Hello all,

This morning I read about a lawsuit against the large law firm of Davis Polk. I can't comment on the allegations, but in my experience the large law firms industry ("big law") has a diversity issue.

I'd like to take a moment to share my experience with discrimination in law, and how I handled it. I didn't sue. I started a blog, and won. In one post, written in March of 2017, I criticized two things: (a) my employer O'Melveny and Myers's poor investigation of discrimination and sexual harassment complaints and (b) their use of mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements. This was the one-two punch that let them get away with mistreating employees. If an employee complained, they could simply do a sham investigation to exonerate the wrongdoer, and then use the nondisclosure and arbitration agreement to silence the victim. (If you're wondering why I violated mine, it's because I knew of three separate cases in which federal courts told O'Melveny & Myers that its mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreement was "unconscionable" (cases 1, 2 and 3)).

In no less than a year, courageous law students forced nearly all law firms to stop making employees sign these documents. In addition, the partner whose investigation I criticized, Adam Karr, was exposed for doing a sham investigation at Lions Gate (and the victim in that case returned over a million dollars to reveal this, meaning she has the credibility of a saint.) The truth is that powerful. Just say it and everything falls into place.

Beyond answering questions, I'd like to make myself available to help anyone dealing with discrimination or sexual harassment in law. Please feel free to contact me, and I will do what I can (completely confidentially and for free). My phone number is below and my email address is [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]) . For example, in the past, I have helped by contacting the firm, or just listened and shared thoughts. Feel free to use encrypted email providers like Proton Mail.


Alireza Gharagozlou

+1-310-560-7240 (mods can verify me by calling this number, which conveniently verifies the other information too, as it's the number in the blog, my Society of Actuaries profile [click the name], my California bar registration, and my SEC registration as a trader. Also, if AMA's need a pic, this is me)

Comments: 33 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

TenacityXL8 karma

How difficult was it, in simple terms?

whiteprius17 karma

Creating the blog wasn't difficult at all. Just create a blogger account and start writing!

But dealing with the firm as I went through this process was quite difficult. The first thing they did was baselessly, and without any evidence, accuse me of stealing confidential electronic information. I think this was supposed to frighten me, as it's a federal crime, but I knew they did not have a shred of digital evidence, and I reminded them of that. I know they're a powerful firm, but I don't think American courts would make up facts for them.

Later, they threatened to sue me for defamation and I told them that I would remove and retract any defamatory statement, if they identified it, but that I wasn't going to take down the whole blog based on some general accusation of defamation. They never identified a specific statement and, miraculously, a month or so later the woman at Lions Gate revealed what O'Melveny and Adam Karr had done in her case. She sort of saved me and, along with the law students who fought the firms, helped me put an end to this matter.

So on the one hand, it was easy, but on the other hand, you need a strong backbone to take on these sorts of people!

Melrose_Jac7 karma

So you say you "won." What did you win and what change occurred?

whiteprius6 karma

Well, I wanted to get law firms to stop forcing employees to sign mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements, and in a year almost all law firms were forced to stop using them thanks to those amazing law students. In addition, I wanted the public to be aware that O'Melveny may perform flawed investigations of discrimination and sexual harassment complaints. A year later, a woman validated my criticism by revealing that that exact attorney I had criticized in my original post, had performed a reportedly sham investigation of her sexual abuse complaint -- meaning they'll think ten times before pulling something like that again.

Melrose_Jac3 karma

OK, good answer and thanks for your hard work. I'm skeptical that most law firms have stopped using mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements, but I have no proof of that. I'm in house so I don't see what firms are doing, but my organizations certainly use them. Hopefully your work is a step in the right direction.

whiteprius2 karma

These tenacious law students are on them! Look at this latest story on that topic, that came out yesterday. https://abovethelaw.com/2019/11/law-school-students-are-boycotting-gibson-dunn/

ChornWork23 karma

Curious what makes you say biglaw is the worst offender? I have worked in NY biglaw, ibanking and PE, and I'd say a lot of the corporates I've worked were worse than any of those 3, let alone biglaw not being the worst among those three.

whiteprius5 karma

I was subjectively comparing it to general society, and professions that I'm familiar with, like medicine for example. It's just very weird to walk into a business that has biglaw's characteristics, e.g. its demographics and promotion statistics. I remember in one office, almost every single attorney was white, and almost the entire help staff were minorities. To give another anecdote, the one black attorney in another office called herself the firm's "negress" at a lunch once. My stomach sinks just remembering these things. I live in LA, where it's like 50% white and that kind of environment was just odd.

ChornWork25 karma

Sadly you see the same thing if you look at boards of directors or exec mgmt teams, versus overall employees, in most companies.

Definitely law firms have massive issue, particularly at partner level, but from my experience they had more diversity and were less cynical about than what I saw in finance or at corporates. Fair that view may be skewed more about gender and LGBT than race.

Am a white dude, so wasn't on the receiving end but had a front row seat to some of that.

Certainly none of those places did anything about offenders who were senior leaders or well connected, but sadly that is probably more consistent across industries once get senior enough.

Any sense how common arbitration/NDA are in employee agr generally? Great to hear folks pushing back against those. Imho no nda relating to sexual or discrimination matters should ever be enforceable as a matter of public policy.

whiteprius3 karma

Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and appreciated perspective, which is better than mine. I'm probably overgeneralizing. By the way, I'm actually technically white too, in terms of official definitions, and please don't feel like I'm attacking white people in any way. Many are leading efforts to diversify and doing far far more than I ever did! I think a lot of people just want to be in work environments that look like the city outside, and which look like the world.

On arb/NDA, it's been a real revolution in the past two years. The zeitgeist is changing radically and countless corporations and law firms have been pressured to stop using them. To share something funny, here's a recent article, "Nondisclosure provisions and mandatory arbitration under fire" by DLA Piper, that came out a few months ago, and here is an article about law students protesting outside of DLA Piper's office to get them to stop using mandatory arbitration and NDAs! I think you're at a competitive disadvantage as a company if you use these things today.

Nicks_Tricks3 karma

Algorithmic trader you say? What industries are you actively trading in?

whiteprius4 karma

Hello sir,

I apologize, there's just no way I can share any info on what I do, as you could piece my algos together. I hope you understand.

If you want advice on trading, these three rules are the best I can do.

  1. Please do not ever place a trade unless you have a verifiable edge. If it feels like you are flipping a coin, immediately stop, look at your money and appreciate that it's there, and realize how awful you'll feel when it's gone. The art of trading is attaining that edge, and there's no way anyone can teach that without giving you the strategies (and please be careful about books on trading. If that advice was worth something it wouldn't be on sale for $20.)

  2. Beware of transaction costs and factor this into your calculations. These absolutely devastate returns. I’m not only talking about the 0.005 per share your broker charges per trade, but the hidden cost. If you study it, whenever you go to buy something, you will, on average, pay 1 to 2 pennies more than the last price. If you go to sell something then, on average, you will get 1 to 2 pennies less than the last price. These crush returns. It’s shocking. For example, a paper recently came out noting how you can make decent money by simply buying the S&P at 4pm and selling it at 930am. And sure, you will get acceptable returns, assuming you get those closing and opening prices (not returns I’d bother with, but not awful returns). But the problem is you won’t get those closing and opening prices when you do the trade. On average, you will get 1-2 pennies worse each trade. if you model that, you’ll see that the returns are near-zero and in no way worth the bother of running this strategy.

  3. And, obviously, the “pigs get slaughtered” rule that I’m sure you’ve heard of. Even if you design an algo that wins 80% of the time (which would be preposterously amazing), that algo can still easily lose 5 times in a row. So if you’re betting too much, you can wipe yourself out even with this amazing algo. So keep your trades small. If your algo is right then you’ll win in the long run.

I know this doesn't seem like I said much, but it will make sure that if you do start trading, you'll do it properly and not in a way that risks losing your money.

thebloopergamer3 karma

Why did you want to become an actuary and what made you leave it? I’m studying to become one and it feels like the material matters in some way but at the same time it feels so out there like it’ll never be practically used.

whiteprius3 karma

Well, I was a dual math major in college. Pure math and applied math (these are really two different things by the way.) After graduation, I should have gotten a phd in math, but I was bored of school and wanted to work, and actuary is a common career path for mathematicians.

I have nothing bad to say about the actuarial profession. They're a bunch of hyper-conscientious nerds (said in a complimentary and not pejorative way) who are generally decent people. I just got bored and wanted to do something idealistic, and thought law would do that. In hindsight, it all worked out, because I'm now doing my dream job of designing trading algorithms which is incredibly exciting and intellectually demanding. But in another sense, had I stayed an actuary my life would be fine now.

My point from all of this is you're heading into a good career! (But please be careful about becoming a pension actuary, unless you work with small plans, as big pension plans are dying.)

On the material ... (by the way, please pardon my grammar I'm just stream of conscious writing if that's ok) ... yes, what you study is generally hard and more sophisticated than what you will use in practice. I don't know if that's a bad thing. I think the exams are just a gatekeeping tool? Out of curiosity, which of the four lines are you in? Life, pension, p&c or medical?

thebloopergamer2 karma

I’m still a third year college student. I’m avoiding pensions for the reasons you said but have no real direction beyond whoever is hiring. I only changed my major recently so I’m still working on my first exam and an internship. For some reason only one of my classes is focusing on the introductory exams and my other math course that I’m taking focuses on LTAM for some reason ( we only have a general probability course for P, no classes for IFM, and one focused class for FM)

whiteprius3 karma

Sounds like you're on the path! One other bit of advice I just remembered, is to make sure you do practice problems for the exams. My first few exams, I used to just learn the theory of the subject, expecting that it would allow me to get the questions. And it did, but your life will be easier if you do (I want to say a number but forget how many is right) practice problems and take the good one-week seminars (I forget which the good ones are).

Best of luck!

Signs802 karma

Any recommendations to get into algo trading? I'm a weird hybrid applied/pure/stats math major that graduated last year and is currently a software dev looking at something a lot more interesting to me like trading (which I've done just not with self designed algorithms)

whiteprius1 karma

You have the perfect background for it being a mathematician and programmer. Sounds like you want to do it for a shop and so I would maybe consider just applying? eg https://www.rentec.com/Careers.action I think a lot of them prefer phds, but then again algorithmic trading is something that requires diligence, ideas and creativity more than it does degrees. If you would like to do it as a hobby, maybe just come up with ideas, purchase the data to test your ideas, ask yourself if this is a situation where you might have inadvertently cherry-picked data or if if it's one where you have some kind of broad consistent insight into the market, and so on. Over time your ideas will become more sophisticated and insightful, and you'll get better at it. Analogizing to those bulls that you see at cowboy bars, after two years of intense research I'm at a level where I can barely hang on to the bull. it's a likely never ending path of constant analysis, testing and hopefully improvement.

whiteprius3 karma

Someone privately asked me why I blogged instead of suing. This was my answer if anyone else had that question:

To answer this question, I have to share what actually happens when you try to enforce discrimination law. The first thing that happens is some biglaw employment partner's eyes well up with tears of joy, thinking about the seven figures of revenue and margin (see definition here) they will make by dragging out your misery with litigation, before settling your case for, at most, a fraction of what they made off of you. They quite literally sit around hoping for such lawsuits.

So I didn't bother wasting my time trying to enforce the law. There are countless real-world examples showing that trying to enforce discrimination law is often a waste of time, except in the sense that it publicly exposes wrongdoing and puts the employer in a position where they will think twice before repeating the behavior. I didn't need a lawsuit to accomplish that. I could accomplish that with a blog.

dabigchina2 karma

Are you the person who keeps on spamming law school forums with links to your blog?

whiteprius1 karma

No, I discovered reddit a month or so ago, posted there a few times, and got attacked by law students (which I think, along with the content on the other law school admissions website, autoadmit, confirms my assessment of the problematic culture of law and law students. It's one of white privilege, one that marginalizes minorities. The good news, though, is such people need to stay anonymous, as their thoughts are abhorrent.)

Then I read the story this morning and felt like doing an AMA, so I did it here. I've come to generally appreciate reddit as a tool to share information and help people.

My blog did go viral about a year ago, due to news articles, so it may have been spammed in sites.

ronandev2 karma

How do you pronounce your name?

whiteprius4 karma

Alley-Raise-Uh Gair-uh-goz-loo

ronandev3 karma


whiteprius5 karma

yeah lol, what can I do.

JanusbetVhalnich0 karma

Algorithmic trader? God what bullshit.

whiteprius2 karma

This is a perfectly healthy attitude towards trading, and one that you should embrace. As I replied to the person above, no one should trade without an edge, and it takes incredible research and analysis to attain that edge. Trying to find it is an ambitious and challenging endeavor, and I guess that's why I like algo trading so much. It's really hard. But please keep in mind that I have five degrees, many related to math, and that I have been studying this for years. It's not something to play around with.