The jury delivered its verdict two days ago in the much watched Ellen Pao suit against Kleiner Perkins in Silicon Valley; she lost. From what I've heard, the jury delivered the right verdict.
I've heard speculation that as shameless as she appears to be, she must be a sociopath. That's certainly possible. But given how consistently unsuccessful she was at trying to make a good impression, even initially, with those she was trying to ingratiate herself with, she strikes me more as a clueless Aspie.
One of the more convincing pieces of evidence for that was that she actually complained in her suit that the Kleiner Perkins partners seemed nervous around her after she filed suit against them. (One would have to be utterly without any understanding of human nature to expect any other reaction.)
Pao had unquestionably impressive academic credentials. She graduated from Princeton in 1991 with a degree in electrical engineering, from Harvard Law School in 1994, and from Harvard Business School in 1998. Her only problem seems to be, you can't educate the Aspergers out of yourself.
And it's hard not to wonder to what extent Pao was urged to file a lawsuit by her litigious husband, Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher.
There's no question about his
psychological profile. It's not much of a stretch to say that anyone who runs a Ponzi scheme is a sociopath. You pretty much have to be one in order to be able to look people straight in the eye, reassure them that their money will be carefully tended, and then just use that money to fund your own lavish lifestyle.
Fletcher has also shown many of the other classic signs.
He's left a long trail of lawsuits, both as plaintiff and defendant.
In June of 1991, Fletcher sued Kidder, Peabody, claiming racial discrimination because he hadn't been paid the bonus he was due. Kidder in turn said that they weren't even sure the electronic profits Fletcher claimed were real, since he refused to divulge how he had obtained them.
According Boston magazine
In 1992 a New York Stock Exchange arbitration panel denied Fletcher the damages he claimed, awarding him a relatively modest $1.26 million, and later another arbitration panel dismissed the racial discrimination suit. The arbitration award wasn’t really a victory for Fletcher, but the story that emerged in subsequent media reports was less nuanced: On Wall Street, went the narrative, even Harvard grads get discriminated against if they happen to be black. Buddy Fletcher, though, had fought back.
Fletcher subsequently opened up his own money management company, Fletcher Asset Management. After three years in business, Fletcher claimed an average annual return of over 300% for the previous two years.
1n 1995, Fletcher registered his company as a hedge fund. He then used a technique perfected by Bernie Madoff: he appeared to be discriminating about his investors, claiming that he only wanted "friendly" investors. You see, it was a privilege to invest with him. (If those 300% returns had been real, it would have been a privilege.)
Fletcher also loved to make a big splash: appearances were all. From the same magazine article:
Fletcher dressed in a Gatsby-esque cavalcade of beautifully tailored suits and traveled around Manhattan in a Bentley driven by his full-time chauffeur. He bought a $5.9 million castle in upstate Connecticut. In New York, he rented offices for his hedge fund at the top of the GM Building on Fifth Avenue. There, rising 48 floors from the southeast corner of Central Park, he could gaze down upon the city in every direction.
He also loved to pose as a philanthropist, at one point announcing that he would donate $50 million to people and organizations furthering the cause of civil rights.
But in 2011, when he tried to buy a fifth apartment at the Dakota, the board turned him down after looking into his finances, and the whole edifice came tumbling down. He had been claiming assets he did not have, and it soon became apparent that he was operating what was essentially a Ponzi scheme.
Fletcher's response? To sue the Dakota for racial discrimination (even though it had previously sold him four other apartments).
One other discordant note. Fletcher had lived his entire adult life as an open homosexual, and was in a relationship with the same man, Hobart Fowlkes, Jr., for ten years. But in 2007, he met and married Ellen Pao.
Did he do that for show? Did he think he would be convincing people he'd "gone straight?" Did he lie to Pao herself about his sexuality, or was theirs a marriage of convenience? From the outside, it's unclear. But sociopaths are forever thinking they're fooling people when they're not; was this an example of that?
Once their sociopathy has been proven, it's always interesting to see what other behaviors sociopaths manifest, because their actions tend to follow certain patterns. In particular, they love to strike heroic, noble poses. Many people often fall for those poses, at least until the sociopath's duplicity has been uncovered.
It's also interesting to look at it from another angle, and see what kind of people file baseless discrimination lawsuits.