The Secret World of Wall Street Brokers and the Systematic Plundering of the America Ideal
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The anonymous stockbroker author and journalist Harper (Moscow Madness, 1999) create fictional “Brett Burtelsohn” to trace an archetypical career in unnamed Wall Street IPO bucket shops where investors regularly feed the hands of those that bite them. From the hell of cold calling, young Brett observes brokers active in churning accounts, swapping trades with colleagues, parking shares in dormant accounts, using nominees to hide self-dealing, and following other illegal practices (all of which are clearly outlined). “When they send in that money, it’s not theirs any more,” he is taught. “It’s ours.” He soon passes his Series 7 (the brokers’ qualifying exam) and secures his own license to steal. Beguiled by the heady Çlan of the princes of finance, Brett, a born salesman, is single-minded in his pursuit of cash and the life only a lot of cash can buy. In his mendacious line of work, our hero pushes and prevaricates, spins hokum and talks bunkum, forcing worthless new issues on trusting customers. Is it the company Brett kept? Did he fall in with a bad crowd? Readers should realize that, despite some inherent conflict of interest between investors and their brokers, not every broker is an egregious crook. At every firm, from small boutiques to major wire houses, brokers have valuable franchises in the form of their books (as they call their account lists). They can’t maintain that asset by mulcting their clients. Even Brett ultimately sees the light. Now he’s a small-town stockbroker, coaching kids’ soccer, golfing with clients, becoming (heaven help us) a certified financial planner. This cautionary yarn, vividly told, has a badge of verisimilitude. There are, indeed, many lads like Brett prowling the Street and many frenetic boiler rooms like those in which he worked. The story is true enough to make naive investors madder and maybe wiser. The rule “know your customer” becomes “screw your customer— in this engaging slice of brokerage noir.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-88730-992-5
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999


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