@GSElevator tweets: Embarrassment for Goldman Sachs as Twitter ‘mole’ turns out to be a fake despite bank launching in-house investigation

The tweets that began appearing three years ago were not actually posted by an employee of the bank, but by a former bond executive living in Texas

New York

If we’ve devoured the postings of @GSElevator on Twitter it’s because they confirm our own prejudices about Wall Street bankers and the bull dung banter they engage in, aggrandising their over-compensated selves and demeaning the rest of us. So it’s a shame to discover it’s been bull dung all along too.

Since they started to appear on Twitter three years ago, the premise behind the tweets has been very clear. We were reading the exchanges that actually take place between employees of Goldman Sachs in the bank’s offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. “I never give money to homeless people. I can’t reward failure in good conscience.” That sort of thing.

Also funny – perhaps even more so now – is how they sent the famously stiff-shirted managers at Goldman into, well, a twitter. Before long a full-blown in-house investigation was launched to discover who among their employees was making cheap fun of the bank online. They hated that the account accumulated over 600,000 followers. It didn’t help when a big publisher signed on recently to turn the posts into a book.

Now fans of @GSElevator are learning – maybe some had already guessed – that the person responsible is not on the Goldman payroll at all. Rather he is a 34-year-old former bond executive living in Texas called John Lefevre. Upon being unmasked by the New York Times on Monday, he responded: “Frankly, I’m surprised it has taken this long. I knew this day would come.”

The escapade is a parable of the perils of the social networking age. Arguably no investment bank works harder to protect its reputation than Goldman Sachs. That it took so seriously the mockery of a Twitter account that was essentially faked makes it look more foolish than ever. Mr Lefevre has found out you can’t stay anonymous forever. The publishers are left with a real-life book that isn’t.

The fraud wasn’t total. Mr Lefevre was offered a job with Goldman in 2010 but negotiations fell apart. He did work, however, for Citibank for seven years in London and New York and says his postings were indeed mostly reflective of actual exchanges between colleagues he heard while in the business. Moreover, he never claimed directly to be a Goldman employee.

“This was never about me as a person,” he explained to the New York Times. “It wasn’t about a firm. The stories aren’t Goldman Sachs in particular. It was about the culture in general.” He added: “I went into investment banking and I saw a group of people that aren’t as impressive as I thought they were – or as impressive as they thought they were. They defined themselves as human beings by their jobs.”

The publisher, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, says it wasn’t duped. “He’s been pretty straight with us the entire time, so this is not a surprise,” said the book’s editor, Matthew Benjamin.

“What matters is that every story in the book is true,” concurred his agent Byrd Leavell. “The book isn’t going to live or die on whether he worked at Goldman Sachs.”

As for Goldman, it has perhaps wisely responded to the unmasking with a dash of humour. “We are pleased to report that the official ban on talking in elevators will be lifted effective immediately,” joked a spokesman. That was a joke, wasn’t it?

@GSElevator: The tweets

* My garbage disposal eats better than 98% of the world.

* There are only 2 paths to happiness in life. Stupidity or exceptional wealth.

* The only thing more impressive than my accomplishments is my résumé.

* #1: “Was that an earthquake?” #2: “No, I just dropped my wallet.”

* When it doesn’t matter how much the drinks cost, it’s always Happy Hour

* #1: Hey, do you have change for a $20? #2: $20’s are change, bro.

* If you ever worry about what senior management think about you, just remember: we aren’t thinking about you.

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