Yale University student Aleksey Vayner has certainly made a name for himself on Wall Street, but probably not in the way he intended.
Vayner sent a cover letter and résumé to the financial firm USB in which he claimed to be a "world-level athlete in several sports" with "an insatiable appetite for peak performance and continuous learning." In addition to his anticipated May 2007 graduation from Yale, his résumé listed him as an investment adviser with Vayner Capital Management LLC, CEO of the non-profit organization Youth Empowerment Strategies Inc., author of a "gendered perspective" book on the Holocaust, and a martial arts instructor/trainer.
But what really set Vayner's résumé apart was its link to his video, Impossible is Nothing, in which he rambles on and on about what it takes to achieve success while showing clips of himself allegedly bench-pressing 495 pounds, serving at 140 m.p.h., and breaking a stack of bricks with a karate chop.
[Editors' note: As habitués of both the gym and tennis court, it appeared to us that Vayner's spotters got more exercise out of his 495-pound bench attempt than he did, and his serve did not seem to be anywhere in the vicinity of 140 m.p.h. As for the bricks, we invite you to judge for yourself on the IvyGate website.]
Whether amused or mortified, someone at UBS forwarded Vayner's résumé to a friend at another financial firm, and that person to another, until Vayner had become the talk of Wall Street and an overnight Internet sensation. His video was a hit on YouTube.com until YouTube removed it for possible copyright infringement.
As Vayner's notoriety spread, people began poking into his past and found a scathing profile published in the Yale Rumpus after Vayner (then calling himself Aleksey Garber) visited the school as a pre-freshman in 2002. Vayner allegedly told the author that he had studied at a Tibetan monastery under monks who had taught the Dalai Lama, that his father had been in the German mafia, that he had given tennis lessons to Jerry Seinfeld and Harrison Ford, and that he had worked for the CIA and hacked its computers.
IvyGate, a blog that covers "news, gossip, sex, sports and more" at the eight Ivy League schools, has made the Vayner story into a cause célèbre. IvyGate reposted Vayner's video after YouTube removed it, and on Thursday posted a piece called "Lord of the Lies: Aleksey Vayner Outdoes Himself," in which it says that Vayner's investment company, charity, and Holocaust book are all fraudulent.
Vayner's website for his charity, Youth Empowerment Strategies, (not to be confused with the other Youth Empowerment Strategies) bore a seal of approval from the charity watchdog, Charity Navigator, which that organization never authorized, IvyGate reported. (The seal appears to have since been removed.)
And an excerpt from Vayner's self-published Holocaust book, "Women's Silent Tears," was identical to a passage in the online Holocaust Encyclopedia, IvyGate said. The book has since been removed for sale at Lulu.com.
"So let's get this straight: Vayner created a fake charity. He named himself CEO of a non-existent investment firm. And he plagiarized a book on the Holocaust," IvyGate wrote. "Forget [former Taliban official and Yale student] Rahmatullah Hashemi. Why is Aleksey Vayner at Yale University?!"
In an article in the Yale Daily News, one Yale student was quoted as saying she had had heard "outlandish" stories about Vayner, such as that he is one of four people in Connecticut qualified to handle nuclear waste. But others said people should see the humor in Vayner's claims, and suggested that they may have been intended that way.
"I think clearly he was trying to play a practical joke or just trying to draw attention to himself," student Won Choi told the Daily News.
Sources: IvyGate, The New York Sun, YaleDailyNews.com