And so it came to pass in the city of Manhattan that a plague fell upon the largest of the houses of investment banking, such that they turned to dust or became deformed. The plague struck first the house of the brothers Lehman, and destroyed it. Then came it to the house of Merrill Lynch, called Merrill, and did not destroy it, but made it weak; and the elders of that house sought relief from the plague, and they placed themselves and all of their house under the mark of the house of Bank of America. And the houses of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley transformed themselves and were no more called “investment banks,” but were called “bank holding companies,” and so they did change themselves and were not destroyed.
And word of the plague spread quickly throughout the land of New England, but most quickly through the settlements of Eli, and made them annoyed. For it was then of the season when each year the most prosperous houses in the great cities would send men and women laden with gifts to sojourn to the settlements of Eli and the other tribes of Ivy. And these were called the recruiters. And the houses of investment banking were known for their generosity in sending many recruiters, and adopting many tribesmen of Eli, though few understood the trade upon joining the house.
But upon hearing of the plague it was said among the people of Eli that the banks would take none but those who had already worked a season with them. And lo, those chosen did not accept the offer at first, but waited to see the effects of the plague. Such was the caution of Eli in those days. And those who had worked within the house of Lehman, which had been destroyed, allowed themselves only a few days for mourning, and after returned to their carousing. And they said among each other, Hey, we still have options, for so they thought. Such was the uncertain hubris of Eli in those days.
And it was the custom among the tribe of Eli to gather all the recruiters together for a single day, and each house was given its own stall as in the marketplace: the bankers and the consultants, the hedge funds and the makers of technology. Thus the eldest generation of the tribesmen of Eli could walk among the stalls, collecting gifts of pens and water bottles and ping-pong balls, each with the mark of the house that brought them. And this gathering was called the Career Fair.
But in these days a wariness set upon the settlements of Eli, and at the Career Fair few sought out the stalls of the investment bankers, though many were richly laid. For they clamored instead at the stalls of the Boston Consulting Group and its brethren; and this was indeed wise, for the commotion of the plague had made work for the consultants.
And many came to the stalls of the hedge funds, whose recruiters called among the clamor of the Fair, Everyone else is freaking out, whereas we understand money. We beat the market. And this was pleasing to Eli, and many who knew nothing of markets sat among the hedge funds, and took the gifts they offered.
But while many stopped at other stalls, none abandoned the bankers entirely, for they did not see that the plague of the house of Lehman was not yet past, but spreading. One said, Just think about what’s going to happen to the real economy. His prophecy was private and unheeded.
Yet, lo, in the weeks after the Career Fair signs of plague began to spread outward throughout the land. And fear grew among the tribesmen of Eli.