Evgeny Friedman was indicted and is pleading guilty in a deal to flip on long-time Trump fixer Michael Cohen. Friedman was facing what could have been a life sentence for a man his age, but his deal gives him absolutely no prison time. Prosecutors don't make deals like this unless someone really has the goods on someone up the chain toward their ultimate target.
Friedman came to the US from Russia as a young child and grew up in Queens. His father was a Russian nuclear engineer turned NYC cab driver. After a rocky academic start, Friedman got it together enough to earn a law degree at Yeshiva's Cardozo School. He never practiced much law, but he became a business titan in the taxi industry.
Some people are posting a strange, brief clip from the video below. I watched the entire 30-minute video, which I found mesmerizing because the man's story is fascinating, and I'm also struck by his very odd, inarticulate delivery. Some are posting the clip because of the mention of Giuliani. I don't hear anything incriminating in the mention of Giuliani, but like much of Friedman’s presentation, the content and delivery are odd:
Best thing about, you know my best friend in the whole world uh, besides like you know, is a guy named Rudolph Giuliani, and like I despise him. But he's my best friend because he was such a dictator. And he did so many bad things to the taxi industry that at the time there was a combination of me being a complete reckless fool. Um you know, like the stock market. Everybody was a stock market genius [...] Everybody was being reckless in the stock market. Everybody was buying eBay, yahoo--buying it for 80 and selling it for 95--day trading. And then you have Giuliani coming in and being completely reckless, putting in new car limits, putting insurance limits. We said we don't want this. We don't need this.
You get the idea.
Anyway, this was from a 2012 presentation at Yeshiva University, posted by Yeshiva at the time. I presume Friedman was invited to speak because he was an extremely successful alumnus. I'd note that his business lost a lot of value since he gave this presentation, at least on paper, because taxi medallion prices have tumbled under the pressure of competition from Uber and Lyft. In part of this presentation, Friedman reveals his belief that he owns a perpetual money machine that would thrive in any economy under any competitive circumstances. Though he didn't buy all his medallions at 2013 prices, medallion prices have since fallen from over $1 million each to around $250k. In this video, Friedman brags about his use of extreme leveraging to drive up medallion prices and build his business, so a steep decline in the value of his core business asset matters.
Anyway, Friedman presents an interesting combination of business acumen, extreme risk-taking and an inarticulate, rather confusing and contradictory presentation that, as a package, interests people like me. He also vacillates between matter-of-fact self-deprecation, some vulnerability and bragging. I've got a few hypotheses, but nothing I would share here beyond my brief observations on his manifest presentation, though I will say that there is something almost endearing about him, even though he's a criminal. Meh. I've evaluated and treated criminals I liked, including a few violent people. Not suggesting he's violent, but I can like a lot of people in measured doses.
IMO, it's worth watching this if you're curious about what makes people tick and you've got 38 minutes to spare.