Lauren Bonner followed a privileged path through life, from an all-girls private school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, to Harvard, and eventually to a position at Bridgewater Associates, the giant hedge fund founded by Ray Dalio. There, she managed a team that did hiring for the firm, and later she helped oversee the firm’s pool of research analysts. “I was really attracted to it because it was a place of real integrity, meritocracy, transparency, accountability,” Bonner told me recently. “All the things that I had been seeking culturally. It felt very refreshing.”
The money wasn’t bad, either. After three years at Bridgewater, she left to work at a series of startups. Then, in 2016, a headhunter contacted her about the possibility of taking a position at a company called Point72 Asset Management. Point72 wasn’t the average investment company; it was started by the stock trader Steven A. Cohen, who had achieved Wall Street infamy as the founder of the hedge fund S.A.C. Capital. S.A.C. was shut down, in 2013, after a nearly decade-long government investigation into insider trading at the firm. Eight former S.A.C. employees were convicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges as a result of the investigation, and, though Cohen himself was never charged, S.A.C. was indicted. The firm eventually paid the government $1.8 billion to settle the case. (Charges against two of the former employees were dismissed as a result of an appeals-court ruling.) As part of the settlement, Cohen was barred from managing other people’s money until January, 2018.