A week or so ago, I wrote a post about Harvard Law Student Matthew Schoenfeld, who was being publicized by the Harvard Law School because he is president of the Harvard Law and Business Association and because, describing himself as a survivor of child abuse, he is trying to use that organization to raise money to fight the problem of child abuse.
Schoenfeld has worked for Lehman Brothers, spent a summer at Goldman Sachs…and worked at 3G Capital, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund in New York best known for acquiring Burger King.
So let’s see: Guy works at Lehman, Goldman, 3G Capital, and as a research assistant for Larry Summers. And Harvard is writing articles about him—widely picked up on the web—because he raised $11,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters?
In a story titled Harvard Law Student Overcomes Abuse and Gives Back, today’s Boston Globe essentially rewrites Harvard’s press release about Schoenfeld.
Matthew Schoenfeld was Googling himself last year to prepare for a job hunt when he saw the newspaper article. It wasn’t a local-boy-makes-good story, though it could have been.
…the newspaper article’s Schoenfeld was not a 25-year-old wunderkind. He was a scared 11-year-old child.
In vivid prose, the article, from a 1998 copy of the New York Daily News, detailed a litany of abuses that began when Schoenfeld’s parents’ marriage fell apart and ended in fights so vicious that police often intervened.
His mother - according to the newspaper’s account of his father’s court testimony - hit and shook their only child, tried to sabotage his sleepovers, and once dragged him screaming off the bench during a Little League playoff game. She was stripped of custody, a rarity in New York.
“I hadn’t thought about a lot of that stuff in years,’’ Schoenfeld said.
I’m somewhat uncomfortable raising doubts about anyone raising money for a good cause, but…the Globe’s piece does beg some questions.
There is no way that if you Google yourself, you will turn up a New York Daily News article from 14 years ago.
I tried a bit to find that article Schoenfeld refers to finding by accident, and the only way I could was by going to the NYDN site and typing in Schoenfeld’s name.
So maybe that’s a little bit of theater, then, on his part. Not the end of the world. He wanted to point the Globe reporter to a 3rd-party source for a difficult subject while making it seem as if he’d stumbled across it by accident.
Except that the Globe then says that Schoenfeld thought:
How should he handle this piece of his past, so incongruous with his present, now that he knew it was public?
Except…you’d have to go looking really hard to find any article involving Matthew Schoenfeld and abuse, and unless he talked about it, why would anyone do that?
It’s hard not to think that Schoenfeld is using his past for public relations while trying to suggest that he’s just concerned about setting the record straight.
Point two is probably more important: The New York Daily News article really doesn’t support Schoenfeld’s claim of abuse. The gist of the NYDN article is not that Schoenfeld was abused by his mother; it’s that he was caught in a vicious tug of war in a custody battle lost by his mother.
Possibly because of some racism (Schoenfeld’s mother is Indian), and possibly, the News suggests, because the judge had a conflict of interest: Though two
court-appointed experts recommended that the mother retain custody, the judge relied on a contrary report from a third expert who was simultaneously advising him in his own bitter divorce.
The other experts described Raminder glowingly and saw no reason for such a step.…
The headline of the Daily News article:
All this sounds messy and terrible and no child should ever have to go through such an ordeal. And of course who can know what really happened? (Schoenfeld himself calls the court decision “gutsy.”)
But one thing’s for sure: The article Schoenfeld points to, and the Boston Globe relies on, as evidence of his childhood “abuse” shows no such thing.
Schoenfeld is described by his peers at HLS as a master networker, which, coming from them, is saying something. He is also, of course, Larry Summer’s researcher, and says this of Summers:
For his own part, Schoenfeld said, he had found a role model in Summers, famously intense, [sic] himself. “Larry has said that while he was at the Treasury he tried not to suck up to the people above him. His goal was to help the people below him, which I think is really smart,’’ Schoenfeld said. “Helping people in general can only help you.’’
This is a neat trick: Sucking up to Larry Summers by praising his advice that you shouldn’t suck up to the people above you. Well-played, Mr. Schoenfeld.
Schoenfeld is off to Morgan Stanley after graduation. O, the public service.
Still, one suspects we will hear his name again, which is why it’s worth pointing out some of the cracks in the foundation that is here being built.