Did you know that traders at the troubled investment bank are legendary health nuts? It's true! So could a fastfood eating contest between 10 mortgage traders at the firm have lead to the housing market collapse of 2007?
The Journal covers Goldman today, but oddly keeps going back to traders' eating habits and workout routines throughout the article. They even have inside sources who say that legendary maverick trader, and one of the alleged architects of the housing market meltdown, Fabrice "Fab" Tourre, "wore khaki or dark pants and button-down shirts." They needed "sources" to tell them how a dickhead banker dresses? But anyway, here are the greasy details of the White Castle burger-eating contest and other tales:
In December 2007, after the firm distributed multimillion-dollar bonus checks in part thanks to bets on a mortgage meltdown, about 10 Goldman mortgage traders, surrounded by dozens of cheering colleagues, wolfed down the burgers, according to attendees. Bystanders wagered cash on how many burgers the traders could eat.
Goldman also encouraged its traders to emulate Tom Brady — the New England Patriots' super hot quarterback and impregnator of Gisele Bundchen — who is always cool under pressure. But that didn't always work:
[T]here was little time for watching sports during chaotic 2007, when mortgage bonds melted down and paved the way for 2008's full-blown financial panic. Traders worked punishing hours in a drab office space with long rows of computer terminals and phones.
Late nights were frequent. "I'm still stuck at work at 10PM, but it's been six years since I've been functioning on this @!$#@!$@$# schedule, so who cares," wrote trader Fabrice Tourre in a Jan. 31, 2007 email to a friend. "I feel like I'm losing my mind and I'm only 28!!" wrote Mr. Tourre, who is a defendant in the SEC's lawsuit.
So these guys snapped and went crazy because they worked too much? Maybe. But there's more! Breaking from their routines and eating shitty food caused many to really lose it and distorted their judgement. Possible legal defense?
Despite the annual White Castle frenzy, in which the proceeds were given to charity, many of the traders were health nuts. Many noshed on egg whites, fruit, and turkey sandwiches, ordered up by the group's assistants or taken from the pantry down the hall.
Joshua Birnbaum, a Goldman trader from Oakland, Calif., played a major role in the short, or bearish, bet that led to nearly $4 billion in gross profits for Goldman, these people say. In February, Mr. Birnbaum, then 35 years old, briefly lost his cool and slammed down a phone receiver, say these people, when a more senior bond trader insisted on unwinding some of his trades to cut risk.
See... eating at White Castle can cloud a pure mind and make a person do crazy, totally out of character things. Things like, say, ripping off an entire country! Here is a video of what looks like the Initech guys from Office Space having their own White Castle eat off: