I reported Wednesday that some hedge fund managers were stunned into silence when news flashed that Raj Rajaratnam had been convicted on all 14 counts of insider trading.
The hedge fund guys sitting with Reuters reporter Svea Herbst-Bayliss audibly gasped.
"Wow, gosh. I don't know what to say," whispered a prominent industry executive to Herbst-Bayliss.
(Side note: How close was Hebst-Bayliss standing next to Mr. Prominent Industry Executive that she could hear his whispers?)
So I think it is important to reveal a fact that has been left out of these stories: A lot of these guys were hungover when the jury's decision was announced.
When Mr. Prominent Industry Executive whispered to Herbst, there's a good chance his breathe smelled like scotch.
The guys and gals are gathered in Las Vegas for the Skybridge Alternative Investments conference, which is known as SALT. They're here to network and listen to panels composed of some of the biggest names in investing and politics.
But a lot of the "networking" takes place over drinks. And, eventually, under drinks. In drinks. Through drinks. Drinks. Lots of drinks.
Many of the conference participants arrive the night before. They set up dinners with each other. At a steak house on the Strip. Or a high-end sushi joint, preferably Nobu. A beer or a cocktail before the meal, wine with the meal, more wine that is kind-of-with-the-meal-but-pretty-much-replacing-the-meal at that point, one last drink back at the hotel casino becomes two. Or three.
Or, if someone is doing especially well at the tables, four or five.
Each night of the conference this pattern is repeated. "Off-site" cocktail parties are followed by private dinners, which then lead to after-parties or gambling in the casinos.
Forget fear and loathing. This is beer and bro'ing in Las Vegas.
(There are lots of women at SALT, too, by the way. So this is co-ed "bro'ing.")
It's hard to escape the suspicion that this is part of what makes the conference work. Many financial conventions are staid affairs that almost seem designed to discourage various participants from meeting each other.
SALT sometimes feels like a party, where a young hedge fund manager might find himself chatting with a guy with billions of dollars under management. Outreach becomes a handshake. A pitch gets combined with a toast. The entire event just feels friendly.
And, early in the morning, it often feels hungover.
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