A lot of unusual things have happened in the four months since Long-Term Capital Management announced that it lost more than $4 billion in a bizarre six-week financial panic late last summer, but nothing nearly so unusual as what hasn't happened. None of the 180 employees of the hedge fund have stood up to explain, to fess up or to excuse themselves from the table. Even the two Nobel Laureates on staff, who could very easily have slipped back into their caps and gowns in the dead of night and pretended none of this ever happened, have stayed and worked, quietly. The man in charge, John Meriwether, has shown a genius for lying low. Photographers in helicopters circle his house, and journalists bang on his front door at odd hours and frighten his wife. Yet whenever the question ''Who is John Meriwether?'' has demanded an answer, it has been supplied not by those who know him and work with him but by a self-appointed cast of casual acquaintances and perfect strangers. They have described Meriwether and his colleagues as reliable Wall Street stereotypes: the overreaching, self-deluded speculators. In doing so they have missed pretty much everything interesting about them.
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