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Investment Bankers: The Killers and the Killed

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One of the things that gives American Psycho--in both its novel and film incarnations—it’s lasting popularity on Wall Street is that it so perfectly captures all-too real elements of life inside an investment bank. Sure, there’s the greed, the loss of individual identity, the envy and the objectification of women. That’s all there. But we had that in Bonfire of the Vanities. What American Psycho gave us was murder.
Sure bankers aren’t usually slicing each other up with chainsaws. But the business does take a “killer instinct” that requires that a “killer” aspect goes beyond the usual metaphorical meaning of the phrase. American Psycho just pushed it a little further toward the literal.
Today the Wall Street Journal's DealJournal—which we’re liking more and more with each passing day—runs an interview with William Cohan, author and former Lazard banker. It deals with such things as Bruce Wasserstein, investment banking cartels, the lack of quality control on Wall Street and, of course, killing.

I was in it for almost 20 years, and I saw the dark side. When you are advising a client about a deal, that is a marvelous moment. Alas, it is way too rare. People like Felix and Michel and Bruce Wasserstein have a very dark side. The Machiavellian games they played.
To succeed in a place like Lazard you have to become ruthless, you have to become a killer. It’s full of incredibly bright and ambitious people who have their morality completely intact when they enter, but that’s the nature of what it takes to succeed.

Did you become a killer?

No, I was killed. Eventually, I was fired. And that’s the way it goes.

Q&A With William Cohan: ‘Dead’ Men Do Tell Tales [Deal Journal]