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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  • First Published:
    Sep 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2013, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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From the vantage point of a prison cell, it was ridiculously easy to see the flaws in my logic. By the time the markets became more favorable, and my group was hitting homers on a regular basis, I owed the future over fifty mil. There never seemed to be a right time to go back and make the corrections. A year later, it was two hundred and fifty. Every time I rolled out a settlement date, our profits ballooned. The board was thrilled. Dave made sure I was very well compensated. The graybeards and the suits backed off— reluctantly and only temporarily.

The day— five years ago—when Angie brought the Kid home from the hospital, I had three grand worth of flowers delivered to the apartment, and I stayed in the office until almost midnight. I was scrambling to offset a pair of trades that were finally due to settle. I waited until the Tokyo markets opened, executed enough large trades to offset the problem—baffling the Japanese traders—and plugged in the long settlements. Then I went home to meet my son.

Jason Jr. was not an easy baby. He never giggled or cooed; he screamed when he was held; he resisted making eye contact unless caught nose to nose, in which case he became almost feral, clawing and biting. Angie, having sacrificed her normal pillar of vodka, for the sake of this child, was a wreck. She cried whenever she was awake. Maybe not every woman should be a mother, but not every mother had to deal with a child like mine. Vodka bottles began showing up in the recycling bin. I started sleeping on the couch.

I was busy. I had to keep trading so that I could keep rolling settlement dates into the future and keep posting the phony profits. On the Kid's first birthday, I gave Angie a teardrop sapphire pendant the size of a robin's egg. That was the day that the hole I had dug hit five hundred million. Half a yard.

I stayed late every night reviewing old trades to watch for upcoming settlement dates. I gave up vacations because I was afraid of being found out if I were out of the office for more than a day or two at a time. I rarely had a pleasant word for anyone. I was sure a couple of my traders were starting to suspect me, which I ascribed to paranoia until the day I found one of them had "mistakenly" dated a trade 368 days in the future, generating a large, and false, profit of one million dollars. I told Joe to correct it and barricaded myself in my office for the rest of the day. That night, I found myself arguing with myself as I walked home—out loud. Very loud. I frightened a homeless man who scurried out of my way when he heard my two-sided tirade.

The only thing that made the grinding machine in my head stop for even a brief moment was sex. Angie provided. She was where I went for oblivion. We were barely even speaking by then. She was dealing with her own feelings of inadequacy and rejection by her own child and living on 80-proof fruit drinks. But most nights, before I headed for the couch, we met on Frette sheets for a brief and savage encounter—that left us further apart and more alone, but at least exhausted and able to sleep.

By the time David called me into his office for our last chat, I had been running the scam for three years. I knew it was over. The group had run up profits of over a billion dollars during that time—more than half of it was legit. I had even started reversing some of my "mistakes," covering the losses with our legitimate gains. David had been showing me off at board meetings; my traders were being treated like rock stars by the sales force; I made it onto the CEO's Christmas card list.

But the graybeards had, quite sensibly, determined that it was statistically impossible for our group to have performed that well, given our mandated risk parameters. They started the investigation— not because they had any inkling that I had been fudging the books to create profits, but because they thought I was cheating on their stupid risk levels. They called in the accountants to check. The green eyeshade guys found the fiddle, panicked, and notified the SEC.

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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