My take on The Lederer Files

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Sep 22, 2012 Posted in Poker News | No Comments » and Matthew Parvis landed the interview of the decade recently, getting an exclusive sit-down with Howard Lederer. The Interview took place in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, where Parvis peppered the former Full Tilt Poker Board of Directors members with numerous questions over a seven to eight hour span.

So how did PokerNews and Parvis do in the interview? Going by Twitter reactions it seems the poker world was unhappy with the “kid gloves” approach adopted by Parvis, but thoroughly incensed by the answers he received. Overall, the interview went pretty much as I expected it to, although I found Lederer more forthcoming about the inner workings of the company than I thought he would be.

The interview was edited down to just over three-hours of footage, and was released in 30-minute clips over the past week. Here are my thoughts on several different aspects of the interview:

The Editing

I’m not a fan of editing, so I was dismayed when I heard nearly half the interview would not be shown (I’m still hopeful that PokerNews releases the entire uncut interview in the future). Furthermore, it was apparent in Part 1 that there may have been some chronological editing as the backdrop went from bright and sunny at one point, to pitch black the next.

PokerNews owes it to the poker community to release the full, unedited, interview, and potentially transcripts of the interview as well.


Today PokerNews released a summary of The Lederer Files, where we learned that Howard Lederer had no say in the questions asked, and never saw or approved any questions in advance. I really wish this had been revealed before and not after the Lederer Files were released.

One thing that Parvis doesn’t mention in the postscript was whether or not there were any topics that were off-limits. Sure, you didn’t submit questions to Howard, but were there any preconditions set forth before the interview?

I’d also be interested in knowing who was in the room during the interview and if there was any contact with other people during breaks.

The Questions

Overall I think Matthew Parvis did an excellent job with his questions. There were a few that I thought were completely unnecessary and some that were far too leading, but considering the sheer length of the interview this has to be anticipated.

I disagree with many people who felt Parvis needed to be more abrasive in his questions. I think taking a more prosecutorial angle would have just caused Lederer to shutdown and give brief, vague, answers. Parvis needed to walk a very fine line between digging for facts and information and keeping Howard comfortable.

One “complaint’ I do have is that Parvis did not ask some very basic follow-up questions. An example of this would be when Howard Lederer states he doesn’t know the name of the first CFO at Full Tilt, or when Lederer is discussing the founding of the company (or later when discussing the post-Black Friday conference call) I was waiting for “Who were the original investors?/Who was on that call?”

So here is my list of the questions that were never asked:

* Who were the original investors, and how did this change over the years (buyouts and so on)?

* Did people with larger shares have more say?

* It seems unlikely that Ray Bitar would be voted out; were the votes weighted toward larger shareholders?

* Which camp were you in? Pro-Bitar or anti-Bitar?

* Why was the Board of Directors left intact when the company charter called for a vote every year?

* Could you explain Clonie Gowen’s early role with the company and what happened during the fallout?

The Answers

I don’t really understand what people were expecting someone under a civil indictment from the Department of Justice to say? It was fairly obvious what his answers to the “Big Boy” questions were going to be, and that there would be a certain amount of memory loss, obfuscation, and finger pointing.

So in this regard I think the poker world should be happy with what we got. Sure, there was no smoking gun (more like a person wiping their fingerprints of a gun and putting it next to a dead body) but we did finally get a glimpse behind the curtain of the great and powerful OZ. And much like the movie it turns out it was all smoke and mirrors; a company run by inept individuals who were in over their heads.

My Takeaway

All in all, I would say that Howard Lederer’s version is likely somewhere between the truth and exaggeration. I didn’t feel that he was lying (except for maybe a few I don’t recalls, which in this scenario is the equivalent to pleading the Fifth) but was certainly spinning the story make himself look as good as possible.

Remarkably we heard very little about early behind the scenes interactions which had to have taken place, and likely setup the dynamic of the pro- and anti-Bitar camps in the company. What was it that made Perry Friedman and John Juanda dislike Ray Bitar? Something must have happened early on at Full Tilt Poker, and this was left completely untouched.

The real breakdown will occur after people on the opposite side of the fence give their version of events, and Howard’s answers can then be compared and contrasted.

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