CAPTAIN MONEY AND THE GOLDEN GIRL: The J. David Affair by Donald C. Bauder
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A fast-paced account of the rise and fail of the San Diego-based J. David empire, an international financial seam that fleeced over a thousand investors in its 19811983 heyday and then collapsed into bankruptcy about $80 million short of solvency. At the controls were an odd pair: J. David (""Jerry"") Dominelli, a sly and introverted ""street kid with smarts"" from Chicago, who settled in San Diego after military service, and Nancy Hoover, the outgoing, attractive socialite wife of a major producer in the securities firm where Dominelli was pursuing a ""totally undistinguished"" career as a broker. They teamed up as lovers, then as business partners, establishing a commodities firm that early on shifted from investing in the regulated US markets to the totally unregulated business of trading foreign currencies in the ""interbank"" market. Investors were promised annual returns of 40 to 50 percent; Hoover and Dominelli made themselves very visible in San Diego society (big charitable contributions, wooing of politicians); and the money poured in. Dominelli claimed the currency trading operation was run through an affiliated bank on tiny Montserrat, a British colony in the Caribbean, whose bank-secrecy laws made outside auditing impossible. The absence of transaction records or audited statements didn't bother most of J. David's investors (who were evading US taxes themselves)--""for sophisticated investors, it was a battle between common sense and greed, and greed won."" The evidence indicates Dominelli did little real currency trading in his large ""interbank"" pool, and lost when he did. The whole operation was a massive Ponzi scheme, with later investors' funds used to pay off those who'd gotten in earlier, and San Diego Union journalist Bauder speculates that it could have run longer if Dominelli had simply invested the incoming funds at money market-rates, rather than diverting enormous sums for expensive cars (at least 30), houses, racehorses, jets, jewelry, and support of J. David auto racing and triathlon teams. Bauder's stinging criticism of US regulatory authorities' ""pathetically inept"" performance seems on target: it was the Bank of England that really toppled Dominelli's house of cards by poking into the affairs of the Montserrat bank's London office. A cautionary tale for any would-be high flyer, fun reading for financial scare afficionados, and lots of San Diego local color.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1985
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich