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My Book Reviews

Category: Wall Street insider
Published: 1999
Read: 2003
Reviewed: Jun 2010

This is an inside look at one man's experience of being a sleazy stockbroker. The author, who remains anonymous, starts off working for a brokerage firm he code-names "Harvard", a large and respected Wall Street brokerage firm. Even though the firm is not a chop-shop (i.e. boiler room), it acts similar to one. The author initially works as a qualifier who cold calls potential customers to see how much money they have before handing them off to a broker who is licensed to sell them stock.

After not getting promoted to the broker level at "Harvard", he moves to a more sleazy firm he refers to as "Junior College". Here, he makes a ton of money by getting his clients to buy microcap stocks which his firm is also a market maker. Not only does he make huge commissions, but he also gets a portion of the bid-ask spread. Because the spreads are so wide on small illiquid stocks, the clients may end up losing 20% of their money just from commissions and spreads. He also talks about his interaction with the "Dirty Dozen", a group of brokers who break the law by manipulating and "parking" stocks.

In a quest to work in a more legitimate environment, he starts working at (and becomes a partner in) a new startup firm. The firm eventually deteriorates into another scammish enterprise, so he quits Wall Street and moves away and becomes a more traditional financial advisor in a small town somewhere. He later learns that many of his former partners at the startup firm were indicted on charges.

This book is fairly straightforward and has a breezy writing style. Some of the stories and themes get a little tiring though. Even though most people realize that Wall Street is not a bastion of honesty, it is still a bit surprising though that these boiler room techniques were used at the more respected firms. Speaking of which, hiding the real names of the firm that he worked for devalued the book somewhat.

There were a couple of interesting comments he made:

  • "Guys who score real high on their Series 7 never make good brokers."
  • "When it came time to talk to rich people on the phone, they [the cold callers who failed] choked. They thought they weren't as good as the people they were calling up, that they had no right to talk to them."

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