The telling subtitle for Jared Dillian’s behind the scenes look at Lehman Brothers’ death spiral that helped trigger the Great Recession is “a Memoir of Money and Madness,” which could easily describe the worst aspects of Wall Street culture—but also the reason so many people crazed by ambition succeed there.
Dillian, an ex-military, working-glass guy in a Men’s Wearhouse suit, didn’t fit the Ivy League mold but he told his interviewers that he had a competitive advantage: “Nobody is willing to put in the hours I will put in. I am insane.”
And he wasn’t lying because just like Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison on Homeland, he suffers from bipolar disorder, which affects some 5.7 million Americans. In his case, it went undiagnosed until he almost flat-lined himself.
But his mania also fueled his meteoric rise from checking IDs at the entrance of the trading floor to heading a fund that handled more than a trillion dollars. In “the peculiar culture” of Lehman, Dillian writes in staccato bursts of electrifying prose, he fit right in, but “the inside of my head was a bad neighborhood.”
How he found the courage to move to a better place makes this twisted tale of a fabled financial firm’s collapse one for the ages.