Stephen A. Cohen, who was the focus of one of the most intensive insider trader investigation in history, is the subject of a new best-selling business book that debuted at # 3 on the Wall Street Journal best-seller list (January 18-19, 2016, p. C10).
The book, Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street (Random House), was released on February 7, and as of today’s writing is in the top four best-selling books in three Amazon.com sub-categories.
The author is Sheelah Kolhatkar, is a current staff writer at The New Yorker. She is a former hedge fund analyst. Her features focus upon Wall Street, Silicon Valley and politics. Kolhatkar has appeared on numerous business television programs, and also been a guest columnist in several business magazines, as well as the New York Times.
Who is Stephen Cohen, and what exactly is this book about? Please read this summary taken from the publisher’s website at http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/234210/black-edge-by-sheelah-kolhatkar/9780812995800/.
“The rise over the last two decades of a powerful new class of billionaire financiers marks a singular shift in the American economic and political landscape. Their vast reserves of concentrated wealth have allowed a small group of big winners to write their own rules of capitalism and public policy. How did we get here? Through meticulous reporting and powerful storytelling, New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar shows how Steve Cohen became one of the richest and most influential figures in finance—and what happened when the Justice Department put him in its crosshairs.
“Cohen and his fellow pioneers of the hedge fund industry didn’t lay railroads, build factories, or invent new technologies. Rather, they made their billions through speculation, by placing bets in the market that turned out to be right more often than wrong—and for this they have gained not only extreme personal wealth but formidable influence throughout society. Hedge funds now manage nearly $3 trillion in assets, and competition between them is so fierce that traders will do whatever they can to get an edge.
“Cohen was one of the industry’s greatest success stories. He mastered poker in high school, went off to Wharton, and in 1992 launched SAC Capital, which he built into a $15 billion empire, almost entirely on the basis of his wizardlike stock trading. He cultivated an air of mystery, reclusiveness, and extreme excess, building a 35,000 square foot mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, and amassing one of the largest private art collections in the world. On Wall Street, Cohen was revered as a genius.
“That image was shattered when SAC became the target of a sprawling, seven-year government investigation. Labeled by prosecutors as a “magnet for market cheaters” whose culture encouraged the relentless hunt for “edge”—and even “black edge,” or inside information—SAC was ultimately indicted in connection with a vast insider trading scheme, even as Cohen himself was never charged.
“Black Edge offers a revelatory look at the gray zone in which so much of Wall Street functions, and a window into the transformation of the U.S. economy. It’s a riveting, true-life legal thriller that takes readers inside the government’s pursuit of Cohen and his employees, and raises urgent questions about the power and wealth of those who sit at the pinnacle of modern Wall Street.”
A less biased, although equally positive review appeared in the New York Times, written by Jennifer Senior on February 1, 2017. One of her points is: “But my hunch is that readers will most remember “Black Edge” for showing them just how alarmingly pervasive insider trading was in the years surrounding the 2008 collapse. It became commonplace, domesticated — dare I say it? — normalized.” You can read that review by clicking on this site: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/books/review-black-edge-an-account-of-a-hedge-fund-magnate-and-insider-trading.html?_r=0.
And, in case you feel sorry for Cohen, the last line in Senior’s review says, “[Kolhatkar] notes that in 2014, Cohen made $2.5 billion by trading his personal fortune alone. ‘He is making plans to reopen his hedge fund,” she writes, “as soon as possible.’”
Please continue to monitor our website at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com, to see if this book rates one of our monthly selections at the First Friday Book Synopsis for presentation. Randy and I will discuss this very soon!
I am often asked at this time of year, what I consider the BEST business book published in the past twelve months.
We presented my selection for 2016 in August. You can buy the synopsis at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.
My choice is The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2016). Perhaps I am biased, since I have taught courses in “Communication Networks in Small Groups and Organizations” in MBA classes. However, I did so without this book.
Even today, the book is in the top 10 in three business categories on Amazon.com.
Ramo is a very eclectic guy. He is the author of the bestseller, The Age of the Unthinkable. He is co-chief executive officer and vice chairman of Kissinger Associates and a member of the board of directors of FedEx and Starbucks. His first book, No Visible Horizon, chronicled his experiences as a competitive aerobatic pilot.
The book is amazing. It’s real focus is on encouraging the reader to see the world in a different way. The book includes references and stories to many contemporary successful leaders perceive in their environment. The emphasis is on using networks, but not just from the Internet. He introduces DNA networks, political networks, and financial networks. The book is not simply descriptive, it also has many practical and implementable elements.
This post is not the book’s first critical acclaim. It has received high marks from reviewers at respected sources such as Financial Times, The New York Times, New Yorker, and San Francisco Chronicle.
On June 13, 2014, Alexandra Alter called James Thurber‘s The 13 Clocks (Simon & Schuster, 1950) “required reading for human beings.”
Why is that? What would make someone suggest that this book, now written 65 years ago, is so important?
The book is only 124 pages long, and contained within it are illustrations by Marc Simont.
As one customer reviewer noted on Amazon.com, the book is a tale written for teenagers and their parents. Here is the description from the same site:
“The wicked, one-eyed duke of Coffin Castle lives in his cold fortress along with his beautiful, warm niece Saralinda. There are thirteen clocks in the castle that stopped marking time at the same moment. The duke hates time; indeed, he believes he has killed it. The only things he loves are his jewels and, apparently, his niece. There have been many suitors for Saralinda, but all failed to pass the terrible tests the duke set for them. A prince, Zorn of Zorna, disguised as a minstrel, comes to seek Saralinda’s hand.”
Last summer, author Neil Gaiman led a multi-week discussion about this book for the Wall Street Journal Book Club. One reader asked him about some nuances he discovered when he read the book to his own children. This is his reply: “One thing you really only discover when you read this book aloud is the amount of weird and wonderful internal rhymes. It is a book that in many ways is meant to be read aloud, which is not a way people read these days….I highly recommend that if you have anybody that will sit still long enough, or possibly just a patient dog or hamster, read this book aloud to them. If you read this book aloud, you will find things in it that you did not know were there” (WSJ, June 13, 2014, p. D6).
How much do you know about James Thurber? You can find his full biography from the Encyclopedia of World Biography by clicking here.
James Thurber was an American writer and artist. One of the most popular humorists (writers of clever humor) of his time, Thurber celebrated in stories and in cartoons the comic frustrations of eccentric yet ordinary people. He was born on December 8, 1894, in Columbus, Ohio, to Charles Leander and Mary Agnes Thurber. The family soon moved to Virginia where Charles was employed as a secretary to a congressman. While playing with his older brother, Thurber was permanently blinded in his left eye after being shot with an arrow. Problems with his eyesight would plague Thurber for much of his life. After Charles’s employer lost a reelection campaign, the Thurbers were forced to move back to Ohio. Thurber attended the local public schools and graduated high school with honors in 1913. He went on to attend Ohio State University—though he never took a degree—and worked for some years afterwards in Ohio as a journalist. Thurber moved to New York City in 1926 and a year later he met writer E. B. White (1899–1985) and was taken onto the staff of the New Yorker magazine. In collaboration with White he produced his first book, Is Sex Necessary? (1929). By 1931 his first cartoons began appearing in the New Yorker. These primitive yet highly stylized characterizations included seals, sea lions, strange tigers, harried men, determined women, and, most of all, dogs. Thurber’s dogs became something like a national comic institution, and they dotted the pages of a whole series of books. He died in New York City on November 2, 1961 from pneumonia after suffering a stroke. Read more: http://www.notablebiographies.com/St-Tr/Thurber-James.html#ixzz3UIJWXGKi
I’ve long put away children’s books at home. But, I am very active in a program entitled Take Time to Read, sponsored by the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. We have received donations from our participants at the First Friday Book Synopsis for two consecutive years. Last year, we raised enough funds to donate 36 children’s books to area schools.
This sounds like a good book for us to take into the schools. If Gaiman is accurate, whoever reads it needs to practice to get in the proper tones and inflections and make it come alive off the page. If we do that, at least, it appears many students will pay attention while we read it.
The answer to the question I started with is clear. It is important because of how we read it aloud to others.
And if listeners do not pay attention to the words with our associated tones and inflections, we can always show them the pictures!