Morgan Stanley sacks social networking software developer

Morgan Stanley has fired a software developer who had become well known for building his own offline ‘social network’ among notoriously closed-off commuters on the New York subway.

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Morgan Stanley has fired a software developer who had become well known for building his own ‘social network’ among notoriously closed-off commuters on the New York subway.

Solomon Lederer was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about his efforts, and was fired several days after the story appeared. He worked for a midtown New York office of the bank.

A spokesperson at the bank declined to comment on what led to the dismissal, but sources close to the bank indicated the dismissal was not the result of Lederer's newspaper interview. Nevertheless the company’s code of conduct bars workers from speaking to the media without permission, the WSJ reported.

Lederer, aged 29, was effectively creating a community of people who met up and shared experiences during their commute to work. He also blogs about his efforts.

He would give out fliers and invite commuters – who on the New York subway are famously closed off from fellow passengers – to discuss interesting topics and do simple favours for each other. In one case he offered to clean the cage of someone’s pet guinea pig. “I have this sense that on the subway, there’s more we can do to interact with people,” he told the newspaper

Lederer’s blog page contains comments from fellow passengers who were grateful for his efforts. “I thought it was just lovely,” said one commuter, who described the interaction as “inspiring”.

“I think the idea of exchanging things in a meaningful way on your daily commute is an idea worth trying out,” said another. “New Yorkers live, travel and work in such close proximity to each other, yet they are cut off and removed, often opting for the iPod over a friendly conversation.”

Lederer said he did not advertise himself as a Morgan Stanley employee when speaking with other passengers. He was not aware of any performance failures at the office either, he said.

The bank informed him days before he was fired that he had “exhibited poor judgement”, he said. Lederer explained that he was "trying to do a good thing" but that it "backfired”. 

Lederer is expected to receive two weeks’ pay as severance. He told the WSJ that in the extra spare time he now has, while looking for a new job, he will “double” his networking efforts on the subway.

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