A video made by a senior in Calhoun College as part of an investment banking application has flown around the Internet in recent days, at the same time that he has come under scrutiny for creating a fraudulent charity, the IvyGate blog reported this week.
Aleksey Vayner ’07 featured an unapproved “Charity Navigator Four Star Charity” icon on the Web site of his fake charity Youth Empowerment Strategies, Leonie Giles, a program analyst at Charity Navigator, told IvyGate. Charity Navigator certifies the legitimacy of nonprofit groups. Vayner also included a reference to the fabricated charity in a resume he submitted to several investment banking firms, including UBS.
According to IvyGate, a blog that covers news from around the Ivy League, the resume also mentions work he has done as an investment advisor at Vayner Capital Management L.L.C., a fraudulent company, and a book Vayner wrote about the Holocaust entitled “Women’s Silent Tears,” which is at least partly plagiarized from an online encyclopedia.
Vayner and Charity Navigator representatives could not be reached for comment last night.
One editor of IvyGate, who blogs and speaks to the press anonymously, said his investigations convinced him that there may be a recurring pattern of Vayner’s stretching the truth.
“It’s the sort of thing like when people got the first hint that Jayson Blair was a rotten apple at the New York Times — they knew they hadn’t discovered the one time he screwed up,” he said. “Everything about this kid, from the speed of his tennis serve, to whether his charity is legitimate, to whether he has a book — everything we looked into is rotten.”
The 11-page resume, which was obtained by IvyGate, includes claims that Vayner taught martial arts to the winner of the Korean Nationals Tai-Kwan Do Championships and a link to a video purporting to be an interview with Vayner about his strategies for success. In the video, now available on YouTube, Vayner appears to lift a 495-pound weight and serve a tennis ball at 140 miles per hour.
“To achieve success, you must first conceive it and believe in it. Remember: impossible is nothing,” Vayner said in the video.
The Web site for Vayner Capital Management is currently down, though as of last night the main page of the site linked to ebay.com.
Some Yalies said they think Vayner’s attempts to pass himself off as someone he is not are reprehensible, but others said they think the outrage over the resume and fabricated charity is unwarranted.
Daniella Berman ’07, who knows Vayner through the Yale Ballroom Dance Team, said she has heard “outlandish” stories about Vayner both from him and from other students. Among the claims she said she has heard is one that Vayner is one of four people in the state of Connecticut qualified to handle nuclear waste.
Berman said that while she thinks that kind of claim is fairly harmless, she thinks Vayner crossed a line by misrepresenting himself to a potential employer.
“There is a big difference between stretching the truth to show yourself in the best possible light, which I think a lot of Yalies are guilty of and [Undergraduate Career Services] even tells you to do, and on the other hand, doing something so extreme that you’re manipulating other people,” she said. “With the lies, I can understand that maybe he just wants to show himself off and it doesn’t hurt anyone else. But with this he is manipulating people for his own advantage, and it is detrimental to other people if he’s stealing money.”
But Won Chai ’07 said that while Charity Navigator has a right to be upset with Vayner, he thinks the humor of Vayner’s resume should be appreciated.
“I think clearly he was trying to play a practical joke or just trying to draw attention to himself,” he said. “Whether or not it was a good thing or not, I couldn’t say. People seemed to be enjoying it. I-bankers are forwarding this stuff to each other. Maybe it’s good for a laugh now and again.”
Pieter Morgan ’09, who has lifted weights with Vayner, said he thinks Vayner often makes seemingly unbelievable claims because he genuinely believes them to be true. Morgan said he thinks Vayner is a genuine person, despite his penchant for seemingly implausible stories.
“I think it’s like in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ with Russell Crowe,” Morgan said. “When he tells you these stories, it’s completely genuine, which is what is completely amazing. He’ll tell you with a completely straight face that he knows the Dalai Lama, and he is completely serious. I think he is fundamentally a nice guy.”
Vayner was profiled in the Yale Rumpus in May of 2002 after visiting Yale as a prefrosh. The profile outlined Vayner’s many fabrications, including his claims that he was employed by both the Mafia and the CIA during his childhood and that he gave tennis lessons to Harrison Ford and Sarah Michelle Gellar.