November 20, 2021

Bimal Patel got his money at PayPal

       Bloomberg reports that Bimal Patel just took the job of Chief Legal Officer at PayPal. This is relevant to this blog for a number of reasons.

       Bimal was the person whose anti-Muslim comment and friendship with torture advocate Brian Boyle started the chain of events that led to this blog. He's also the person who taught me about monetizing government. I'm not surprised to see him pursue PayPal. It's one of a handful of companies that pay their lawyer over $10 million per year. I wouldn't expect a person so consumed by money that he viewed not only the legal profession, but also government service, as a means to riches to work anywhere else.

       What's interesting about Bimal, though, is that he was in the same utterly dead bank regulatory practice that I worked in. (If you would like more color on that, please read my prior post.) You may be wondering how someone from such a practice can become the legal officer for PayPal. Wouldn't they want to hire a person with lots of practical experience; a person with a lot of clients, deals and such? Below, I'll explain how that happened. It's a case study on how people monetize government into wealth.

       Actually, before doing that, let me add one more anecdote about what it was like in the group, because it was the first time I learned what kind of person Bimal was . . . One way the practice rain danced for work was by writing articles offering to do any bottom-feeding act for any client if they would just hire us -- e.g., this one Bimal wrote offering to defend mortgage lenders accused of racial discrimination.

       One time, Bimal asked me to write such an article for him, but he said to write it without entering my time into O'Melveny's hours-tracking system. Back then I wasn't an employee of O'Melveny. Instead, O'Melveny paid me by the hour; $75 per hour. And so attorneys had to get approval from management before assigning anything to me because, by assigning me work, they increased O'Melveny's expenses by a few hundred dollars. (Standard O'Melveny's cheapness.) But if I didn't enter my time, he could circumvent that system and get the me to do the work for nothing.

       And actually, while I'm on this topic, Bimal wasn't the only one who did that sort of thing. I heard that another attorney in the group, Trevor Lain, had tricked two brand new associates from another department into doing a lot of non-billable work. I didn't tell anyone about Bimal's request, but these other associates were vocal, and their complaints led to a mess that required a partner to get involved and apologize to them. (Incidentally, those two associates left O'Melveny a year or two later. Trevor also left O'Melveny a few years later. He actually tried to take one of O'Melveny's clients with him, hoping to use that revenue to fund his new solo bank regulatory law firm -- hubris that ended as you would think.)

       If I could summarize the bank regulatory practice in a few sentences, it was a group with virtually no work or clients, filled with opportunists using any machination and scheme they could think of to try and get ahead. It epitomized the term, "rat race."

       Getting back to Bimal's career, he knew he wasn't going get anywhere in a dead group. So in 2012, he implemented his "monetize government" strategy and left to take a job at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He then used strong support from his friend Brian Boyle to parlay that resume entry into a partnership at O'Melveny, which he returned to in 2015.

       But that only created a new problem -- he now ran O'Melveny's broken bank regulatory practice. I remember him on calls in 2015 and 2016 bemoaning how hard it was to collect on a small project. Pure misery. And again he wrote article after article hoping to land a client. During that time, Mr. Boyle kept him busy with ERISA work.

       Seeing that he wasn't going to make much money at O'Melveny . . . he once again resorted to his strategy of monetizing government. He used his new title of partner and head of a practice, along with O'Melveny's close connections with the incoming Trump administration, to attain his second government job -- this time at the Department of the Treasury. And now, he has used that title to attain the large salary at PayPal, the goal he had been pursuing this whole time.

       Since I'm writing about all of this, let me mention a third attorney in the group -- Todd Arena, as he too had an interesting story. In early 2015, when Bimal was coming back to O'Melveny, Todd worked in the renewable energy and project finance group. One day, Ted McAniff and I got an email stating that Todd was really interested in our practice, and that he wanted to join the bank regulatory group.

       Todd had apparently met Ted and gotten the wrong impression. Everyone has their essence, and Ted had his. The first day I entered O'Melveny's offices, he told me about how he had lied to get me into the firm. Throughout my time with him, he occasionally shared anecdotes about other times he lied, not to do evil, but just because it was a means to and end, or a way to get out of a difficult spot. I'm trying to remember some of the stories; like one when he was working at an ad agency before he went to law school . . . actually, let me move on. I don't need to dredge up those memories.

       The problem was that lying can hurt people. Me, for example. Before I entered Ted's sphere, I had received the award for the top tax student in my law school (granted by O'Melveny, ironically.) Had I known the truth about Ted and his practice, I would have pursued that instead of following him. I wrote more about Ted in this prior post if you're interested. But to add one other bit of detail here, he eventually told me that he worked for no compensation, I assume because the title and having his name on O'Melveny's website led to other opportunities (although one partner speculated to me that the real reason he came in was that his wife didn't want him around the house.) Once, he told me that he was worried about the firm cancelling his security card and locking him out of the building.

       Seeing how confused Todd was, and worried that he might ruin his career, I had an hour-long discussion with him where I told him the truth. I tried my best to explain how bad it was to work in a slow group. I gave Todd a breakdown of every project we worked on over the past year, and how much we billed. And Bimal wasn't going to change any of this, because he was just trying to add the title of partner to his resume, as a stepping stone to a lucrative job elsewhere.

       Despite my efforts, Mr. Arena gave up his position as counsel in the project finance group and joined the bank regulatory group in the lower position of associate. And it turned out exactly like I warned him it would. In a year or so, Bimal left the dead practice to return to government, and so Mr. Arena had to leave too. He couldn't go back to the project finance group that he abandoned so, according to his linkedin, he has been jumping through a series of short-term jobs. I tried to warn him.

       Any way, as you can see, monetizing government works as a strategy. You could be someone with virtually no clients and thus little practical experience; you could be a low life opportunist; you could get your primary support from a torture advocate who lied to a federal court; and still, despite all of that, you can still monetize government into a large salary. And this is the motivation of an untold number of people in government.