THE BLOG
12/18/2014 11:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Raining on the Rainmaker's Parade

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The Times ran a story about John J. Altorelli, who they describe as one of Dewey & LeBoeuf's "most important rainmakers, the term used to denote partners who land clients. At his peak he was credited with generating more than $33 million in annual revenue for the firm," ("The Rise and Fall of a Rainmaker," NYT, 12/12/14). Altorelli is portrayed as leading a pretty high falutin' existence traveling in the company of glitterati, during the heyday of the now defunct firm. A picture accompanying the article shows Altorelli with Anna Chapman, who the Times describes as "being arrested by the F.B.I. on charges that she was a member of a Russian spy ring embedded in the United States." The last movie which with a plot like this was The House on 92nd Street (1945) about the F.B.I. cracking a Nazi espionage ring that had established itself in Carnegie Hill. They don't even make movies like that anymore. Perhaps the moral of the story is that to succeed, even for a little while, you have to cook up the kind of plot that's so outlandish it would be rejected by most Hollywood studios. John le Carre has ventured into the world of corporate law, but it is unlikely that Altorelli would have been the model for any of his characters. Anyway Altorelli, who the Times piece described as coming from a family of l0 children growing up in Derby, Connecticut, must, one would think, be living a far more modest existence than in his glory days at Dewey & LeBoeuf. The piece went on to describe the fact that the bankruptcy trustee involved in the case "is suing him for $12.9 million." In Democracy in America de Tocqueville pointed out the fundamentally populist (and anti-aristocratic) nature of American life in showing how one generation could be rich while the next one poor. John J. Altorelli's story shows a new America in which wealth can be amassed and lost in the same generation.