Writing the Book
For two decades I lived in northern Westchester County, where many Wall Street traders and financiers have estates — or one of their many homes. These men and women are smart, competitive, and passionate about what they do. In their offices, numbers rule their lives. They make trades based upon careful analysis of spreadsheets or whispers they hear over the phone or what they read in the news crawl on their Bloomberg terminals. Deep down, they know that the numbers on their screens represent not just businesses but the aspirations of fellow human beings, but they often set that knowledge aside to enrich themselves.
Yet the actions of traders in New York or Greenwich, Connecticut, have consequences for regular people on Main Streets far away. If investors fund a big-box retailer, small local businesses may close. If they destroy a company, thousands of people may lose their jobs. If they borrow to excess in order to leverage their bets, the nation’s entire economy may collapse.
With The Dark Pool, I intended to dramatize the fact that actions taken by stock traders and financiers have a profound impact on ordinary people far from the proverbial trading floor. As Antwon thinks when he begins to understand what happened to him: “Here in the fancy well-heated office, everything seemed calm. But out in the cold real world, blood ran in the streets.”
A note about plausibility. Q Scores, which play an essential role in the plot, are real. Wikipedia defines them as “a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, company, celebrity, or television show.” Dark pools, another essential plot element, are equally real. Wikipedia defines them as “trading volume or liquidity that is not openly available to the public.” Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that dark pools accounted for nearly a billion shares traded in January 2012 alone — 13.5 percent of all stock trades that month.
For the most part these pools have been left unregulated. But, as history shows, plans hatched in darkness often prove terrifying in the light of day.
Shoog’s single-minded dedication to the kids on his football team has yielded a record-setting string of championships for Harriet Tubman High, a Bronx public school in a tough neighborhood. But Shoog doesn’t quite do it alone. His brother Freddie, a successful money manager, funds the program through a secret donor, which keeps the impoverished team in uniforms and transportation. Encouraged by Shoog’s success, Freddie wants more for his brother. He wants him to move up to a bigger league — college football — but Shoog resists. The coach takes seriously how much his players rely upon him, and he can’t imagine leaving them. When one of his players is harmed and another stands accused, however, the worldview that Shoog built for himself starts to crack. In order to salvage his reputation and protect his kids, he’ll first have to risk his own skin.
Coach Clay rescued Antwon Meeps from a life of poverty and likely failure, building him into a star running back with a big-time college scholarship coming after graduation. But Antwon made a tragic decision over Christmas break. That mistake has unleashed a chain of events that threatens not only to shatter his dreams, but to destroy everything and everyone he loves. Only Coach Clay can help Antwon save himself. Yet at the crucial moment, the teenager learns something that calls into question all previous assumptions about his mentor. Now he must decide whether to run for his life or to stand and fight for everything he once believed in.
To guard against emotional involvement in the trading schemes he holds most dear, this hedge fund manager has given himself a moniker that represents his coldly calculated conviction that the value of all markets eventually reverts to their mean. The Mean is a loner who maintains a veil of secrecy around everything he does. Few get to visit his Greenwich mansion. No one knows about his secret pet, a creature from the ocean’s greatest depths. And only his partner, the firm’s risk manager, grasps the full extent of his investments. But when the most secret of all those investments threatens to sour, The Mean stands to lose much more than money.
This Arkansan investor lives large, but for him nothing is ever large enough. His boundless wanting of material things, of adventure, and of a cherished spot on the Forbes 400 has led him to his latest scheme — the creation of a dark pool that he plans to sit astride like a one-man financial colossus. Problem is that even the great Chalmer Jagus can’t control every aspect of his budding empire. For one thing, some people refuse to be bought. And for another thing, some people refuse to die.