm, and face time for a full circuit around the rink? We are facing a real crisis here and if we don’t do something fast we’re going to see people fleeing the ship.
Nussbaum: Okay, so what are you proposing?
Berkowitz: And how much is it going to cost?
Nussbaum: Across the board raises? Another bonus bump?
Conheeney: Steve? What do you think of all this?
Cohen has been silently for nearly two minutes now. Suddenly, he jumps up from his chair, his underlings expecting an explosion of anger. But instead, his face lights up with a huge grin. He asks the men assembled before him a simple question: “What do people want most in life?”
Cohen: Wrong! Would you like to take a stab at it, Heeney-Boy [a name Cohen has never called Conheeney, but then again, he’s never acted in this game show host-esque manner before either]?
Conheeney: More money?
Cohen: Wrong-o, my boy! Berkowitz, take a shot!
Berkowitz: Your respect?
Cohen: Nice try, Berks!
Cohen walks around his desk and leans over the three men as though standing over a huddle. His voice gets very quiet.
Cohen: The answer, my friends, is hot dogs.
Conheeney, Nussbaum, Berkowitz [In unison]: Hot dogs?
Cohen steps back, now pacing the room.
Cohen: HOT DOGS!
Conheeney: Well I guess we could get the cafeteria to add it to–
Cohen: Don’t insult my intelligence, Tom! Have you ever dreamed of having a woman in a hair net handing you some mediocre cased meat product?!?!
Conheeney: Well, I–
Cohen: OF COURSE YOU HAVEN’T! THERE NEEDS TO BE WONDER! EXCITEMENT! A CARNIVAL-ESQUE ATMOSPHERE!
Berkowitz: You’re not suggesting…
Cohen circles back to the chairs and gets very close to Berkowitz’s face.
Cohen: Oh, yes I am, Dan.
Nussbaum: But you couldn’t possibly have the pull to–
Cohen: Oh, yes I do, Pete.
Conheeney: Are you telling us you’re really and truly going to–
Cohen: BRING THE SUPER DUPER WEENIE TRUCK TO SAC CAPITAL AND HAVE THEM DISPENSE THE WORLD’S BEST HOT DOGS TO OUR EMPLOYEES OUT OF A TRUCK PARKED ON THE FRONT LAWN…GRATIS! YES! I AM REALLY AND TRULY GOING TO DO THAT!
20 minutes later
We see a lawn full of smiling SAC employees, happy, well-fed, going back for seconds and thirds, telling each other, “We work at the best fund ever.” Admiring his work, Cohen signals Conheeney over to give him his next project.
“Take a good look at them right now. Savor the moment. They’ll remember this for a few weeks, but then we’re going to need to do more. Tomorrow, make some calls about the local zoning laws re: petting zoos. We gotta get some alpacas in here ASAP. And put out some feelers to the local orchards. Apple bobbing season isn’t too far around the corner…”