For some reason, I dip into this book again and again. Lewis writes about his time at Salomon Brothers in the early 1980s, but the stories still seem painfully relevant, 25 years later. I’m glad I don’t work on Wall Street. How about you?
When it came to speculation, European investors didn’t require a great deal of encouragement or instruction. They’d been doing crazy things with money for centuries. The French and the English, in particular, shared a weakness for get-rich-quick schemes.
…In need of a euphemism for what we did with other people’s money, we called it arbitrage, which was just plain obfuscation. Arbitrage means “trading risklessly for profit.” Our investors always took risk; high-wire act would have been more accurate than arbitrage. In spite of the responsibility implied by my job, I was ignorant and malleable when I advised my first customers. I was an amateur pharmacologist, prescribing drugs without a license. The people who suffered as a result were, of course, my customers.
— Chapter Eight, “From Geek to Man”, Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis (1989).
Read more excerpts at Google Book Search, Liar’s Poker.