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James Kwak – May 2012 (online)

(Mainly) Serious Bio

James Kwak is an associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. He co-authored 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, a New York Times bestseller chronicling the rise of the financial sector over the past three decades, and White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters To You, a history and analysis of government deficits and the national debt. He is the co-author of The Baseline Scenario, a leading blog covering economics and public policy, and an online columnist for The Atlantic. His articles have appeared in many publications, including Democracy, The American Prospect, Finance and Development, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, and on the web sites of The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, NPR, Foreign Policy, and The Financial Times. In 2011–2012, he was a fellow at the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. He is a member of the board of directors of the Southern Center for Human Rights. James has an A.B. in social studies from Harvard, a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the Yale Law School. Before going to law school, he worked as a management consultant at McKinsey and Company and co-founded Guidewire Software. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with his wife and and two children.

(Photo: Robin Holland. High-resolution version.)

A Bit More

I grew up in a suburb of New York and spent most of my high school years playing cello (I was a student at Juilliard prep, where I was one of two winners of the Pre-College Award). I went to Harvard, where I majored in social studies and again spent most of my time playing cello. In my senior year I was the music director of the Bach Society Orchestra. (My predecessor is now music director of the New York Philharmonic.) After college I went to Berkeley, played cello some more, and studied European intellectual history. While in graduate school I lived in Paris for a year, spent a summer in Berlin, and spent another summer in Southern Italy as a writer for the (now-defunct) Berkeley Guides. I also became interested in economics and took several graduate classes, including microeconomic theory, industrial organization, and mathematical economics (with Bob Anderson, who prefaced the final exam with a quotation from a Wagner opera). Most importantly, I met my wife in an economics class.

After Berkeley I worked for McKinsey in New York and San Francisco, with clients in investment banking, computer services, semiconductors, and software. My last client, Ariba, was one of the hottest companies of the Internet boom, and when they offered me a job, I took it. After the bubble collapsed, some friends of mine and I quit Ariba to found Guidewire Software. A month after we started the company (in California), I moved to Massachusetts, where my wife is a professor. Despite having the best job in the business world, I left in 2008 to go to the Yale Law School, where I started blogging, wrote a book, and went to class in my spare time. I graduated in 2011, and am now an associate professor at the UConn Law School—despite working on exactly zero journals, working as a research assistant for exactly zero law professors, and clerking for exactly zero judges.

Financial Disclosures

As mentioned above, I am a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. My wife is a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I receive royalties from 13 Bankers and White House Burning. I have also earned small amounts from my Atlantic column and occasional newspaper and magazine articles, and less trivial amounts from occasional speaking engagements. The Baseline Scenario is completely non-commercial. I am a significant shareholder (though not a 5 percent shareholder) in Guidewire Software.

I have donated to charity all of my income from writing articles, giving talks, or appearing at conferences.

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