The book is a story recounted by Turney Duff about his rise and fall on the Buy side. Turney Duff graduates from Ohio university in 1994 and starts hunting for a job on Wall Street. Thanks to his uncle Tucker and a random conversation about a soap opera with a HR lady, he gets a job at Morgan Stanley in Private Wealth group as a Sales assistant. Three years later, his dream of getting in to trading seems like a mirage until one day he gets a chance to organize a party. He writes a newsletter that catches the imagination of everyone. The party meant to boost the morale of the employees is a grand success and Turney becomes an instant hit among all the dealers and the top management. He thinks that this event might get him a trading job. Instead, two years pass and he is still a sales assistant at Morgan. His ex-Morgan colleagues help him in getting a job at Galleon where he starts trading health care stocks.
Life at Galleon is disheartening for the first few years. He is humiliated, ridiculed by many of the top bosses and he takes everything in his stride. At Galleon, he learns about all the shady ways that the firm makes money: the way money is flipped back and forth between clients account and their private admiral accounts, reliance of insider information to make a ton of money, flipping an 100% long portfolio in to a 100% short portfolio within a span of few hours based on some hushed conversations with outsiders. The first time Turney makes a half a million dollars is via a stranger’s call giving him inside info on a stock. Turney’s party organizational skills are in demand at Galleon too and as always he delivers it. All the employees, clients, brokers love the party hosted by Galleon. His life at Galleon begins to look up. In 2000 Turney makes the first million dollar trade, again thanks to his information channels (insider info).
In the book, Turney describes the work environment at Galleon and maybe it is atypical of a wall street hedge fund. Raj Ratnam creates an unhealthy competition amongst his own employees, pounds the traders to get additional information about stocks from whatever channels they can, pushes the traders to meet sales brokers, analysts, anybody who can give them prop information. Luck favors Turney when the head trader from Galleon leaves and he gets a chance to run the Health care fund. Turney follows the philosophy, “It is not what happens BETWEEN the trading hours that matters. Information flows to you based on what you do AFTER trading hours”.
In 2001, one of the founding members of Galleon leaves to start a hedge fund, Argus partners. Turney is poached from Galleon by his ex-boss. His life changes in Argus partners where he soon starts managing a billion dollar portfolio comprising health care stocks. He is known on the street as a part of Health care Mafia, a set of hedge funds that run a multibillion dollar health care funds.
An incident at a party changes his life FOREVER. He snorts cocaine casually and his story takes a irreversible twist. Turney gives a spicy description of all the excesses of a successful buy side trader. Is it the cocaine or is the money from trading that makes him do all crazy things? Well, may be its both. He marries a singer and tries settling down. But cocaine has already taken a toll on him. He goes to a rehab thinking that a month away would cure his addiction. He comes back from the rehab and vows that he would stay away from cocaine and would lead a life of a responsible husband/parent. Life as always never goes as planned. He is caught up in the addiction again, loses his trading job, switches companies, his wife walks out, and goes to rehab again. By the end of 2009 after 10 years of making his first million dollar trade at Galleon, Turney lands up in rehab again. This time though, after returning from rehab, the buy side has shut its doors.
After the second rehab, Turney moves to Long Island, stops using drugs and starts “writing” about his buy side life. “Writing” I guess was the one real skill that made people like him. Two and half years as a buy side divorcee, he manages to write this book. The story in the book is actually a simple story – a charmer with people, learns the tricks of the trade and becomes a buy side trader, who then becomes a cocaine addict and screws up his life. However behind this story line, Turney gives a colorful description of various characters that he meets on the buy side and turns his story in to a Tom Clancy + Michael Lewis narrative of a wall street trader. As they say, if you are a writer, EVERYTHING (wife runs away, troubled childhood, cruel boss, your perverse addictions etc.) is grist for the mill.Turney seems to have followed that dictum in coming up with this book.