The Buy Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess - Book Review

A young man who grew in a wood stove heated house moves to the city with big dreams in his eyes and a journalism degree in his pocket in his U-haul. He has little luck finding a job and with big help from his uncle he lands a position in sales at Morgan Stanley.

He finds that he is just another ‘geek’ but no ‘big swinging dick’ on the trading floor as described by Michael Lewis in his book Liar’s Poker. The only time he is in his element is when he hosts office parties.

He then moves to the now defunct Galleon group where things are more wild, wild west. The group was one of the whales of the hedge fund industry managing close to $7 billion.

What started out as parties to scout for and elicit information from a variety of sources soon starts going very bad for the young man. The thin line between collecting information and insider trading starts to blur. The young trader who doesn’t really think of himself that way starts to grow more arrogant with each passing day.

Here I am, a 32-year-old, flying around on private jets, going to the Super Bowl, going to Sundance, taking helicopters to the Hamptons. This was all because I had $30 million to $50 million in commissions to pay the sell side. And those are big numbers.

All of Wall Street is fighting for this $30 million to $50 million that I’m going to shell out on a given year. … New York City was mine. There was not a restaurant I couldn’t go to, a club I couldn’t go to. It was there for the taking, and I took.”

He became particularly good at healthcare stocks. He and his fellow traders hunted in packs, forming alliances to move the market.

They were soon becoming the mafia of the hedge fund industry.

But we were so nimble and so fast with our information that we could share it with each other and help each other out. But not only are we making each other money, but we’re also helping each other look good in front of our portfolio managers.

But we could also manipulate stocks — or let’s say we know a big fund is long, … and we know that they’re kind of choking on it. We can get four or five hedge fund guys, and we can just whack the stock and short it, just slam it with 50,000 shares, which isn’t a lot of risk, but we can start to make the guy who’s long in the stock start to panic.”

The very fast life, the rolling of money all go to his head and he is soon hooked on drugs, alcohol, pornography and women. His relationships crumble and he finds himself checking into rehab more than once.

Then the head of Galleon got arrested and later the dot com bubble burst. Everything came crashing down around him and he soon finds himself with no money, no family and a very steep climb back to normalcy.

He starts by being honest with himself and accepting his addictions. He then writes a book Buy-Side-Street-Traders-Spectacular-excess in which he tells all.

Turney Duff’s The Buy Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess is a confession of a trader who acknowledges he did indulge in insider trading, knowingly or unknowingly. He speaks in depth of the gaps that he manipulated to make big gains and some incredibly stupid decisions with them.

This is a book of redemption. Turney Duff acknowledges that writing about his experience has been more fulfilling and cathartic. This book is a step in making amends but also provides a ring side view about a section of Wall Street that does not abide by the rules.

Duff acknowledges in his interview with Bloomberg that he was part of clique, not unlike the one in a high school but does not necessarily mean all of Wall Street is that way.

Buy-Side-Street-Traders-Spectacular-excess is like watching a trainwreck, you know it can’t end well but can’t look away either. It is definitely a story about Wall Street and how power can corrupt if not treated with respect and care.

Quotes courtesy:

Buy this book from Amazon