Booty from l’affaire Lefevre a ‘Liar’s Jackpot’

In today’s edition, The New York Times weighed in on l’affaire John Lefevre, taking a significant swat at the self-proclaimed fly on the walls of Wall Street’s most admired or reviled elevators. As reported here in All that Twitters is not Goldman, Lefevre was outed earlier this week as the author of Twitter’s GS Elevator Gossip, @GSElevator, which chronicles “things heard in Goldman Sachs elevators.”

GS Elevator Gossip Profile (GSElevator) on TwitterDeclaring Mr. Lefevre’s lucrative six-figure book contract a “Liar’s Jackpot,” The Grey Lady’s Editorial Board likened the booty from Mr. Lefevre’s fictitious tweets “about the tasteless, boorish, smug and reliably funny things he overhears from rich bankers” to The Wolf of Wall Street, which it described as the “most debauched – and highest grossing – movie of Martin Scorsese’s career.”

Sparing no question of approval, the Board concluded: “Who needs truth when there’s a cultural moment to cash in on?”

Since Tuesday, media coverage of Mr. Lefevre and @GSElevator helped attract 9,000 new Twitter followers. Otherwise it remains to be seen how this new twist affects him, Simon & Schuster and other interested parties.

But there is no doubt that there are lessons to be learned for communications professionals who counsel clients, companies and individual executives on how to build and protect their reputations.

Interestingly, Mr. Lefevre’s book, titled Straight to Hell: True and Glorious Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion Dollar Deals will be labeled nonfiction, The Times reports.

What do you think?


All that Twitters is not Goldman

After sending more than 1,100 tweets and entertaining over 630,000 followers, it turns out the author of GS Elevator Gossip, who chronicles “things heard in Goldman Sachs elevators,” is not a Goldman Sachs employee and has probably spent little time in that company’s lifts since the @GSElevator handle debuted on Twitter in 2011.

The self-proclaimed fly on the walls of Wall Street’s most admired or reviled elevators is John Lefevre, a 34-year-old bond executive in Texas, according to Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times. Lefevre’s inspiration for @GSElevator was a similar Twitter account, @CondeElevator, which featured bon mots from the staff of Condé Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair, Vogue and other glossies. The Goldman name apparently was chosen for its brand recognition on both Main Street and Wall Street.

On one hand, Mr. Lefevre’s response to his outing showed deft PR instincts: a proactive, accountable message, reinforced by an executive at a venerable publishing house.

Despite crafting an alter-ego and distancing himself from it for over three years, Mr. Lefevre preempted questions and much criticism by matter-of-factly confirming he never worked at Goldman. He pointed out that “he deliberately never said in any of his tweets that he worked for the firm.”

Reinforcing his position, the editor who paid a “six-figure sum” for Mr. Lefevre to write a book about Wall Street culture inspired by @GSElevator, said he and his publishing company were not misled by Mr. Lefevre. “He’s been pretty straight with us the entire time, so this is not a surprise,” the book editor, Matthew Benjamin of Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint, told The Times.

@GSElevator's 9/23/14 tweet: "Poor people eat so much fast food you’d think their time was valuable."

Still, one wonders whether Mr. Lefevre could have tweeted his way to such heights without the Goldman reference – particularly if the true intent was to lampoon Wall Street’s overall culture instead of one specific firm’s foibles. When you think about it, is “Poor people eat so much fast food you’d think their time was valuable” more or less retweetable because it’s ascribed to Goldman Sachs?

Time will tell whether Mr. Lefevre’s reputation ascends or crashes to earth based on this revelation. The whole affair might even be a candidate for the PR Verdict’s “There’s No ‘There’ There” award one future Friday. What remains relevant, however, to communications professionals is an observation Mr. Sorkin made in his original column:

“The ability of people like Mr. Lefevre to create anonymous Twitter accounts underscores concerns about the veracity of what is published and the identity of authors. It also raises questions about whether publishers are blurring the line between real life and the made-up kind.”

In the best of circumstances, transmitting messages and managing reputations is as much art as science. But as communications channels evolve, attention spans shrink and traditional media outlets compete for audiences, communications pros may need the compound eyes of flies to protect their clients, executives and reputations – and avoid unnecessary skirmishes.

What do you think?