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Short Story
1809 words
SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Insider Trading for Dummies

by Scott David

Start with the basics. Always obtain your illegal tip from a reliable Original Source: someone in accounting, someone in HR, someone who doesn’t know better.

Insert an Intermediary between you and the Original Source. Create plausible deniability.

Propose only in-person meetings for obtaining information from the Intermediary, because the Feds love their wiretaps and their phone records.

But pay cash—the Feds can trace your Starbucks reward card and your Visa.

Walk to the meeting; they can trace your subway card.

The Feds can trace pretty much anything you’ve ever done digitally, even things of which your dear incorruptible Momma would never approve. Digital never dies.

Never commit anything between you and the Intermediary to writing. Not even to a paper napkin.

But if you do, use code.

Even if you use code, eat anything written. No, really. Chew the napkin up. Swallow.

Develop a plausible research trail before you trade. It’s a bitch to have to fabricate at the last minute when the Securities and Exchange Commission comes calling.

Before you log into E*Trade, remember one more thing: only an idiot trades the equity on a sure thing.

Please, do yourself a favor. Find a derivative. Most Feds aren’t sophisticated enough: derivatives make their heads spin and eyelids droop. They like their straight lines and direct connections, their layups and softballs and fat pitches and easy cases and work-life balance.

Better yet, find some correlated stock that’s going to share the ride. Less of a bump, sure, but less risk of detection.

Alternatively, if you’re married to the equity, throw the Feds off your tracks: sell a little after you buy. Or cover a little after you short. What sober person in possession of a sure thing would give up some of the profit, right?

Act surprised when the news breaks and markets move.

Unwind the trade.

Reap the proceeds.

Allow yourself a private moment of glee. (It’s only human.)

Buy yourself a bauble, expensive and utterly useless.

Give your Intermediary his fair share. (What are you? A cheater?)

Do it all over again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Until you get the hang of it, live small. Put your savings in bullion and lock it away in a bunker somewhere where it doesn’t arouse suspicion. Eschew private jets and Hamptons estates and “glamping” escapades in the Serengeti. Limit yourself to the lesser Bordelaise estates.

Of course, your Momma will see right through your effort to hide your success. She’ll say, Don’t cheat and don’t lie and don’t be like your father, and make your Momma proud. Her Original Source is God, and her Intermediaries are the saints, and she doesn’t trust Wall Street, which she thinks is full of Jesus-killing Jews, even though she knows she should not vocalize such suspicions in this day and age.

So, shower your dear mother with gifts. Appeal to her vanity. Take the edge off her accusations.

Once you earn a reputation for savvy stock picks (and you will), have available a few standard modest Buffett-like folksy retorts to expressions of admiration for your acumen: Touched by the lucky stick.

Or, more went my way than not.

Or, hard work and painstaking research.

But this false humility should convey a very clear implied message: I am simply better at picking stocks than you ever will be, you fucking moron. Lick my boot.

You need to embrace who you are.

You’re not passing this way again.

For you, it’s glory or jail, not another two-bit stock-picking job for some raging egomaniac.

Cultivate powerful peers, who can lean on the government agents if they ever take too much interest in your affairs.

Forgive liberally the skeptics who whisper that you must be cheating, but remember the bastards’ names.

Crush people who get in your way. Hell, crush people for fun. Be the raging egomaniac yourself.

But do take the precaution of retaining top Legal Talent. Preferably a guy with an impeccable reputation who used to be a federal prosecutor and no doubt hates your lying, cheating guts, but who needs to earn his dimes to put his kids through $30,000 per year Manhattan kindergarten.

In the back of your mind, have a list of names you can offer up if the Feds catch on to you, so you can diminish your prison term by becoming a snitch. There used to be a code—I wouldn’t call it code of honor, but a code by which insider traders operated with a wink and a nod and a dedicated refusal to go before the grand jury, or if you did, to forget your mother’s own name (It’s Momma, by the way). These days, that code’s down the shitter. Don’t be a hero. Make a list. Be a snitch-to-be.

Eventually, reap what you’ve sown. Enjoy your wealth.

Overpay for a lavish address.

Stalk supermodels.

Summer in ACK.

Have a wallet so fat it gives you sciatica.

Flaunt your new wealth to get girls who would never before have given you the time of day. Assure these girls that you could buy the time of day outright if you wanted to.

Eventually, fall in love with a Trophy Wife.

Assure her you’re talented. Show her your brokerage statements to prove it.

Don’t let your wedding vows prompt any premature revelation of your secret. Your Trophy Wife doesn’t want to know. Or she already knows. Same as you should never talk about the hookers you patronize. She knows.

And speaking of hookers, no need to tell them about your Original Source, either. Hookers are the number one category of bounty-seekers in the SEC’s whistleblower program.

Stop looking over your shoulder already: FBI agents don’t look like they do on TV. You won’t recognize them if they come. Eyes straight ahead. Chin up. Shoulders back.

Except when you’re meeting the Intermediary. Then it’s hat, dark glasses, and a cheap suit. Pass unnoticed, a nobody.

As the money piles up, rehabilitate yourself in your own eyes.

Convince yourself your Momma’s blown the offense all out of proportion. Convince yourself everyone does it. You’re just smarter than the next guy. Maybe even a harder worker, a better person. More deserving. A guy who pays more than his fair share of taxes.

Speaking of which, add a Tax Guy to those retainer rolls—along with the personal trainer, the chef, the yogi, the nanny, and the Legal Talent. Look to ship some wealth to an offshore tax haven, but don’t be so un-American as to buy property yourself in a country that has no extradition treaty with the US.

Or maybe limit yourself to a small property there. A beachfront villa. Nothing you could actually live in for any period of time. Not with the kids getting bigger and your Trophy Wife’s needs growing exponentially.

Be philanthropic (in a competitive show-offy way that puts your name in lights).

Buy a professional sports team. Hang out on the court/ice/field as if you owned it. Because you do.

Fly first class.

Don’t be satisfied unless your friends are flying coach.

Embrace the private jet. Refuse your friends rides. Explain that it’s a compliance issue.

When the thrill’s gone and money alone is not enough, get reckless. Go on Kramer and bait the masses. Be smug. Express the view that you’ve had it hard and triumphed over the odds and if poor people just worked a little harder, they could be like you. America is surely the land of opportunity.

Then, realizing you’ve been hasty by daring the Man to come down on you, revert to paranoia. Sweep the penthouse for bugs. Eschew email entirely. It’s death in a jury trial. Copy machines? Avoid ’em like the plague. Every image ever copied is stored in memory. A disposable cell phone is still a fraudster’s best friend.

Coach Little League—you want people to say good things about you at your sentencing.

When the FBI agents finally confront you in the coffee line, don’t talk. Repeat: don’t talk. You might think you’re smart. You might think you can talk circles around them.

Repeat after me: don’t say a fucking word. See above re: retention of Legal Talent. Make the call.

Don’t be surprised after your perp walk hits the Post that your daughter becomes a cock-whore and your son a spoiled delinquent. Don’t be surprised when your Trophy Wife files for divorce so fast it makes your head spin. She ain’t in it for your good looks.

At trial, make use of those same cheap suits in which you met the Intermediary. Juries notice cufflinks and Caraceni suits and Berluti shoes.

Try not to blame the Intermediary, who is the prosecution’s star witness. Yes, he flipped. Yes, he wired up to save his own skin. Yes, he’ll get probation in return for his extraordinary cooperation. It’s not his fault you have no one to offer up and rat out. You didn’t follow earlier advice. (See above re: snitching.)

Do pin your hopes on the Federal judge, who is one of your people: they say she has a summer place on the Vineyard. Count on probation and community service and doing the reformed-fraudster talk-show and conference-speaking circuit thereafter.

When instead she sends you to the Big House for three years, do not weep. Do not gnash your teeth. Do not listen to your Momma crying out from the gallery, I told you so. I told you it would end this way. That boy never listened.

Thank your lucky stars when the Bureau of Prisons assigns you to Federal Prison Camp. Yes. Prison Camp. Sounds like a twisted Neverland summer experience for adults with mature fantasies, right?

It’s not.

Prison camps are used as way stations for violent drug offenders transitioning to release.

Accordingly, nix the memories of your ski trips to Davos. Or your beach front villa in the tax haven. Or your Berluti shoes. Repent of your sins. Don’t cut the food line. Cultivate powerful thugs.

Failure to heed this simple advice will cause your fellow prisoners to rape you in the shower.

Put your Momma on the visitor list, even though she’s got “I told you so” written all over her face and has donated all the shit you bought for her back in the day to the Church as a down payment to the Lord to help him overlook your black soul.

Smile benevolently at your Momma. You’re truly your mother’s son. Both of you have learned to cultivate Powerful Thugs, amen.

(God, she’ll reply haughtily, is not a thug.)

Look forward to your release date. Repatriate cash from your tax haven. Look forward to beginning all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

What does a Trophy Wife go for these days? You’ll take half a dozen, thank you very much. America is surely the land of opportunity.


SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Scott David’s

publication credits include several co-authored novels, a memoir, a guide to wine and cocktails, and numerous short stories in literary and not-so-literary journals under various pseudonyms. He lives in Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury