In the echo of Gekko, a rebuttal: Scaramucci explains why ‘greed is bad’

 Anthony Scaramucci '89 Anthony Scaramucci ’89 — author of “Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul” and adviser to the movie Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps — shared career advice with Harvard Law School students at an event cosponsored by the Traphagen Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series and the Office of Career Services on September 29.

Scaramucci’s appearance at Harvard coincided with the release of Wall Street 2, and came just days after he attracted attention at a nationally televised town hall meeting in which he told President Obama that everyone on Wall Street had been feeling “like a piñata” lately, asking “when are we going to stop whacking at the Wall Street piñata?”

Students listened attentively as Scaramucci traced the path that took him from HLS to the financial services industry, including some mistakes he made along the way: wearing a polyester suit to an interview with Goldman Sachs, failing to study for (and subsequently failing) the bar exam, and initially choosing a career because it was in the hottest industry – even though he had no real passion or natural aptitude for the work.

But he emphasized that his biggest mistake was not making the effort to meet more of his classmates while at HLS.

“I was very intimidated by Harvard Law School and thought I was in for massive annihilation, so I holed up in Langdell and spent too much time there,” Scaramucci said. “I wish I had spent more time meeting my classmates. I encourage students to spend time meeting each other.”

Scaramucci eventually applied what he learned from his mistakes to co-founding his own high net-worth wealth management business, Oscar Capital Management. It was sold to Neuberger Berman, LLC in 2001, which was then sold to Lehman Brothers in 2003. In 2005, he founded SkyBridge Capital, a global alternative investment firm that currently has approximately $7.4 billion in total assets under advisement.

Scaramucci is a frequent commentator on CNBC, which led Oliver Stone to ask him to serve as an adviser to Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.

Gordon Gekko’s infamous line from the first “Wall Street” movie – “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” – prompted Scaramucci to write a book, essentially a rebuttal to the Gekko ethos, drawn from his his own experiences.

“Greed is fundamentally bad,” Scaramucci said. “It causes people to make short term expedient decisions that are harmful in the long run. That is the fundamental point of the book.”

In “Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul,” he urges readers to learn from his mistakes, to pursue their passions, and to pay forward their good fortune.

Asked about the Town Hall meeting exchange with Obama (after which Daily Show host Jon Stewart compared Scaramucci to a Jersey Shore cast member), Scaramucci admitted that he could have worded the question more gently. But he explained that he wanted to convey that, though there are some rogues on Wall Street, there are also many good people doing honest work.

“My goal was not to antagonize the President,” he said. “My point was just that we need to dial down the rhetoric.”

Scaramucci noted that the town hall meeting was not his first encounter with President Obama. The two attended HLS at the same time, and Scaramucci admits to fouling the President on the basketball court.

Scaramucci participated in a brief Q&A after the event with HLS reporter Jill Greenfield.

Q. What do you hope your readers gain from your book?

A. I call myself out in that book. I’ve had feelings of envy, greed, insecurity, I’ve failed at things, I’ve worn polyester – I don’t want readers to think that I’ve found the answers in life. Through writing about real life experiences and all of the vulnerabilities entailed, I’m just trying to help people that are younger than me. I want them to feel better about their own level of uncertainty as they go through their journey.

Q. Are you concerned that, given your own successful Wall Street career, detractors might find it hypocritical for you to author a book about the dangers of greed?

A. If you’re worried about the snap judgments of others, then you’re compromising the arc of your journey. So if people think that I’m being hypocritical or sanctimonious or self-righteous, then I ask them to read the book. And if they’re still drawing that conclusion after reading the book, then I ask them to send me a note to explain why. It will help me in the future.

Q. You write about the importance of paying forward your good fortune. How would you advise those without the resources of a philanthropist to pay forward some of their good fortune?

A. I want readers of my book to think about how they have benefited from certain experiences and try to project that to others. One example is a mentor relationship. When you’ve been mentored, it’s impossible to do something for your mentor in return that will even begin to feel like it matches the benefit that has been provided to you. A watch, cufflinks, or a check to their favorite charity are all certainly very nice. But what you can do is find somebody younger to mentor and provide them with the sort of benefit that your mentor provided for you.

Q. You advised Oliver Stone on the script for “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps” and wrote a speech given by Gordon Gekko in the film. What was it like to work with Stone?

A. We’re very different, and those differences actually made our friendship grow. I love the guy, and I think he stands for something in the country that others potentially don’t like. I believe that every free society should have people like Oliver Stone who are willing to challenge the establishment. Even those who disagree with his political views can benefit because, through the process of listening to his arguments, they can make their arguments stronger. It’s similar to reading dissenting opinions in law school, because the dissent gives you a good understanding of the nuances.

Q. You briefly appeared in the film. What was your role?

A. I played myself in three different scenes, where I talked on the phone and appeared on television.

Q. How does playing yourself in a movie differ from playing yourself in real life?

A. It’s actually the same thing. Somebody asked me on the set if I was an actor, and I replied that I’m not, but that I do play one in real life.

Q. In light of the media attention you’ve received regarding your exchange with President Obama, would you consider taking an advisory role in an administration or running for office yourself?

A. I don’t think I would ever run for public office but I am fairly politically active, so I would be open to doing something public service oriented at some point in my life.

Q. Did your kids think it was really cool that Jon Stewart picked on you?

A. They loved it. And to be honest with you, I sort of loved it, too. If Jon Stewart didn’t like what I had to say and decided to make fun of it, I think that’s pretty cool. God bless him.