The murder of Dan Markel triggered a memory: On April 4, 1991, Mary Joe Frug was hacked to death with a seven-inch military-style knife, a couple of blocks from the home she shared with her husband Gerald Frug and their two children. (The crime remains unsolved). I had met Frug at a conference in Boulder a few days earlier, and this news made a particular impression on me.
A year to the day after her death, this happened:
On April 4, 1992, the Harvard Law Review held its annual gala banquet, when the torch of the nation’s most prestigious legal journal is passed to a new generation of editors. Among those invited: the murdered woman’s husband, Gerald Frug, a member of the Harvard Law School faculty. Had he attended, he would have found on his plate a parody of his wife’s last article. The parody, titled “He-Manifesto of Post-Mortem Legal Feminism,” was produced by the Law Review’s editors and paid for by the school. It depicted Ms. Frug as a humorless, sex-starved mediocrity and dubbed her the “Rigor-Mortis Professor of Law.”
The alleged satire poses a question that is certain to outlast all the finger-pointing, ducking, blaming, petitioning and posturing that has overtaken Cambridge in the nearly two weeks since the “joke” came to light: how can Harvard’s best and brightest, the men and women who will soon write the opinions of some of the nation’s most powerful judges, also be its cruelest and crudest?
Earlier this year, Ms. Frug’s article, “A Postmodern Feminist Legal Manifesto (An Unfinished Draft),” appeared posthumously in the Harvard Law Review. Several conservative editors fought unsuccessfully to block the piece, a bluntly worded examination of how, Ms. Frug maintained, the law perpetuated the subjugation of women.
As the banquet approached, the Law Review’s editors, their coveted, career-making judicial clerkships in hand, turned their efforts to the Harvard Law Revue, an annual send-up of the publication. Along with others who had opposed publication of the Frug article, Craig Coben and Kenneth Fenyo set about to lampoon it.
The result was a five-page, footnote-laden parody, saturated with inside jokes and sexual innuendoes. The article was purportedly dictated “from beyond the grave” by one Mary Doe, described as the “Rigor-Mortis Professor of Law, New England School of Law, 1981-1991” and “wife of Gerald Frug, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.” In it, Ms. Doe recounts childhood sexual fantasies about men in tight swim trunks, defended the use of obscenities in her scholarly work, and reflected on “the irony that I, a postmodern feminist, am being published because of my husband’s tenure here.”
“Postmodern feminists represent a diverse group of people,” the parody continued. “Some of us are intellectuals. Many are politically committed. Most are disillusioned. Others are just plain horny. But there is one thing that we have in common: we have no sense of humor.”
The memory of these events made me wonder what Coben and Fenyo have accomplished in the 22 years since they exhibited what might be interpreted as extreme psychopathic tendencies. (It’s worth noting in this context that, at least according to the two of them, none of their colleagues on the HLR objected to their “joke” before the fact).
The answer is that, in conventional terms, they have gone on to stellar careers in the business world:
Ken Fenyo has deep expertise in loyalty programs, digital coupons, personalized offers, e-commerce, and customer insights and analytics. He launched the retail industry’s first digital coupon program and has created new loyalty programs for Kroger, Caesars Entertainment, and General Mills among other companies. He is a frequent speaker on digital trends in retail including how mobile is transforming the shopping experience.
Ken completed the sale of YOU Technology, Inc. to Kroger (NYSE: KR) in February 2014. As CEO, Ken built the business into the retail industry’s largest digital coupon network delivering over 1 billion digital coupons to over 10 million shoppers at over 10,000 stores nationwide. YOU’s clients included over 20 leading retail chains and over 100 top brand advertisers. Prior to joining YOU, Ken was Vice President, Loyalty & Digital at Kroger, where he launched the industry’s first digital coupon program in November 2007, expanded Kroger’s fuel rewards program nationwide, created the new Kroger rewards loyalty program, and overhauled its $100 million personalized marketing program. Earlier in his career, Ken started a venture-funded e-commerce technology provider and served as a senior consultant with McKinsey & Company and Prophet Brand Strategy, where his clients included Caesars Entertainment, Time Warner, Dell, and HP. He has degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Law School.
Ken also apparently found love.
Meanwhile, Coben has also found his law degree to be remarkably versatile:
Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML), which has been playing a leading role in some of the biggest transactions in the London market so far this year, has appointed a new head of UK equity capital markets (ECM).
The bank, which is advising on the Pets at Home flotation, the RSA rights issue and worked on the recent Kennedy Wilson share listing, is relocating James Fleming from its Hong Kong office to become head of UK ECM.
BoAML jumped from fifth place to second place in European ECM last year, due in part to its success in the UK. The bank sees the UK as the second most important market globally after the US and last year worked on the Royal Mail privatisation, the Barclays rights issue and the first sale of shares in Lloyds Bank.
Fleming, who has 16 years’ experience in ECM, will report to Craig Coben, the head of European ECM at BoAML.
It took a relatively obscure former British academic to propagate a theory of the financial crisis that would confirm what many people suspected all along: The “corporate psychopaths” at the helm of our financial institutions are to blame.
Clive R. Boddy, most recently a professor at the Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University, says psychopaths are the 1 percent of “people who, perhaps due to physical factors to do with abnormal brain connectivity and chemistry” lack a “conscience, have few emotions and display an inability to have any feelings, sympathy or empathy for other people.”
As a result, Boddy argues in a recent issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, such people are “extraordinarily cold, much more calculating and ruthless towards others than most people are and therefore a menace to the companies they work for and to society.”
How do people with such obvious personality flaws make it to the top of seemingly successful corporations? Boddy says psychopaths take advantage of the “relative chaotic nature of the modern corporation,” including “rapid change, constant renewal” and high turnover of “key personnel.” Such circumstances allow them to ascend through a combination of “charm” and “charisma,” which makes “their behaviour invisible” and “makes them appear normal and even to be ideal leaders.”