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Authors: Stephen Frey

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BOOK: The Insider
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Oliver stopped and pointed toward a far corner. “Over there,” he said, having to speak loudly over the dull roar of many voices, “is the equity desk—”

“Desk?” Jay asked.

“Yeah,” Oliver replied. “We don’t use the word
groups
or
divisions
on the trading floor. We call them
desks
.”

“Okay.”

“Those three workstations in the corner comprise the equity desk—salespeople as well as traders using house money. Along that wall is the fixed-income desk, and beside them is—”

“Oliver!” A short, dark-haired young woman rushed toward them down the open corridor paralleling the length of the trading floor. She was clutching a single piece of paper.

“Hi, Abby,” Oliver called.

“I’ve got the offer sheet ready for that block trade.” Abby smiled politely at Jay, then looked back at Oliver. “I’m going to fax it over.”

“Good.” Out of the corner of his eye Jay noticed Oliver’s and Abby’s fingers intertwine momentarily. Then she rushed away and the scent of her perfume drifted over him.

“Abby’s a sweet girl,” Oliver said. “A tremendously hard worker. She’ll be here until at least ten o’clock tonight.” He glanced at Jay. “Abby is the associate on the arbitrage desk I mentioned earlier. You’ll like her.”

“I’m sure.” Jay checked Oliver’s left hand and saw a wedding band.

“Hey, pal, I saw you checking Abby out, and I’ve got to say I agree with your taste.” Oliver gave Jay a friendly punch on the upper arm. “But don’t get any ideas. She’s spoken for.” He turned and began moving forward again. “As I was saying, the capital market desk is over there, next to the fixed-income people, and our home, the equity arbitrage desk, is positioned in the far corner. We have only one workstation, but we make more money than anyone else on the entire floor.” He waved toward the desk casually. “The difference between us and the equity guys in the far corner is that we trade
only
takeover stocks. They trade all other stocks.”

Jay followed Oliver’s gesture and caught a glimpse of Bullock sitting in front of a computer, studying one of his screens.

“Hey, it’s God!”

Jay’s head snapped right. A young trader twenty feet away had directed the remark at Oliver.

“You the man, Oliver!” another yelled.

“What’s that all about?” Jay asked.

Oliver gave the two traders a friendly nod. “The arbitrage desk has performed tremendously well since I arrived here five years ago,” he explained immodestly. “As I said, we’re small in terms of people, but we make more money than any other desk. The fixed-income desk those two guys work on didn’t do too well last year. In fact, they lost money for the firm, but they still received decent bonuses because my desk, the desk you are about to become a part of,” Oliver emphasized, “tore the cover off the ball. Again,” he bragged.

“There goes the king!” someone yelled.

Jay shook his head. It was like accompanying royalty.

“Upstairs are the merger-and-acquisition, corporate-finance, and project-finance groups,” Oliver continued, ignoring the last accolade. “Bill doesn’t like those groups being located on the trading floor because of the potential conflict of interest. Like it isn’t a conflict of interest to have the arbitrage desk on the same floor with the equity traders,” he said smugly. “They hear about takeover bids before almost anyone except the M and A people, and it would be very easy for one of them to run over to us and give us the inside scoop so we could trade on it. But hey, it’s Bill’s firm. He can do what he wants.”

Jay scanned the floor. Most of the several hundred individuals talking into phones, checking computer screens, or conversing with each other were men, and the few women on the floor were young and attractive. He noticed the way most of them nodded deferentially to Oliver, and how Oliver acknowledged very few of them.

“You will sign a contract with us tomorrow,” Oliver remarked. “You probably never did that at National City, did you?”

“No.”

“Don’t worry, it’s standard stuff. It’ll spell out in detail the financial and legal terms of your employment.” Oliver clapped his hands and laughed. “It’ll stipulate that you can’t sue us for anything. That any dispute you ever have with McCarthy and Lloyd will be settled by an industry arbitrator. Probably by someone who owes Bill a big favor. A lot of the big investment banks have gotten away from that policy and have allowed employees to sue them, but not us. We don’t have to.” Oliver slammed the wall with his open palm. “What a crock of shit that is, huh? But what difference does it make? Everybody understands that you’re here to make money and if you don’t, you’ll be fired. If you want a comfortable living, Jay West, sell sofas and easy chairs. And for Christ’s sake, don’t tell the human-resources person that you need to have an attorney review the contract. That’s a big red flag.”

“I won’t.”

Oliver turned down a hallway leading away from the trading floor, and the dull roar subsided. “What’s today?”

“Tuesday,” Jay answered, glad to be of even trivial assistance to a man who had just guaranteed him at least a million-dollar payday in a little over seven months.

“All right, then you’ll start on Thursday.”

“I can’t.”

“What?” Oliver stopped abruptly and whipped around, hands on hips, his face twisted into an expression of intense irritation.

Jay blinked slowly. “I want to give the people at National City the standard two weeks before I leave. I want them to have plenty of time to put someone on my accounts and make the transition smooth.”

“Bullshit, Jay!” Oliver bellowed, furious. “Son, I’ve just guaranteed you a million-dollar bonus in January from my personal operating budget. I want you in this building ASAP. Not next week, not the week after, but Thursday. I think I’m being pretty damn generous to give you two days to get your personal house in order. For a million dollars you ought to be planting your ass on the desk and getting to work for me as soon as you finish speaking to Bill McCarthy. Every day you’re working for National City, you’re not working for me.”

“It’s just that the people at National City have been good to me,” Jay said quietly. “They’re my friends. I want to leave there on good terms. I think that’s important.”

“Not half as important as pleasing me, pal,” Oliver replied coldly.

Jay gazed at Oliver for several moments. The senior executives at National City weren’t going to be happy, but Oliver Mason had offered him the opportunity of a lifetime. He had no choice. “Okay, I’ll be here first thing Thursday morning.”

“That’s the right answer. You had me worried for a second, son. Remember, no matter what anyone tells you, life is a one-way street. That one way is straight ahead. Keep your eye on the target, move directly at it any way you can, and don’t waste time worrying about people who can’t do anything for you anymore. As of this moment, those idiots at National City are in the past. Fuck ’em.” Oliver saw that Jay was struggling with his decision to leave National City so abruptly. “You don’t have any children, do you?” he asked.

“No.”

“Get some,” Oliver advised.

“Why?”

“They’re the only people who will ever truly appreciate you.”

“What do you mean?”

“They don’t know any better. Unfortunately, even they catch on at some point.” Oliver shook his head. “Yup, get yourself some children, Jay, but don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that you get a wife.” He continued down the hallway. “Here we are,” he announced suddenly, pushing open a door without knocking. “Hello, Karen.”

“Hi, Oliver.”

Jay watched Oliver stride to the desk, take the hand of a woman sitting behind it, then lean down and gallantly kiss the backs of her fingers.

“Oh, Oliver.” The woman turned her head to the side, delighted with Oliver’s attention.

“Jay, meet Karen Walker.” Oliver gestured at Karen. “She is Bill McCarthy’s very capable executive assistant.”

Jay judged Karen to be in her fifties. She was the first woman even close to that age he had encountered at McCarthy & Lloyd. “Hello.”

“Hi,” she said politely, then quickly turned her attention back to Oliver. “How is that lovely wife of yours?”

“Just fine, thanks.”

“Hello, Oliver.” Bill McCarthy’s voice boomed out as he appeared in the doorway of the inner office, shirt-sleeves rolled up above his elbows and what little remained of a lit cigar clenched between his teeth. He was a bear of a man with a large nose, meaty cheeks, and an unruly head of shaggy blond hair.

“Hello, Bill.” Oliver held up a black leather cigar case. “I’ve got something for you.”

“What?” McCarthy asked in his deep southern drawl.

“Davidoff Double R’s.” He pulled two out of the case and handed them to McCarthy. “Twenty bucks a pop. Best cigar this side of Cuba.”

McCarthy snatched the cigars from Oliver without a word, then walked directly to Jay and shook his hand. “Bill McCarthy.”

“Jay West.”

“Follow me, Mr. West,” McCarthy ordered gruffly, heading back into his office.

Jay stepped toward the office doorway through which McCarthy had disappeared.

“Have fun,” Oliver said quietly. “But don’t say anything stupid, like you can’t leave National City for another two weeks because the people there have been so good to you.”

“Aren’t you coming in?” Jay asked, ignoring Oliver’s remark.

“Nope. You won’t be in there very long. Find me when you’re done.”

“Right.”

“Come in,” McCarthy growled when Jay hesitated at the doorway of the spacious office. It was a corner office with a panoramic view of lower Manhattan and New York Harbor beyond. Lights from ships anchored north of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge shimmered in the distance with dusk falling on the city. “Shut the door,” McCarthy instructed, sitting down behind his massive desk, cluttered with newspapers and Styrofoam cups half full of black coffee.

Jay pushed the door shut, and it clicked behind him.

“Let’s get a couple of things straight right off the bat,” McCarthy began. “Don’t call me Mr. McCarthy or sir. Call me Bill. This is a collegial firm.”

McCarthy’s southern accent was heavy, and Jay had to listen carefully to make certain he understood. “Okay… Bill.”

“Don’t kiss my ass with any false respect crap, either. And, yes, I’m worth north of five hundred million dollars. Actually, well north. North Pole north, in fact.” He chuckled. “And I do talk to one of the president’s senior advisors every few days. The governor’s and mayor’s offices as well. They are constantly looking to me for guidance. The
Forbes
article you probably read to prepare for your interview was accurate; in fact, it didn’t really paint the whole picture. I’m even better-connected than it reported, and that is for two very good reasons: I’m almost always right when I give advice, and I’m generous with my contributions. Give politicians money and they’ll do anything for you. They are the most predictable people in the world that way.” McCarthy took a puff from his cigar and tossed the Davidoffs Oliver had given him onto the cluttered desk. “Now sit down,” he directed again, pointing at a chair in front of the desk as he began to search through the mess before him.

Jay moved to the chair and sat.

McCarthy glanced at the younger man as he rummaged through papers. Jay was tall and lanky with straight, layered dirty-blond hair, parted on one side. It fell over his forehead almost to his dark eyebrows in the front and to the bottom of his collar in the back. His face was thin but strong, dominated by large dark blue eyes, full lips, and a nose that was slightly crooked—probably broken at one point, McCarthy assumed. And under one eye was a faded half-inch-long scar, the only imperfection on a smooth complexion that still needed shaving only twice a week to keep a sparse cover of whiskers at bay. But the characteristic that struck McCarthy most wasn’t physical. What impressed McCarthy so strongly, and gave him the slightest seed of concern, was the steely self-assurance evident in Jay’s measured manner.

McCarthy drew himself up in the desk chair. “You need a haircut,” he blurted suddenly.

“Excuse me?” Jay had been taking in the view of the harbor.

“Your hair’s too long. I don’t like that.”

“All right.” Jay stole an inquisitive glance at McCarthy’s own longish hair.

McCarthy continued hunting through the papers on his desk. “I know Oliver sent me your resume in the office mail, but I can’t find it in this pile of crap.” He abandoned the search and reclined in his large leather chair. “So give me the audio version, and make it the abridged one.”

“Okay. I’m from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I graduated from Lehigh six years ago last week with a degree in English. And since then I’ve been working for the National City Bank of New York as a corporate-finance specialist.”

McCarthy removed the stub of the cigar from his mouth and pointed it at Jay. “You mean you’ve been working as a lending officer.”

“Pardon?”

“All you people at commercial banks claim you’re corporate-finance specialists,” McCarthy said testily. “But to me, a corporate-finance specialist is someone who underwrites public debt and equity deals, which I’d be willing to bet a lot of money you’ve never done. You’ve made loans, right?”

In six years at National City Jay had never experienced a personal confrontation or had someone call into question his abilities. At McCarthy & Lloyd it had happened three times in the last twenty minutes, and he wasn’t even officially an employee yet. “I’ve done my share of deals,” he responded evenly.

McCarthy thought about digging deeper, then decided against it. “I’ll be blunt. Oliver’s taking a big chance on you. I told him he ought to hire somebody from Princeton or Harvard, but he wants to hire you.” McCarthy shrugged. “Oliver’s instincts are excellent. He runs the arbitrage desk and has made lots of money doing that for me over the past five years. If he wants to take a chance on you, it’s his business. But let me tell you something.” McCarthy leaned over the desk. “People will be watching you closely, and Oliver’s reputation will suffer if you don’t work out. He’s made me a great deal of money, but I don’t much care about the past. I care about today. Remember that,” McCarthy said forcefully. “Oliver is under an immense amount of pressure, as everyone around here is. But in return for dealing with that pressure Oliver owns a vacation home in the Caribbean, sails his fifty-foot boat out of the Westchester Yacht Club in the summertime, drives expensive cars, sends his kid to the finest private school in the area, and takes vacations most people only hear about from Robin Leach.” McCarthy smashed the glowing end of his cigar into a crystal ashtray sitting atop a stack of folders. “Oliver wants to guarantee you a million dollars in January. Personally, I can’t see why. However, it’s his budget and he has the authority to do it.” McCarthy held up his hand. “It’s his budget, but ultimately it’s my money. If you don’t produce, you’ll be gone and Oliver will have a big problem, because I detest wasting money. For me it’s like hearing fingernails screech slowly down a blackboard. It makes my skin crawl.” McCarthy paused. “Oliver has stuck his neck out on a chopping block for you. He’s given you an opportunity a great many people would kill for. You better appreciate that.”

BOOK: The Insider
7.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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