domingo, 25 de noviembre de 2012

El Financial Time cita a Borges

El Financial Time comenta  el libro Octopus :The Secret Market and the World’s Wildest Co  de Guy Lawson  mencionando "Del rigor de la Ciencia" de J L Borges (El Hacedor 1960)

Extraña historia de Wall Street

En una de las fábulas de Jorge Luís Borges, un antiguo imperio se vuelve tan obsesionado con la ciencia de la cartografía que a la larga el único mapa que será suficiente es aquel cuyo tamaño coincide con la del propio reino. "El vasto mapa era inútil", escribe Borges lacónicamente. En su afán de captar la realidad, incluso de superarla, el imperio pierde todo sentido.

Así es también en el cuento fantástico de Sam Israel III:
El pulpo es un thriller de la vida real que narra la historia interior de un fraude de fondos de cobertura
Sam Israel era un hombre que parecía tenerlo todo, hasta que el fondo de cobertura implosionó y se convirtió en el blanco de una cacería humana a nivel nacional.
Después de ser aprendiz con uno de los operadores más grandes de fondos de cobertura, en la década de 1980, Sam fundó su propio fondo y prometió a sus inversores ganancias garantizadas. Con el programa informático patentado que había creado, decía ser capaz de predecir el futuro.

Wall Street’s strangest story yet
 Review by Sam Jones

Octopus :The Secret Market and the World’s Wildest Con
By Guy Lawson

In one of Jorge Luis Borges’s fables, an ancient empire becomes so fixated on the science of carto­graphy that eventually the only map that will suffice is one whose size matches that of the realm itself. “The vast map was useless,” Borges writes, laconically. In its drive to capture reality, even to beat it, the empire loses all sense of it.

So it is too in the fantastical tale of Sam Israel III: a modern hedge fund fable of fraud and failure that starts in the familiar territory of Wall Street grime and crime, and the drive of one man to beat the market – to “hear” it, as Israel puts it – and ends deep in the weeds of conspiracy and paranoia.

Truth be told, the collapse of Israel’s hedge fund, Bayou Capital, in 2008, would have been condemned to obscurity by the dark, long sha­dow of the vaster Madoff scam were it not for its sheer strangeness, as told by Guy Lawson. In Octopus, which was long-listed for this year’s Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, Lawson relates by far the most rollicking, trippy yarn to emerge from the 2008 fin­ancial collapse so far.

It starts ordinarily enough down a well-trodden path of tightly written financial storytelling, plotting the rise of Israel in the rough world of 1980s Wall Street under the tutelage of some of finance’s biggest names, from Freddy Graber to Leon Cooperman.

“I learned that Wall Street was an illusion,” he tells Lawson from his pri­son cell. “There were different magicians using different tricks in different ways. But everyone cheat­ed.”

Israel’s equivalent of Borges’s map turns out to be a trading system he has designed called Forward Propagation, which, he hopes, will unveil financial truths to him.

Things, however, go downhill. Bayou, started by Israel in the 1990s, suffers big losses following the terror attacks of September 11 2001 and the lies begin to take over. Forward Prop­agation’s failures – hidden from clients – are outpaced only by Israel’s failing grip on reality, massaged by a whole alpha­bet of uppers and downers from Depakote to Zoloft via Lithium and Wellbutrin.

Poised on the precipice of his downfall, Israel sits in the chapel of a Tudor revival mansion he has bought from Donald Trump – one room of which he has converted into a “rock ’n’ roll” den, with guitars and amps. At his desk he has a one-way camera to his hedge fund’s trading room so that, godlike but impotent, he can watch over his messy creation. There is also a men­agerie of exotic reptiles.

From here, the tale only becomes stranger still. Far, far stranger.

Israel’s desperation pushes him into the arms of another conman, who in turn cons him, introducing him to “The Octopus”, a world-ruling cabal in which the globe is carved up between 13 families. There is a hidden bond market. An alien did land in Roswell but died of a strawberry ice-cream overdose. Israel is sucked in, along with his clients’ already much-diminished pool of money.

In the book’s manic second half we learn that an estimated $10bn has been lost to such preposterous “hidden finance” conspiracy scams.

The big problem with Lawson’s book is that shots of objective reality like this are in short supply. Octopus is the world according to Sam Israel, based, as Lawson explains, on “hundreds of hours of interviews” with him from his cell. It is a claustrophobic place.

After 300 pages, there is a danger of feeling as if you have dedicated yourself to an afternoon reading through the reams of commentary that populate some of the internet’s seediest redoubts. Octopus could be leavened with more normality.

All of which is not to deny it is worth persevering with the book. Bayou might be small fry but Israel’s story is one of hedge fund excess nudged only a degree out at inception.

His path so neatly parallels the greed and hubris of the industry, moving stealthily away from reality over time, that it perhaps contains a kernel of broader truth – or a warning – for a financial world that, like Borges’s useless map, can seem at times as though it is built on pure abstraction.

The writer is the FT’s hedge fund correspondent

Fuente ; Financial Times
October 31, 2012


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