Aleksey Vayner’s 15 minutes of infamy has been extended as the fallout from his ambitious resume — leaked by UBS Investment Bank — ranges from mainstream media buzz to a possible investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office.
Ever since the Wall Street investment bank leaked the Calhoun junior’s job application video, Vayner has been under intense scrutiny from the blogosphere and mainstream media — and may now face a state investigation — in response to allegations that he plagiarized a book on the Holocaust and operated a fraudulent investment firm and charity.
Vayner — who told The New York Times last week that he had taken a leave of absence from Yale but will return this week for midterm exams — did not respond to requests from the News seeking comment. But he told the Times he is considering taking legal action against UBS, which began the e-mail chain that made Vayner’s video the talk of Wall Street.
“This has been an extremely stressful time,” Vayner told the Times.
As Vayner’s video spread across the Internet, the blog IvyGate alleged that two organizations operated by Vayner — Youth Empowerment Strategies, a non-profit organization, and Vayner Capital Management LLC, an investment firm — were fraudulent.
The text on the Web site for Vayner’s investment company had been lifted from that of a real firm in Denver, while his Youth Empowerment Strategies — not to be confused with a real charity in northern New Jersey that goes by the same name — carried a fake “Four Star” seal of approval from Charity Navigator, which evaluates non-profit organizations.
Charity Navigator has asked New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to investigate Vayner and his organization, Charity Navigator spokesperson Sandra Miniutti said Tuesday.
“We did report it to the Attorney General’s Office that we believed that a fraud charity was being run by that individual,” Miniutti said. “We didn’t want anyone being misled that they’d be making a donation to a bogus organization.”
A spokesman for Spitzer said the Attorney General’s Office does not comment on who it is investigating. But the office will investigate organizations that are reported to it, he said.
In his blog, Charity Navigator President Trent Stamp called for Vayner to be expelled from Yale.
Additionally, after examining Vayner’s self-published book on the Holocaust, “Women’s Silent Tears,” IvyGate found numerous passages lifted verbatim from several Holocaust Internet resources.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey declined to comment on the Vayner case specifically, but he said the Dean’s Office only investigates students when it receives a formal complaint, such as a police report or professor’s complaint, and the charge involves a violation of Undergraduate Regulations.
“We don’t investigate students proactively,” Salovey said. “Someone relevant would have to bring a complaint or charge to our attention.”
On Tuesday, Salovey helped kick off Academic Integrity Awareness Week with a keynote speech on the psychology behind cheating and ways to discourage plagiarism.
In the three weeks since the video first surfaced publicly, Vayner’s video has become a media sensation, garnering coverage from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and scores of publications across the globe.
Even the Today Show joined in on the media circus, airing Vayner’s clip last week and then running a Vayner-esque montage poking fun at anchor Matt Lauer. Other coverage has been less playful — the Times of London called Vayner the “creep of the month.”
Since the video was part of Vayner’s job application, he expected it to remain confidential and may take legal action against UBS for releasing it to the public, according to his interview with the Times. A spokesman for UBS declined to comment Tuesday.
Whether or not Vayner’s threat has any legal backing is unclear, said Pauline Kim, a law professor who specializes in employment law and workplace privacy at Washington University in St. Louis. Employees or potential employees often have a valid complaint if an employer discloses private facts — like an embarrassing medical condition or financial information — to the general public, Kim said, but Vayner’s case is somewhat different.
“This seems like a gray area,” she said. “The question really is, what was his expectation of privacy?”
For the leak to be a violation of privacy, it would have to be considered “highly offensive to a reasonable person,” Kim said.
While Vayner claims he is a member of the class of 2007 on Facebook.com and on the resume he submitted to UBS, Yale lists him as a member of the class of 2008. Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway and Calhoun Dean Stephen Lassonde declined to comment on Vayner’s personality or current academic standing.
Vayner’s attempt to stand out in his application appears to have backfired, although advertising executive Donny Deutsch said on MSNBC he would hire Vayner immediately for his creative genius. Director of Undergraduate Career Services Philip Jones declined to comment on whether Vayner’s strategy is a sound one.
But with Halloween less than a week away, some Yalies in need of an outfit may have found inspiration of their own in the Vayner scandal: some students said that “Aleksey Vayner” will likely be a popular costume on campus this year.