There was always something a little odd about the story of Renaissance Technologies computer scientist David Magerman’s description of the feud with his boss, Robert Mercer. According to Magerman’s telling, he’d been bitching about Mercer’s backing for Donald Trump to colleagues, when he got a call from Mercer. “I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist,” the RenTech co-CEO allegedly complained.
While the distance between the two is debatable, it is something of a leap to go from “supporter of Donald Trump” to “white supremacist.” But Magerman wasn’t filling in the gap, either in the Wall Street Journal interview that got him suspended from RenTech, nor in his subsequent op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, in which Magerman presented his differences with his estranged employer as being primarily about campaign finance. This may have had something to do with the fact that Magerman hoped to hold on to his job of 20 years.
For weeks, Mr. Magerman vacillated between desiring an exit agreement with Renaissance and hoping to remain. Recently, he and the firm had decided they could work together again, he said. Mr. Magerman viewed the poker evening as an opportunity to repair the frayed relationship.
“I was anxious,” he said. “But I wanted to reintroduce myself and be part of the culture again, to show I was making an effort.”
Unfortunately for Magerman, things didn’t go as he hoped. In spite of a brief, friendly interaction with Mercer early in the evening, things took a decided turn for the worse several hours later and Scotches in. Spying Mercer’s daughter Rebekah, who leads her father’s political activities, Magerman walked over in hopes of repeating his earlier success, to no avail.
“You’re pond scum,” Ms. Mercer told him, repeatedly, according to Mr. Magerman and two people at the table. “You’ve been pond scum for 25 years; I’ve always known it.”
Shaken, Mr. Magerman walked around the table to be next to Ms. Mercer. She told Mr. Magerman that his criticism of the Mercers’ support for Mr. Trump had put her family in danger, he said.
Things devolved, security was called and none other than Jim Simons himself suggested that perhaps Magerman should leave. A week after that awkward, drunken attempt at reconciliation—and a day after it made the Journal, Magerman’s suspension became permanent. The means he doesn’t have to hold back anymore—and he doesn’t, in a lawsuit that’s not likely to change Rebekah Mercer’s mind about him.
The dispute started on Jan. 16 when Magerman called Mercer and asked to have a conversation about his support of Trump, according to the complaint. During the chat, Mercer said the U.S. had started going in the wrong direction “after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s,” according to the complaint. Mercer also said that black Americans “were doing fine” in the late 1950s and are the “only racist people remaining in the U.S.,” according to the complaint.
“Magerman was stunned by these comments and pushed back,” according to the complaint. Reminded of the racial segregation that existed at the time, Mercer allegedly responded by saying those issues weren’t important.
After the phone call, Magerman complained about Mercer’s comments to Co-Chief Executive Officer Peter Brown, who "expressed disbelief" and urged the two men to speak again, according to the complaint. Magerman agreed and called Mercer back on Feb. 5.
"I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist," Mercer said, according to the complaint. During the call, Mercer "scoffed" at the idea that segregation was degrading and destructive, Magerman said.