The analyst and the gay porn affair

Every now and then, something happens that reminds you the world is a curious place. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's handling of the Christian Curry affair is one of those events.

Last year, Morgan Stanley fired Mr Curry, an analyst in its real estate banking division. The US brokerage said the analyst had cheated on his expense reports. Mr Curry threatened to file a civil rights lawsuit asserting that he was fired because he was black and presumed gay following the publication of his naked photos in a gay porn magazine.

In August the Manhattan District Attorney announced that Mr Curry had been arrested for allegedly hiring a computer hacker (actually a New York police detective posing as one) to plant racist e-mail in Morgan Stanley's computer system.

Last month, the DA, having discovered that Morgan Stanley had paid a putative friend of Mr Curry's, Charles Luethke, for the information that Mr Curry planned to plant the electronic messages, announced it was dropping its charges.

Mr Curry promptly filed a lawsuit against Morgan Stanley seeking $1.35bn in damages. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley admitted that it had programed its computers to block employees from a website called VaultReports.com. VaultReports.com serves as a place where disaffected employees of companies like Morgan Stanley can air their complaints without fear of retribution from their bosses.

The hottest topic on the VaultReports.com site was what Morgan Stanley had done to Christian Curry. Many of the messages attacked Morgan Stanley and defended Mr Curry.

But Mr Curry must know perfectly well that black, homosexual property analysts who appear naked in gay porn magazines are not fired from Wall Street firms because they are homosexual or black but because they are naked. White male investment bankers have been fired for just being quoted in magazines.

There are few people who take jobs as securities analysts whose naked bodies excite sexual passion. Fewer still have the time to divert from their careers to disrobe for pleasure. (Where do you put your beeper?) And none of them would expect to be allowed to moonlight for a porn magazine.

If anything, his indiscretion was more likely to be treated lightly because he was black for the very good reason that Morgan Stanley, like every big company, works hard to avoid discrimination lawsuits.

But no matter how Mr Curry emerges from this affair, Morgan Stanley comes out worse. The casual observer can understand how a company might pay an informant in a lawsuit. That act, while stupid and wrong, is at least understandable. What is impossible to understand is its behaviour toward its employees. In seeking to prevent them from reading the VaultReports.com website, Morgan Stanley's decision-makers made fools of themselves.

Of course, the web censorship had exactly the opposite effect to the one intended. It turned a possibly spurious internet complaint session into a legitimate one. If the messages posted early on the website read suspiciously as if they were written by Mr Curry himself, or a few of his friends, the messages posted later sound like the outcry of an oppressed corporate population.

Last week, the young web-heads who run VaultReports, sensing that Morgan Stanley's management had just put them on the map, set up shop on the pavement outside the firm and passed out their backdoor address to Morgan Stanley employees.

Over the next couple of days, the rarely used backdoor at VaultReports.com ushered in more than 1,000 visitors, most Morgan Stanley employees. To judge from their energetic postings, most of them now feel deeply distrustful of their employer. At a stroke, Morgan Stanley created a meeting place for employees with a gripe and journalists who want to air those gripes.

Of course, all this was pretty much inevitable once the Morgan Stanley bosses decided to block their employees from the website. That Morgan Stanley didn't understand this suggests more than mere venality. It suggests deep stupidity. They underwrite all those internet deals and yet fail to understand the power of the thing!

n Michael Lewis is the author of 'Liar's Poker' and 'The Money Culture', and a columnist for Bloomberg News.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent