Monday, September 24, 2012

The Mis-Lederer Files

So last Friday we finally reached the end of “The Lederer Files,” the lengthy interview with Howard Lederer posted in seven half-hour segments throughout the week by PokerNews.

To me the interview grew increasingly compelling as it went. Indeed, the process of watching successive “episodes” kind of reminded me of how a lot of us view new television programs, consuming entire seasons’ worth of shows in a single sitting or over the course of just a few days. I joked at one point over Twitter the sucker should have been put on Netflix streaming.

The forums and Twitter were of course all fired up over Lederer’s explanations, evasions, declarations, and obfuscations. A few detailed responses appeared as well on various sites and blogs, with Bill Rini’s breakdown of the interview (including some comments about Diamond Flush’s recent interview with Andy Bloch) being the most insightful by far.

In “A Review of The Lederer Files (Parts I-IV) and Andy Bloch Interview,” Rini assesses what Lederer and Bloch reveal about the ultimately inadequate management structure at FTP, including discussing at length about that incredible blind spot regarding the need to segregate accounts used for operating expenses and player funds that many of us were commenting on last week.

Then in “The Lederer Files Parts 5, 6, and 7” Rini looks a little more closely at the internal strife between the FTP owners and the issue of culpability. He rightly points out how Lederer utterly missed the point of Matt Glantz’ “The Silence of Full Tilt” blog post from February 2012. (Glantz wasn’t asking for a daily report on the status of deals and/or return of funds; he was noting the utter lack of any acknowledgement of the hugely effed-up situation.) Rini also ultimately finds Lederer’s interview-concluding apology to ring hollow, ultimately viewing the entire three-and-a-half-hour interview as much, much more self-serving than altruistic.

At the end of that second post, Rini offers some additional comments about Matthew Parvis and the quality of the interview as a whole. Parvis provided his own post-mortem on Saturday, also worth a look: “The Lederer Files: Process and Opinions.”

Sure, there were a few moments when follow-ups were warranted -- e.g., after that bizarre suggestion early on that segregating accounts wasn’t important to FTP or the industry as a whole; in the face of the non-explanation for why distributions continued at an obscenely high clip even after the company began to experience financial difficulty; during the self-righteous talk about the need to be fully “committed” as a member of FTP Board of Directors when Lederer himself was pretty obviously far from committed to his responsibilities as a BOD member prior to April 2011.

But like Rini I nonetheless have to acknowledge Parvis and PokerNews as having mostly done well with what was certainly a “tough gig” (as Rini says). And as I say above, I found the interview more compelling as it went, mostly because of the weird detours and occasional howlers Lederer dropped along the way.

His grouchy griping about Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Phil Gordon, Perry Friedman, and others was certainly intriguing, although in truth the more Lederer tried to deflect blame the worse he came off.

For example, the business with the “double-credited” loan to Erick Lindgren certainly appears primarily intended as a criticism of Lindgren for making off with not just a $2 million loan but another $2 million accidentally wired to him. But really, the whole idea of FTP casually shipping seven-figure loans to its Red Pros like this -- and amazingly being able to make multi-million-dollar mistakes in accounting when doing so (!) -- reflects incredibly badly on FTP and those who so recklessly ran the sucker.

If this were a television show, the dominant theme or motif of the “story arc” presented in these seven “episodes” would have to be the idea of being misled. On the surface, Lederer tries to argue over and again how he himself had been misled in various ways and in various contexts. But the audience cannot help but see the irony of his position as someone who contributed significantly (both by action and inaction) to the misleading of us all.

It sounds like Lederer may possibly return with still more interviews, and while more Lederer “episodes” -- or a second “season” -- might well provide some more gossipy nuggets to distract us, I’m not too hopeful anything more of substance will be forthcoming from the man who just a year-and-a-half ago was crowned the most powerful person in poker.

I was writing on Friday about quantity versus quality (referring to my chosen posting schedule). More is not necessarily better. While I’ll certainly be curious should further interviews take place, I’m kind of done with Lederer’s lecturing, as I think the “Professor” hasn’t really that much more to teach us.

That said, what an object lesson, eh?

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