The Profile: America’s predatory lending machine & the conservative women on campus

Good morning, friends.

I’ve envisioned The Profile as a human interest platform that allows readers to learn from the mistakes and successes of all sorts of different people — and there’s nothing I look forward to more than learning alongside you.

As we near the close of 2018, I thought that I would create an end-of-year list of some of my favorite profiles, books, documentaries, and podcasts I’ve come across. I hope you enjoy:


— The most obsessive billionaire in America: Vinod Khosla (Read here)
— The woman running a $45 billion empire: Priscilla Chan (Read here)
— The reporter who took down a unicorn: John Carreyrou (Read here)
— The NFL coach searching for his family: Deland McCullough (Read here)
— The woman defending Woody Allen (Read here)
— The NFL’s broken gladiator: Aaron Hernandez (Read here)
— The celebrity selling fairy dusty: Gwyneth Paltrow (Read here)
…. (For more, here’s a comprehensive list.)


— A House in the Sky (by Amanda Lindhout)
The Geography of Bliss (by Eric Weiner)
The Courage to be Disliked (by Ichiro Kishimi)
— Atomic Habits (by James Clear)
Red Notice (by Bill Browder)
— Can’t Hurt Me (by David Goggins)
Endurance: My Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery (by Scott Kelly)


— Three Identical Strangers (See trailer)
— The Facebook Dilemma (See trailer)
— The Pension Gamble (See trailer)
— The American Meme (See trailer)
— The Last Man on the Moon (See trailer)
— Out of Many, One (See trailer)
— Making a Murderer: Part II (See trailer)

Podcasts episodes:

— Naval Ravikant on making decisions, happiness and the meaning of life (Listen here)
— Carol Loomis on retiring from Fortune after 60 years & being friends with Warren Buffett (Listen here)
— Caity Weaver on the ingredients of what goes into a longform profile (Listen here
— Sara Blakely on how she built Spanx into a billion-dollar company with no prior business experience (Listen here)


— Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: ‘Keep your failures at the forefront of your mind’ (Watch)
— Shonda Rhimes: ‘Stop dreaming, and start doing’ (Watch)
— Matthew McConaughey: ‘You are your own hero’ (Watch)
— Frank Abagnale: ‘Love can save you’ (Watch)
— Sheryl Sandberg: ‘We build resilience into ourselves’ (Watch)
… (For the highlights of these speeches, see here)


Here we go with the profiles for the week:

Puerto Rico’s controversial hero [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The wine thief who robbed Goldman’s CEO
America’s predatory lending machine
The conservative women on campus
The company misleading its customers
The face of Facebook

If you enjoy reading profiles of the most successful people and companies, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.


Puerto Rico’s controversial hero: Lin-Manuel Miranda turned ‘Hamilton’ into a national sensation. Now, he’s bringing the musical to San Juan, but Miranda’s passion for Puerto Rico has also led to controversy. For some, the blockbuster hit about colonists fighting for independence offers a tempting opportunity to call attention to their own concerns. We all have personal, political, and artistic identities — and they’re not so easy to untangle.

“It’s something Lin writes about in all of his shows — ‘Who am I?’, ‘Where am I from?’ and ‘Have I done enough’? Those are the questions he’s always thinking about.”

The wine thief who robbed Goldman’s CEO: Nicolas DeMeyer was the personal assistant to David Solomon, now the CEO of Goldman Sachs. In January 2018, after 14 months of traveling the world, he was arrested by federal agents at Los Angeles International Airport before he could even collect his luggage. His crime? Looting $1.2 million of wine from the cellar of Solomon’s home in East Hampton.

 “Dreams are all equipped with revolving doors. Someone is always walking into the one you are leaving.”

America’s predatory lending machine: Armed with a badge and a stack of court papers, an obscure city official named Vadim Barbarovich empties peoples’ bank accounts nationwide and keeps a cut for himself. He earned $1.7 million last year, giving him the most lucrative job in New York City government. In a five-part investigation, Bloomberg looks into the debt-collection machine that’s chewing up small businesses across America.

“Somebody just comes in and rips everything out. It’s cannibalized our whole life.”

The conservative women on campus: There’s a lot to unpack in this profile of conservative women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They say they’ve been called white supremacists, racist, and misogynistic because of their political views. While the story doesn’t offer much more than a number of anecdotes, it reveals some insights into the attitudes of the block of young white women who continue to support the president and his party when the majority of their peers have reacted with revulsion.

“I have never felt oppressed in my life because I’m a woman. I feel oppressed at this campus because I’m a conservative.”


The company misleading its customers: Facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc caused cancer, Johnson & Johnson insisted on the safety and purity of its iconic product. But internal documents examined show that the company's powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and that J&J kept that information from regulators and the public.

“No mother was going to powder her baby with 1% of a known carcinogen irregardless of the large safety factor.”


The face of Facebook: This 2010 profile of a 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg addresses concerns about Facebook’s privacy settings, but the young CEO brushes them off. “A lot of people who are worried about privacy and those kinds of issues will take any minor misstep that we make and turn it into as big a deal as possible,” he says. How quickly the world turns. I wonder what Zuck now thinks about this statement from eight years ago…

“Zuck thinks the world would be a better place—and more honest, you’ll hear that word over and over again—if people were more open and transparent. My feeling is, it’s not worth the cost for a lot of individuals.”