OCTOPUS by Guy Lawson


Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest Con
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The sordid saga of debauched Wall Street hedge fund manager Sam Israel and how he lost more than $100 million—and most of his sanity.

At one time, Israel could do no wrong. He had the magic touch on Wall Street, seemingly able to turn anything he touched into gold. Never mind that his financial prowess as a trader stemmed from a steady font of insider trading information provided by some of the most conniving players in the stock market. When Israel’s fraud was discovered and his fund inevitably collapsed, he fell prey to even more pernicious con men than himself. Blinded by the promise of billions of dollars and an escape hatch from his sinking firm, Israel decided to roll the dice and bet on the wild schemes of Robert Booth Nichols, an eccentric figure claiming to be an ex-CIA asset. Nichols promised Israel entrance into the dangerous world of international high finance known as the “Shadow Market,” a secretive world where the strapped financier could recoup his losses and even amass a new fortune. However, the Shadow Market didn’t really exist. Or did it? The line between fact and fantasy becomes elusive in the second half of this mind-bending yarn, but Lawson (co-author: Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia, 2006) somehow manages to make sense of it all. He provides a penetratingly comprehensive profile of a crooked trader run amok, and he nimbly traverses the labyrinthine depths of a worldwide banking con that managed to involve looted Federal Reserve notes and the JFK assassination. The author is sympathetic to Israel—at least he, unlike Bernie Madoff, tried to pay back those he swindled—but he doesn't sugarcoat his crimes.

An eye-opening window onto Wall Street’s destructive culture of unchecked hubris and a harrowing thrill ride into the unraveling mind of a desperate operator.

Pub Date: July 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-71607-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2012


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