Sunday, October 18, 2009


BANZAI7 OPINION--By now most of you are no doubt aware of the Galleon insider trading bust that hit the news on Friday. "Insider trading" is a pernicious activity and it is good that the Feds are being vigilant about it. So we can all feast on the tabloid news that will be generated by this sensational bust.

However, as we watch Wall Street basking and luxuriating in the billions and billions and billions of dollars of trading profits financed by the United States Treasury, there are broader issues to ponder.

Insider trading is just one characteristic of a larger phenomena, playing on an opaque and slanted playing field, better known as "edge" or "gaming the system."

Trading on non-public "inside" information is a patently illegal activity that is as old as the book. But it is just one manifestation of "trading with an edge." Trading with an edge goes on on Wall Street 24/7. Its the only real game to play. What do I mean by edge? Its simple. I know something you don't know and I use it to my advantage.

Is that a crime. Not necessarily, provided I have not paid a kick back to some inside "tipper" to get an illegal tip. But it points to the real game of "gaming the system".

Gaming the system is where the action is. There are so many ways to game the system you could write 20 books. Guess what, there are already 10,000 books and there are new ones being written as you read. That's American capitalism.

Some people speculate, they blindly follow the herd. They put their money down and watch the wheel spin. Those are the suckers who always lose to the house.

Other people, like good old Warren Buffet, spend their time doing hard research, finding bargain investments and earning their money the old fashioned way. But as we now all know, even Warren loses a billion or two. There is plenty of research to show that there is no such thing as "Alpha". In the long run, nobody beats the market, except Bernie boy.

So that leaves gaming the system as the only viable alternative. Now if you want to make billions and billions and billions (and billions) of dollars of trading profits day in and day out. You better have a good game. You can read the papers and hear about the game every day: "high frequency trading", naked shorting, technical arbitrage, credit default swaps, synthetic CDOs, synthetic CDOs (squared), unlocking value, SIVs, dark pools, asset montisation, shadow banking, TARP, TALF...yadda yadda yadda.

You may need to be a squid egg head to know how to play the game. But you don't need a college degree to understand what is really going on. In order to thrive on Wall Street, you must trade with an edge. There are many ways to get the edge and houses like Goldman Squid and JP Morgan obviously have their fair share of it. Even good old Warren now knows where to put his money, Goldman Squid.

GOOD FOR THEM! America is beautiful for Wall Street's captains of capitalism.

But let them get it fair and square. Not through political cronyism, influence peddling, backroom deals, technical convolution, opacity, Enroning and all other manner of investor predation and financial depredation. If they can't do it fair and square then there is really no difference between what they do and what Bernie Madoff did and what Mr. Billionaire Rajanumnum has apparently been doing until early Friday morning.

So here we are reading the pundits as they harangue about Wall Street's scandalous bailout encore performance and watching Congressman Barney numb nuts attempt to pass Swiss cheese disguised as financial reform legislation for President Obama.

The bank lobby industrial complex is having a field day and the foxes will not give up the chicken coop without a fight.

It is just not good enough.

Americans are suffering. They are getting fired, foreclosed, hosed, snowed and egg rolled.

How much of this is it gonna take before someone, like our beloved President or perhaps even you Mr., Mrs. and Ms. reader, finally says:

I am sick and tired and I'm not gonna take it any more!

In 1902, Franklin Keyes, a prominent Wall Street lawyer once said: "Wall Street speculation fosters a ring of idle gamblers, parasites upon society, who prey upon the fortunes of the honest and industrious; such people are a menace to the legitimate business interests of the country and an element of danger to the republic."


BLOOMBERG NEWS--Every weekday at 8:35 a.m., Galleon Group's 70 analysts, portfolio managers and traders pack into a conference room on the 34th floor of the IBM Building, a gray- green polished granite skyscraper on New York's Madison Avenue. Tardy arrivals are fined $25.

At the head of the table, Chief Executive Officer Raj Rajaratnam fires off questions to the staff of his $3.7 billion hedge fund firm: Which companies' margins are peaking? What would change your mind about this stock? What's the risk of that company failing to win an expected contract? The 52-year-old billionaire expects his analysts to have an edge: better information than anyone else, say people who have attended the meetings.

U.S. prosecutors allege that Rajaratnam's own edge was illegal.

Coming soon: "The Ghost of Franklin Keyes"

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