Support for Steven Slater's momentary meltdown and unique exit from his job suggests that people can sympathize with "just losing it" under pressure. The financial industry loads a different kind of pressure on its participants than does Jet Blue, but there is no shortage of unique meltdowns. We'll look at some famous financial figures who have gone off the deep end.

Peter Young
Peter Young bent the rules at Morgan Grenfell to get around limitations preventing funds from owning 10% of any company. He set up holding companies and dummy corporations to disguise speculative buys. This activity earned him an SEC and FBI investigation and a court date - a scandal, yes, but fairly dry by Wall Street standards.

However, when Young showed up at court in a dress, things got interesting. Many still thought he was trying to get away with a thinly veiled act, until it came out that Young had tried to make a more permanent gender alteration by himself. The judge voided his own guilty verdict on the sexually confused rogue trader. (For more, see our answer to the investment question, How did Peter Young gain infamy as a "rogue trader"?)

Jesse Livermore
Jesse Livermore seemed unbreakable. He started out in the bucket shops and moved through Wall Street like a force of nature. Livermore made and lost fortunes with seeming ease, building it up again each time he went under.

Despite making a fortune in the crash of 1929, Livermore somehow entered the 1930s near broke and unable to trade like he used to due to the new regulations on the market. With his last-ditch effort at a book a failure, Livermore slipped into a deep depression that ended in a hotel courtroom and a pistol. (Learn more in our article, Jesse Livermore: Lessons From A Legendary Trader.)

Ivan Krueger
Ivan Krueger will always be a hard one to peg. Was he a flawed businessman or a crook from the start? Krueger used huge amounts of debt to consolidate three-quarters of the world's match production. It was a running business, and it could have been profitable if not for the huge amount of debt and the constant stream of dividends needed to keep investors confident - and confidently buying up more debt.

Krueger's attempts to deal with his problems became more and more desperate, as he began cooking the books. Yet he never ceased his lavish lifestyle of expensive wine, women and art. When his matchstick empire started to burn, Krueger dressed in his tailor-made clothes and took the same exit as Livermore - just in more luxurious surroundings.

Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes didn't go crazy under a moment's pressure, but instead through a long decline into a compulsive dementia. Hughes was wildly successful as a businessman and one of the great figures of the day with his daring flights and forays into Hollywood. Unfortunately, Hughes will be remembered today mostly from a parody on "The Simpsons".

Toward the end of his life, Hughes was obsessed with germs, movies on continuous loops, banana ripple ice cream and intravenous drugs. Even his Mormon bodyguards couldn't protect him from the latter. Hughes died and needed to be fingerprinted for identification purposes, because his emaciated body looked nothing like the famous aviator. (For related reading, see our article Wall Street History: Howard Hughes, Enron And Sin Taxes.)

Edges And Ledges
What can we take away from these men? Besides the fact that a sex change is not a do-it-yourself operation, it is worth noting that their breakdowns almost all came from a change in their financial condition. For some, their self-worth was so tied to the image of being successful and rich, they couldn't live with themselves when that was taken away.

Livermore should have known how fickle fortunes were, but he had no other purpose than to make money – take that away, and he had nothing. So, while money is important and making it is a great thing, pinning your entire self-worth on it is a sure way to end up unhappy. As for Hughes, who died wealthy but weird, we just have to marvel at what he accomplished - whether it was because of or in spite of the unusual bends in his mind.

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Who Is The Next Buffett?

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    The 2007-08 Financial Crisis In Review

    Subprime lenders began filing for bankruptcy in 2007 -- more than 25 during February and March, alone.
  2. Economics

    Lehman Brothers: The Largest Bankruptcy Filing Ever

    Lehman Brothers survived several crises, but the collapse of the U.S. housing market brought the company to its knees.
  3. Economics

    Why Enron Collapsed

    Enron’s collapse is a classic example of greed gone wrong.
  4. Investing Basics

    This is What Donald Trump's Portfolio Looks Like

    Find out what Donald Trump's portfolio looks like and gain some interesting insights into the way the billionaire's investment mind works.
  5. Investing Basics

    Rise of the Co-Investment in Hedge Funds

    Learn about the rise of co-investment deals among hedge funds. See how these high-risk and high-reward opportunities are becoming more popular.
  6. Personal Finance

    4 Famous People Whose Finances Were Under Conservatorship

    Understand what conservatorship is and how it comes about during the legal process. Learn about four celebrities who were placed under conservatorship.
  7. Economics

    3 Financial Crises in the 21st Century

    Take a look at several of the most prominent financial crises of the 21st century, and understand why the Great Recession was a truly remarkable contraction.
  8. Stock Analysis

    7 Trump Businesses You Didn't Know Existed

    Understand what Donald Trump is best known for and the types of income streams he's created. Learn about seven obscure businesses he owns.
  9. Estate Planning

    A Look At Robin Williams' Net Worth and What Happened to His Estate

    Understand what happened to Robin Williams' estate and what his estate included. Learn about the court battle over his remaining possessions.
  10. Economics

    Explaining Too Big To Fail

    Too big to fail means that a business has become so large that its failure would have catastrophic economic repercussions.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Out of the 2,800 mutual funds that Morningstar, Inc., the leading provider of independent investment research in North America, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do negative externalities affect financial markets?

    In economics, a negative externality happens when a decision maker does not pay all the costs for his actions. Economists ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between disposable and discretionary income?

    According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, or BEA, disposable income is the amount of money an individual takes home after ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the major laws (acts) regulating financial institutions that were created ...

    Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, in conjunction with Congress, signed into law several major legislative responses ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the similarities and differences between the savings and loan (S&L) crisis ...

    The savings and loan crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis both began with banks creating new profit centers following ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What measures could the U.S. Government take to prevent another crisis similar to ...

    Some of the measures that the U.S. government can take to prevent another crisis similar to the savings and loan (S&L) ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  2. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  3. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  4. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  5. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  6. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
Trading Center