October 11, 2006

Instead of Job, Yale Video Resumé Nets Notoriety

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What started as an ambitious I-banking application has snowballed into a minor Internet phenomenon: Aleksey Vayner ’07, Yale, has found his resumé — and an accompanying video, and his charity foundation, and his book, and his investment firm — thrust into very public scrutiny.
The story started after a bank recruiter forwarded Vayner’s application on to a few friends. Aside from claims of being a professional athlete and trainer, CEO and author of a book on the Holocaust, the resumé included a link to a video interview. That video included clips of Vayner opining on how he became successful, interspersed with feats of athletic prowess: bench-pressing 495 pounds, hitting a tennis ball at 140 miles per hour, and breaking a pile of six bricks with his bare hands.
The e-mail forward grew quickly and was sent all over Wall Street: to Bain and Company and then the Blackstone Group, then on to the Boston Consulting Group and Lehman Brothers.
One recipient commented that the piece was “pure gold,” while another wrote Vayner off as a “Typical Yalie,” according to the New York Sun.
Among two notorious groups of over-achievers, Ivy Leaguers and investment bankers, Vayner’s story struck a chord, and he was propelled to wider notoriety by the Wall Street gossip blog Dealbreaker, which shared the juiciest details of his resume and more incredulous comments from various banking firms. IvyGate went one further and uploaded Vayner’s video to YouTube, where it was served up until somebody using Vayner’s name sent YouTube a third-party infringement notification.
As Vayner’s video worked its way around the Web, some observers began questioning whether he was all he made himself out to be.
IvyGate broke down the charges against Vayner into three major pieces:
—That he had created a fake investment firm
—That he had created a fake charity, and then faked credentials for it
—That he plagiarized and self-published a book on the Holocaust about women survivors
The blog mixed cyber-sleuthing with gossip to support those charges, but the site’s authors said they do have limits to what they would publish.
“I think that there are things that are too personal, that are malicious,” said one editor. “I think that what’s not private is he created a fake charity, a fake investment firm, and plagiarized a book about the Holocaust. That’s the kind of thing people should know about.”
The story has since been picked up by more mainstream outlets: The Yale Daily News and the New York Sun both have run pieces. The Associated Press ran an article stating that UBS was looking into the source of the leaked resumé, with possible repercussions for involved employees.
Indeed, one of the only voices missing from the coverage is Vayner’s. Some outlets have even speculated that the whole story is a setup. A phone call to Vayner’s listed Yale number went straight to voicemail, which was full. He did not respond to e-mails in time for publication. The most public comment Vayner has made is a cease-and-desist letter to IvyGate.
An IvyGate editor said that, while they were taking the threat of lawsuit seriously, they did not see it going anywhere.
“We’re not really worried,” he said. “We’ve had contact with a lawyer, and it’s clear to us that the claims he makes [regarding copyright and public disclosure of private facts] are pretty groundless.”
After YouTube suspended the video, IvyGate began hosting it on their own server last night.
Why is the story of an application gone wrong so popular?
“I think one reason that the story is so popular is that it has arrogance, online video, it has fraud. … It has the Ivy League,” the editor said.
And for some, Vayner may well represent the worst of the League.
“It was only a matter of time before the quintessential Ivy Leaguer came out of the wood works. That fact that it happened to Aleksey Vayner is just chance,” the IvyGate editor said. “He is a certain aspect of the Ivy League, taken to the extreme. If you take one self-aggrandizing aspect of the Ivy League and blow it up, … you get something resembling Aleksey.”
However self-aggrandizing Aleksey may or may not be, it is doubtful that he could have imagined the cult-status he has since gained. Several Facebook groups are devoted to him, and one online shop is even offering Aleksey-inspired T-Shirts with his signature catchphrase: “Impossible is nothing.”