Thursday, August 30, 2007

The $70MM per year hedge fund trader, my hero (not)

I've been trying to digest the Wall Street Journal's front page story (link - $$) earlier this month on Mike McGoldrick, the Goldman Sachs trader who left because at $70MM per year he felt underpaid. That's puzzling enough, but here are two passages that blew my mind:

In 2002, ...Mr. McGoldrick began frequently working 21-hour days and traveling three weeks each month. He typically would land in Hong Kong at 11 p.m., and go home to work. It would be noon in New York, so he'd participate in three hours of conference calls to review the credit and asset value of U.S. partnerships under consideration. At 3 a.m. Hong Kong time, he'd go to bed until 6 a.m., when he'd rise to review the unit's Asian investments and markets....

Around [the end of 2006], Mr. McGoldrick got sick. Frequently on the phone or on an airplane, he developed severe bronchitis, with a hacking cough. He couldn't get through a phone call without throat lozenges for 100 consecutive days, a person familiar with the matter says. He visited his doctor in London, who ordered him to change his grueling lifestyle.

Just two simple questions here:

  1. What was it like to live with this guy?
  2. What was it like to work with this guy?

Only in America, I think to myself, can we venerate someone who sleeps three hours a night and needs throat lozenges to get through a phone call, then quits because he's not paid enough.

I'm also trying to understand how someone who took that much on himself could have possibly been a clear thinker. Psychologist Kenneth Nowack's recent blog post cites Alertness Solutions' statistics on the costs of sleep deprivation: for example, a 50% reduction in critical decisionmaking ability with two hours of reduced sleep per night.

With McGoldrick's three whole hours of sleep a night, I wouldn't trust him to make coffee without scalding himself, never mind decide on liquidating an Asian real estate portfolio.

Hopefully whoever hires McGoldrick next has enough compensation dollars left to bring on someone to watch over him.

(Photo: a throat lozenge from jr3 via stock.xchng)