Admittedly, UD’s primary Harvard-professor interest has long been Alan Dershowitz; but lately, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she finds herself thinking quite a lot about Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer.

You remember Shleifer.

Some U.S. neoliberal advisers to Russia in [the Yeltsin] era even served as role models for [oligarchic] corruption. A personal adviser to [Anatoly] Chubais was Andrei Shleifer, a Russian-born émigré and tenured Harvard professor, who ran the Moscow office of the Harvard Institute for International Development, which had the main Russia contract from USAID. Shleifer was prosecuted in 1997, after it was revealed his wife operated a hedge fund that speculated in privileged information based on Shleifer’s official work. Harvard paid fines totaling $26.5 million to settle the case, and Shleifer paid $2 million.

Shleifer must be buddies with a lot of the guys now being blacklisted all over the world. Is there a story there?

Sarah Chayes reminds us of the Larry Summers presidency of Harvard, featuring people like Andrei Shleifer.

(Also featuring Jeffrey Epstein, but that’s for a different post.)

[Before Hunter Biden’s legal but unethical activity in Ukraine,] there was already a template… for how insiders in a gas-rich kleptocracy could exploit … a [government] crisis using Western “advisers” to facilitate and legitimize their plunder—and how those Westerners could profit handsomely from it. A dozen-plus years earlier, amid the collapse of the U.S.S.R. of which Ukraine was a part, a clutch of oligarchs rifled the crown jewels of a vast nation. We know some of their names, in some cases because of the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office: Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Leonard Blavatnik. That heist also was assisted by U.S. consultants, many of whom had posts at Harvard and at least one of whom was a protégé of future Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

Yes, she’s talking about Professor Andrei Shleifer, whose greed cost Harvard millions, but all is forgiven.


UD wants very badly to see the end of Trump.

Yet she also thanks Chayes for focusing on a particularly disgusting practice.

Scratch into the bios of many former U.S. officials who were in charge of foreign or security policy in administrations of either party, and you will find “consulting” firms and hedge-fund gigs monetizing their names and connections.

“In an influential paper, the economists Kevin M. Murphy and Robert W. Vishny, both at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Andrei Shleifer at Harvard University argue that countries suffer when talented people become what we economists call ‘rent seekers.’ Instead of creating wealth, rent seekers simply transfer it — from others to themselves.”

Does Sendhil Mullainathan realize how many layers of irony there are in his citing Andrei Shleifer as an expert in self-aggrandizement??

Or does he think we’re supposed to forget about Shleifer having been found liable for conspiracy to defraud the federal government?

“As for Harvard, his career there has been academically successful but otherwise disastrous, whether you’re talking about interest-rate swaps or speeches about women’s aptitude or scandal over Andrei Shleifer’s role in Russia in the late 90s.”

Felix Salmon reviews Lawrence Summers’ Harvard presidency (get all the details you want by typing any phrase from his sentence into this blog’s search engine).

He forgets to mention his fabled multi-tasking. As Frank Rich wrote in the New York Times: “That the highly paid leader of arguably America’s most esteemed educational institution … would simultaneously freelance as a hedge-fund guy might stand as a symbol for the values of our time.”

But anyway, everyone’s talking, today, about Summers’ use, in a recent interview, of the word asshole to describe two notorious Harvard students – the Winklevoss twins:

If an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they’re looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case.

So there’s a wee wumpus this morning about a treasury secretary and a university president and all calling someone an asshole. Who cares. But what this does do is allow me to share with you one of my favorite scientific articles. It originally appeared in the Journal of Irreproducible Results, and has been collected in a book called Sex as a Heap of Malfunctioning Rubble.


Title: THE AH GENE: Implications for Genetic Counseling

Excerpts: “[We wish to discuss] evidence supporting the existence of a gene (henceforth called the AH gene) that predisposes an individual to chronic behavior in an obnoxious, boorish, selfish, overbearing, and generally offensive manner…. [T]he percentage of adults in the United States exhibiting chronic AH behavior is about 32% (95% confidence interval, 27-37%)… [Being] a carrier of one of … three genotypes is strongly associated with exhibiting chronic AH behavior (i.e. with being phenotypically a “real AH”)… [It] can be argued that almost all of the world’s problems are due to some degree to the influence of the AH gene….”

‘He went on to offer detail about his financial arrangements with the Wuhan university: A portion of his salary was deposited in a Chinese bank account and the remainder — an amount he estimated as between $50,000 and $100,000 — was paid in $100 bills, which he carried home in his luggage.’

Plus “I didn’t declare it, and that’s illegal.”

UD has already, uh, sung the praises of Harvard 大人物 Charles Lieber here. He has now been found guilty (max. sentence five years) of

two counts of making false statements to the U.S. government about whether he participated in Thousand Talents Plan, a program designed by the Chinese government to attract foreign-educated scientists in China. They also found him guilty of failing to declare income earned in China and failing to report a Chinese bank account.

See, you’re not supposed to take millions and millions of OUR dollars for your scientific research and secretly subsidize it with millions of dollars from our rich, interested-in-our-secrets, non-friends.

But for UD the real fun here is the whole vulgar bag-man thing, the image of Hahvahd lugging its piles of dirty cash onto airplanes. Will the TSA discover (sweat sweat) the C-Notes in my Louis Vuitton steamer trunk?


It’s very University of Miami… And yet a closer look at Harvard yields Jeffrey Epstein’s stable of over-age girls, Andrei Shleifer’s Moscow Adventures, Larry Summers’ hedge fund presidency, etc. Let’s not give ourselves airs.

‘Few thought criminals enjoy the kind of soft landing granted to UATX advisory board member Summers, whose ill-fated tenure as president of Harvard was notable primarily for his sexist views on women in science, his dismantling of one of the best African American studies departments in the country, his alienation of the majority of the faculty, and his series of lapses of judgment in his relationship with Epstein. Following a one-year sabbatical, Summers was rewarded with a Harvard University professorship, the school’s highest honor for a faculty member.’

She forgot to mention his steadfast defense of Andrei Shleifer, his taking over Harvard’s endowment and promptly losing $1.8 billion, his hedge-fund freelancing while president of Harvard, etc., etc. Summers is a-fucking-mazing.

‘[MIT’s] chumminess [with Epstein] suggests a deeper and more intractable moral rot in American academia: It shows that when a billionaire (or, in Epstein’s case, a faux billionaire) comes calling, men in the ivory tower can’t resist lowering their golden locks to let the plutocrat climb aboard.’

Certain universities – Louisville, USC, Yeshiva, the University of Miami – have the smell of more or less criminal enterprises. They’re always generating high-level, multifaceted, scandal; some of their trustees are crooked or even criminal financiers. Yeshiva had Bernard Madoff as treasurer; Ezra Merkin also sat on their board. Also, I believe, Ira Rennert. The school continues to have as a trustee Zygmunt Wilf. These are not pretty people.

Now, Harvard and MIT were indeed buddies with Jeffrey Epstein; Harvard even celebrates as an emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz, at least an Epstein intimate, and at most (according to one of Epstein’s slaves) a secret sharer in the sex. Its erstwhile president, who helped run a hedge fund while president, hung out with Epstein too. (He also hung out with Andrei Shleifer…) But these schools are not the rackety dives those other schools are. They’re not just in it for the money. Nor are they just in it for the sports: The heavy campus hand of plutocrat college sports fans (the recently departed T. Boone Pickens at Oklahoma State; Phil Knight at Oregon) generates scandals, too – but these are the tired, expected scandals of the jock school.

No, MIT and Harvard are great schools, serious schools, productive schools – they are among the world’s greatest intellectual institutions. They fuck with plutocrats because of their professors’ smokin’ ambition to understand, to invent, to cure. They want money, money, and more money to fund their projects. To be sure, some of this generative creative activity makes some of their professors personally wealthy — the ex-head of MIT’s Media Lab took money from Epstein for his own investments, which adds to the embarrassment of it all… More commonly, professors monetize their medical and technical breakthroughs, producing all kinds of conflict of interest trouble at cutting edge places like Stanford…

We little people, looking in at all of this from the outside, are assured that COIs can be “managed” – the word is always managed – and we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads. Yessir!


Now look. Most people are pretty greedy; many putrid plutocrats realize that a university affiliation can clean them up real good. It’s a marriage made in heaven. But here’s what UD finds remarkable: MIT’s endowment is close to 17 billion; Harvard’s is close to forty billion. In ten years or so, Harvard’s wealth will be, say, a hundred billion. Harvard is a superplutocrat.

These schools are currently in trouble for promiscuous plutocrat fraternization; but given how INSANELY – not to say unconscionably – rich they are, why is this sort of thing happening at all? Just make an appointment with the “super-secret and dictatorial Harvard Corporation” and explain to them that you’d rather dip into the school’s billions and billions and billions than have to take research money from a guy in jail for sexually enslaving fifteen year olds. The worst they can say is no!

And while we’re at it – Why do superbillionaires like Harvard feel compelled to appoint rich turds like Epstein visiting fellows? We know that legacy parents can pay their kids’ way into Harvard; we know that rich parents can bribe coaches to get their kids into schools like Harvard and Yale. I’m not sure we knew that profit-oriented Harvard faculty can gift generous rich guys official appointments. Not a good look. Not a good look at all. But when Larry Summers spends his presidency running a hedge fund, losing $1.8 billion of Harvard’s endowment on market gambles, and defending a faculty crony who misused, for personal gain, government funds to Harvard, whadaya expect? That crony cost Harvard tens of millions in federal penalties, and it made not one bit of difference in terms of his high-profile position in Harvard’s economics department. That’s the way plutocracies work, kiddies. Plutocracies are even smart enough to know when their workings have become too public, which is why right after Larry Summers, Harvard appointed preachy anti-materialist Drew Faust (‘And while you’re at it, find me a woman, for crap sake!”) to maintain the non-profit theatrics.

Skeptical of the clean-up crew function of women when plutocrat sausage parties get out of hand? Read and learn. As FIFA went, so went Harvard – when things get truly desperate and you can’t hide what you’ve been doing any longer, Find A Woman, Pronto. You can always go right back to men when it all blows over.


As ever, sing it.

[Before and after his conviction in 2008, Epstein was a regular on the masturbatory tech gadfly circuit — an attendee and sponsor of “billionaire dinners” and related sausage-factory soirees at which ultrawealthy men (among them the founders of Amazon and Google), elite scientists and various other male luminaries discussed the future they were collectively trying to build (or, depending on your perspective, squander.)]


The party’s over

It’s time to find us a dame

Until we start up again

I’m going to miss our game

It’s time to wind up

The masquerade

There’s no more Epstein

To keep us paid…

‘Something about our current national mood suggests we’re yearning to see con artists, to watch their rise and, more hungrily, their fall.’

It’s all Villains, Thieves, and Scoundrels Union here on planet earth, and University Diaries, in a year-end, retrospective mood, recalls with you not merely the prolific literary frauds of our day (chronicled on this blog, to the extent that I can keep up with them), but cultural frauds more generally. Obviously, we’re most interested here in frauds perpetrated in university settings – the hilarious venerable ‘student/athlete’ thing; plagiarism; made-up research; corporate-whore research; stashing federal funds away for personal use; or simply, Jimbo Ramsey-style, stealing your university’s endowment…

Or go way back to the much spiffier Andrei Shleifer, eminent Harvard economics professor, turning his federal-government-funded advisory position into a get-rich-quick scheme… Persistently, this blog, and planet earth, have been located in The World According to Trump University, and with the election of that university’s CEO, people have made it pretty clear that this is where they want to be. It’s not – as the Vanity Fair quotation in my headline has it – that we want to watch the rise and fall – few fraudsters fall… I mean, you’ve got to be Bernie Madoff to really FALL. His comrade in crime, Ezra Merkin, will remain out of jail – although, to be sure, in courtrooms – for the rest of his life. James Ramsey, larcenous president of the University of Louisville, will die with his McMansion lifestyle intact and the case against him grinding slowly on. The literary fraudsters described in the VF article are getting immortalized in fancy schmancy movies. Shleifer continues to ride high.

But it is true that watching ourselves being frauds and perpetrating frauds has become a keener and keener spectator sport – it’s part of the Italianization of culture about which Adam Gopnik writes. Our self-alienation, wrote Walter Benjamin long ago, has “reached such a degree that [we] can experience [our] own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.”

Yet the blogeuse you hold in your hands hopes you can, like her models (Orwell, Camus, Arendt, Murdoch, Hitchens), resist la dolce vita spectatorship in favor of sour indignation.


Only 33, and already so adept at fudging conflict of interest for his own gain!

Well, you’d expect such a wunderkind on the faculty of Harvard Business School.

And it just goes to show the strides universities like Harvard – which has had you don’t wanna know from conflict of interest scandals! – have made in dealing with the problem. Really getting the message down to younger faculty.


OTOH: This guy’s mom must be so proud! Look what sonny boy did! Still a pisher and he wrote something and the stock in that company just fell like a rock!


All UD can say is: When your models at Harvard are COI giants like Andrei Shleifer and Joseph Biederman (search their names if you dare), the sky’s the limit.


Oh, one more thing UD can say – and she always says it: Beware Beware Beware the B-School Boys.

All sorts of unsettling news involving UD’s university this morning.

As we speak, a shooter (or shooters) at the Washington Navy Yard has killed or wounded several people, some of whom have been transported to GW Hospital. UD doesn’t teach today, but she can imagine the scene outside the hospital, with police, reporters, families, onlookers, etc. And this is already an extremely busy Washington intersection, with the metro, law offices, and GW medical school buildings immediately adjacent.


UD hadn’t planned on posting about the firing of GW’s business school dean, but the story has gone from strange to bizarre to bizzzzzaro in the last few days, so here goes.

Handsome young hotshot Douglas Guthrie is hired away from NYU three years back to lead GW’s way-ambitious b-school (it not long ago got an amazing new building, plus a big ol’ budget…). Guthrie overspends his budget rather shockingly and is for this reason (or so the official story goes) fired.

It’s very bad news for the b-school, which has lately seen lots of administrative turnover and disappointing national rankings.

It gradually becomes apparent that Guthrie has a story to tell, and he has really spilled it to The Hatchet, the school newspaper. The suggestion in the story (partly coming from Guthrie, partly from others) is that the overspend was a cover story, the real deal being charges against Guthrie of “making illegal financial deals in China and having sex with colleagues.” These charges apparently came from the chair of the Faculty Senate executive committee, and Guthrie seems to be claiming that it was his lawyer’s letter to the university, discussing the possibility of a slander lawsuit, that really prompted his firing.

As to whether Guthrie might have tried to profit personally from his overseas university work … who knows? There’s plenty of precedent for it, with Harvard’s Andrei Shleifer (his adventures in Russia cost the university $31 million in penalties) the most notorious case. But the explosive charge in the GW newspaper piece is this one: The executive committee chair apparently also charged that

Guthrie had been sharing profits with [university provost Steven] Lerman and other top administrators, according to [another faculty member’s] complaint.


Summers is A-Goin’ Out

Since leaving government, [Lawrence] Summers took a lot of money from Citigroup. As one of the key architects of the bailout, he was responsible for the decision to prop up Citi with hundreds of billions of dollars of public money and Federal Reserve cheap capital rather than breaking Citi up. As Fed Chair, he will be a principal regulator of too-big-to-fail banks including Citi.

At the very least, this looks terrible. He saves Citi management and shareholders, then he gets a nice pile of money from them for not much work, and now he is regulating them again.

… [At Harvard,] Summers’s questioning of the intellectual capacity of women contributed to his downfall, but in many ways it was the least of his problems. Far more serious were his penchant for overruling the Harvard endowment’s professional money managers with impulsive investment decisions that cost Harvard billions, and his involvement in the Andrei Shleifer affair.

… Summers is also vulnerable for his activities since 2010. Harvard has a strict rule requiring that full-time faculty spend at least 80 percent of their professional time on Harvard business. With all of his extracurricular Wall Street affairs, there is no realistic way that Summers could have met this rule. Either Harvard bent its own rules, or the companies on whose boards Summers served were violating their legal duties by using Summers as a marquee name or paying him in the expectation of future IOUs, but not as a true fiduciary…

There’s a recurrent theme here of personal and institutional greed – get-rich-quick credit swaps that turned out to cost Harvard billions, massively self-serving Wall Street “affairs.” It always seemed bizarre to UD that a man this crass and cynical would be placed in front of the Senate for confirmation. What was the Obama administration thinking?

Well, it’s not $26.5 million, which is what…

… Harvard had to pay to settle fraud charges against Andrei Shleifer, one of its professors; but then the University of Florida doesn’t play in Harvard’s big-money, big-influence league.

Still, $435,000 ain’t chopped liver; and thanks to the very similar criminal mischief (it also involved federal contracts) of one of its former professors, UF may well have to pay that amount to the government.

Can you keep it up for eight minutes?

I’m telling you. Life is better in Washington. In UD‘s city, if you can just keep talking for seven, eight minutes tops, you can earn twenty to forty thousand dollars!

And it gets better. You probably don’t even have to write the speech! At these rates, you can be generous with your speech writer. Show up, stand up, mouth some words somebody else wrote, grab the check.

Here, for instance, are some notes from recent DC speeches on behalf of an Iranian group.

Gen. [Anthony] Zinni’s speaker agent confirmed that Zinni was… paid his “standard speaking fee” for an eight-minute address at an MEK-related conference in January — between $20,000 and $30,000… As for whether he had any qualms about how much the speakers were compensated for addressing the groups, [John] Sano, who delivered [one conference’s] longest remarks with a 14 minute speech, paused and thought…

Yeah, there’s the whole pause and think option… which some have taken:

Despite offers of up to $40,000 for notably brief remarks, sources with knowledge of speaker negotiations said at least four invited speakers have declined this year because they had questions about the [group’s] ultimate goals…

Clear up the questions about your goals and I’d be delighted to be limo’ed to your feast, say out loud like a good boy the eight minutes’ worth of words my speech writer wrote, take a check from you for forty thousand dollars and be driven home. That’d be great.

The author of the article from which I’ve been quoting cautions the reader:

Unless a speaker has a can’t-lose stock tip, nobody is inherently worth $20,000 for a six-minute speech…


The author of the article questions this Harvard professor, who along with Zinni and Sano has made a killing this way. She responds with some major backoffology:

“I was invited to speak at a conference on the Arab Spring and I received a speaker fee… My remarks were aimed at an Iranian American audience that was concerned about Camp Ashraf. I, too, am concerned about the ongoing humanitarian situation there. But I would not want my presence at the conference to be equated with a position on the delisting of the MEK.”

Well, instead of taking nothing for the speech (you were motivated to give it, you say, by humanitarian rather than material concerns), you took tens of thousands of dollars from the group sponsoring it. So it doesn’t really look as if you have no position on the delisting of this organization.

Delisting from what, by the way? From our country’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.


Throw this professor in with the Monitor Group, Lawrence Summers, Andrei Shleifer, and the rest of the Harvard crew, and you understand why Frank Rich and UD laugh so heartily when the New York Times publishes opinion pieces by Ma Ingalls about the evils of materialism.

With the resignation of Harvard University’s Marc…

Hauser immediately after the sanctioning of Harvard’s Joseph Biederman, it’s time to pause and think about the striking number of very high-powered faculty there who over the last few years have been under a cloud, or disgraced or, like Hauser, forced out. What’s it mean?

Keep in mind, first, that simply by virtue of happening at Harvard, faculty news gets a lot of attention. For all we know, multiple high-ranking faculty at Clemson have been punished or forced out for research misconduct, conflict of interest and failure to report massive income, conspiracy to defraud, failure to register as a lobbyist, plagiarism, etc. But we don’t pay attention to Clemson; we pay attention to Harvard.

Still, whatever the numbers, it’s pretty amazing that during the course of this blog I’ve followed endless stories of the most high-powered professors in the world — high-powered Harvard professors — doing bad things.

Most of these stories involve what I’d call crimes of grandiosity. Not opportunity; grandiosity. You work your way to the top legitimately; then, at the top, the same cleverness and ego and competitiveness and sense of invulnerability and restless insistence on more that got you to the top tips you in the direction of recklessness.

To be sure, some of these cases are boringly about personal greed (Biederman and Shleifer in particular); but all of them involve as well a significant element of empire-building, power-mongering, and arrogance. Many involve people who, bizarrely, don’t need to break rules in order to maintain their position of prominence in the culture. They break them anyway. So say also that there’s some operation of pleasure at work here; that these particular personalities have been drawn to the rarified, high-energy setting of Harvard because there’s visceral gratification to be had by scoring repeatedly and scoring big.

The Faustian Bargain at Harvard University…

… has long been something like the following: Our eminent, money-generating professors will occasionally behave dishonorably – even in ways that have significant legal, not merely moral, repercussions.

We will deal with these events with Ivy gentility — we will say little or nothing, at least publicly. If we punish, we will not say publicly what that punishment was. We will never issue a public statement admitting that something bad happened on our faculty.

So, whether the event was Andrei Shleifer and Russia, or Lawrence Summers and Andrei Shleifer, or three law professors, plus a Harvard Overseer, and plagiarism, Harvard will deal with it quietly, admitting nothing, doing little (at least little that one can measure) by way of punishment.

If, as is the nature of Faustian bargains, Harvard loses a little of its soul with each of these events, well… The main thing is that Harvard can expect its faculty to be still about these things, to keep quiet, to be discreet.


It isn’t always. It was really pissed at Summers and his, er, implausible remarks about his knowledge of his protegé Shleifer’s activities, for instance.

And now, in the notorious case of the Harvard-packed Monitor Group and its relationship to the Gaddafi regime, one Harvard faculty member has decided to say something. Directly to Drew Faust, Harvard’s president. Her reported response to him is telling.


“[A] tyrant wanted a crimson-tinged report that he was running a democracy, and for a price, a Harvard expert obliged in spite of abundant evidence to the contrary,” said Harry Lewis, current Harvard professor and former dean, to the university’s president at a faculty meeting. “Shouldn’t Harvard acknowledge its embarrassment, and might you remind us that when we parlay our status as Harvard professors for personal profit, we can hurt both the university and all of its members? … We can’t keep having these economists go off to foreign countries and fill their pockets and create these huge embarrassments for the university.”

Here, on his blog, is his full statement.

Faust replied that for her to say anything about this would make her “scold in chief.”

That’s a sweet put-down, no? It implies, first, that Lewis is nothing more than a scold, and that no one, including Drew Faust, would want to join him in being a scold. A scold. Uncool. A finger pointer. A finger shaker. Some sort of uptight hyper-moralist. Because I mean there’s no clear wrongdoing here, moral ambiguity and geopolitical complexity being what it is… Remember what Benjamin Barber said: Everyone gets paid.

And after all, if the only thing you can do is scold, what’s the point? Harvard is only one small weak voice in the wilderness; it has no leverage in the larger world; it’s just a teeny overlooked little thing… When it speaks, no one listens.

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE