On this site we pay more than our fair amount of attention to the role academic financial research can have on the investment process. We therefore find it interesting when that research escapes the orbit of academia and reaches the mainstream media.
The story of Erik Lie of the University of Iowa and his research into the question of options backdating is an interesting one in that it has turned him into a "minor celebrity in the financial world." Steve Stecklow in the Wall Street Journal documents how a "novel", "relatively simple" theory has brought to light a potentially huge corporate scandal. Although his research was provocative it took time (and some luck) before it became widely known.
Geoffrey Calvin at Fortune also weighs in on Prof. Lie's research and takes a swipe at the corporate culture that allowed these sorts of actions.
The (sad) fact is that luck plays an important role in the financial markets and academia. Joel Waldfogel at Slate.com reviews some research that shows how the timing of when a candidate receives his or her PhD in economics affects a person's career. Depending on market conditions the quality of the institution where one first takes a job has a persistent effect on that academic's career.
If this were not enough it also appears that marriage can also have an effect on a researcher's career. Irene S. Levine at ScienceCareers.org reviews some research that shows scientists who get married have a steeper decline in research output compared to those who do not marry. While some would argue with this narrow finding it is interesting how life choices can affect careers.
The bottom line is that luck, timing and our life decisions all play a role in our careers. In the investment world the role of luck is often downplayed, but is in evidence on a daily basis. You can't tell me that it was preordained that these investors got to where they are without some good fortune coming their way.