Excerpt from Black Fridays by Michael Sears, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Black Fridays

By Michael Sears

Black Fridays
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2012,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2013,
    432 pages.

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Things began to get weird. I started getting requests for clarification of trades that had happened years ago. My clerk got "transferred" to the accounting department, though he seemed to spend all of his time in the eighth-floor conference room with a lot of guys in ill fitting gray suits. It wasn't hard to read the smoke signals—I was surrounded.

I hired a lawyer and gave him a huge retainer. I put the Montauk house on the market. I set up the trust fund for the Kid. Angie and I set up the divorce scam to keep some of our assets from the Feds. Then I waited.

David finally called me in, late one Friday morning.

"I won't insult your intelligence by pretending you don't know why you're here. It's over, Jason."

There are times when a trader gets stuck in a losing trade and hangs on way too long waiting for it to get better. He loses all perspective. That trade is all he can focus on. It becomes an obsession. His whole body becomes involved. He finds himself walking stiffly, as though his nerves had turned to glass. Cramps and flatulence are typical symptoms. So are headaches, blurred vision, and sleeplessness.

At that point there is only one thing to do—take your lumps. Sell out the position causing you pain. Take the loss and move on. The first loss is always the easiest. A bad position never gets better, it just gets older.

Traders call this "puking" because the feelings before and after are just the same. For all the pain and discomfort in the moment before puking, there is as much relief, release, and resignation immediately after. Puking is always better than fighting it.

I felt the cold sweat on my back, the hot, green flush on my cheeks. I choked back the acid rising in my throat.

David was still talking. "The firm has agreed to provide you with legal counsel, but only insofar as our interests coincide."

In other words, "Get a lawyer."

"Thank you. That won't be necessary. I've already taken care of that." My head was clearing. The angry knot in my stomach that had me drinking Pepto-Bismol for lunch every day was loosening. The hundred- pound anvils that had been sitting on each shoulder for the past three years metamorphosed into butterflies and flew away. This was far from over, and the ulcer- and angina-inducing symptoms would return many times over the next year, as the Feds threatened and my legal team negotiated, but at that one moment I felt the elation of finally being caught.

"Jason, it's been a good run. We have all benefited from your group's performance. This is a tragedy. I'm sorry it has to end this way."

What was he saying? Of course everyone benefited. He had benefited even more than I, that being the reality of the Wall Street compensation pyramid. The chairman and CEO benefited. The bank had weathered the recent credit crisis by jettisoning the mortgage portfolio early, but it had been a close thing. Now they would have to restate earnings to the tune of half a billion dollars—the stock would take a hit. A big hit.

"I just wish you had come to me with this, Jason. I am sure we could have worked something out. A quiet resignation with an acceptable severance package. The restatement of earnings could have been spread over the next few years. We all thought there were avenues we could have pursued. We were prepared to work with you."

They knew. They fucking knew! I was sure my usual stony expression was shot, but I managed not to gasp like a fifth grader finding out about sex for the first time.

"How long?"

"Almost since the beginning." He shrugged and smiled. "It was a trying time here. It suited all of us to have one department that seemed to be doing well."

"I don't know whether to shit or go blind."

Excerpted from Black Fridays by Michael Sears. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Sears. Excerpted by permission of Putnam Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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