Players: Andrew Lohse, a student at Dartmouth; Greg Jensen, a 1996 alum from Dartmouth and Co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates
The Opening Serve: Lohse on Tuesday wrote an op-ed in The Dartmouth, one of Dartmouth's school newspapers, recalling a story of a friend who was allegedly offered $100 by Bridgewater to explain why she didn't participate in Bridgewater's sophomore summer recruiting. "The sheer arrogance and senselessness of this anecdote make me sick to my stomach," he wrote. "There was a certain conceited logic to it--if this company can pay her $100 just to explain why she did not want to work for them, it's easy to imagine how much cash she could rake in if she decided to pursue her job. After I was done vomiting in my mouth, thinking of all the people who desperately need that hundred dollars, I began to think about the depth which the recruiting culture has permeated our College. ... Dartmouth is not a vocational school for investment bankers, nor should it be," wrote Lohse, saying that campus corporate recruitment resulted in students conforming to manufactured ideals of power and money--a brain drain. He concludes:
Why has higher education bent away from its highest aims to pull its youth into what is essentially a vulgar and extortionate system of lending and predatory capitalism which is increasingly underwritten by what remains of the public’s coffers, as large banks and investment groups fail left and right? Dartmouth men and women can do better; Dartmouth should too.
Lohse's allusions to Bridgewater's conformity and manufactured ideals echo the sentiments from a New York profile on the hedge fund and its founder Ray Dalio written in April. The article described the excerpts in Principles, the corporate manual or "gospel" for Bridgewater, as "written in a digressive, self-serious style that reads as if Ayn Rand and Deepak Chopra had collaborated on a line of fortune cookies," and likened Dalio to a cult leader. In a profile from The New Yorker on Dalio on July 25, Dartmouth is named as one of Bridgewater's "favorite targets"; in order to "minimize" the culture "shock" upon entering Bridgewater, as it differs so greatly, according to Dalio, from the rest of the world, "for years Bridgewater recruited young men and women straight out of college."
The Return Volley: This morning The Dartmouth ran a letter from Greg Jensen, a 1996 alum and Co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates in response to Lohse's opinion piece. "At Bridgewater Associates, we place a high value on accuracy and feel the need to correct even small inaccuracies so that misimpressions do not linger," he wrote. He said Lohse's story was "inaccurate in the impression it leaves." Jensen claims that his company ran focus groups that were "designed to solicit the opinions of upperclassmen as to how they thought about their career options" and see if Dartmouth students had an accurate picture of the company. Jensen said that $100 gift cards were given out to those who participated to thank them for their time. "Dartmouth has been a great source of talented people for Bridgewater," he wrote. "And we invite those who would like to understand us better to please take a look at our website."
Dealbook anticipated Jensen's response, "Whatever happened at Dartmouth, it’s clear that Mr. Lohse should have seen a response coming. One of the maxims listed by Mr. Dalio in 'Principles' is: 'Don’t pick your battles. Fight them all.'"
What They Say They're Fighting About: The $100 Bridgewater anecdote. The version that Lohse heard spurred him to write the scathing opinion piece and made him question Bridgewater's intentions--he points to something more subversive there. Jensen wants to make it clear that Lohse's version was inaccurate. He argues that the sessions were focus groups and the $100 were a form of thanks.
What They're Really Fighting About: Corporate recruitment at top colleges, and whether there's something wrong with top students being lured into banking. Lohse argues that corporate recruiting and companies like Bridgewater turn colleges and college students into "vocational schools." He laments on how his fellow students seem all funnel into being part of a system that just values wealth to the point where other intellectual ventures suffer.
Who's Winning Now: Draw. Jensen punches holes in Lohse's original premise by explaining the focus group setup. And as we mentioned, his savvy response seemingly polishes his company's reputation. But while Lohse's anecdote may not have legs, Lohse's talking points do. Bolstered by both The New Yorker and New York profiles, his statements seem to fall in line with what we know about Bridgewater--albeit from the eyes of an undergraduate. His rage against the machine--America's banking industry--is something Americans wary of Wall Street in recent years can support.