Why I’m Giving Up on Reading!

I’m about to sign off reading.  Permanently.  Way too depressing.  The past three items that I “read” would make you refuse to get up in the morning.  They were:

  • English Galleon ModelThe Billionaire’s Apprentice, by Anita Raghaven (formerly of Forbes and the WSJ);
  • An excoriating article in the New Republic about Michael Needham and the Heritage Foundation; and
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

First, The Billionaire’s Apprentice:  It’s a tale about greed, and really good people who worked hard their entire lives, and then threw it all away.  The book focuses on Raj Rajaratnam, and details those that Raj took down with him.  Rajat Gupta, the former head of McKinsey & Company, gets special attention.   What struck me as particularly sad is how one bad apple took so many people down with him.  It’s not that the other people weren’t guilty; they were.  However, almost all were straight arrows, and were it not for Raj, they would never have gotten involved with insider trading.

I was particularly stunned by Rajat Gupta’s fall, and how he persists in pleading innocence.  True, he never traded a share of stock on insider information.  However, he was a direct beneficiary of Raj’s trading on his inside information.   Rajat is painted as a particularly wise man, who was orphaned as a teenager, supported his family thereafter, worked his way through college with an incredibly difficult curriculum, and overcame huge odds to become a sought-after and renowned individual.

Many of you know that I worked with Raj for many years.  Raghaven and Audible got Raj and the other “just right” in voice, tone and context.  Raj could be very, very cunning.  In fact, the New York Post claims that he now has a “man servant” at Fort Devens.  The sadness is that so many good people got caught up with him.  Enough.

I’m told that technology has made insider trading much more difficult these days.  Research analysts can’t be seen with corporate finance people.  Doors are locked between departments in investment banks.  Rule FD means that a company has to share with everyone all the time, and no one gets “special” treatment.  Everything is circumspect.

While I don’t think of my days on Wall Street as “the good old days,” people were definitely looser than what you see today.  Is profitability on Wall Street down because insider trading is that more difficult?  Add to that the expense of all the technology that traces every key stroke and archives every email.  Which is why I want to start a fund that invests solely in companies involved with compliance and security.

Moving on, the November 24th article of the New Republic, blames 31 year old Michael Needham for the stall-out in Congress over ObamaCare.   Michael is the son of my former boss, and CEO of Heritage Action, the activist arm of the Heritage Foundation.  As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  While his father may have gone right up to the line, from time-to-time, he never went across the line.   The article characterizes Michael as young, naïve and arrogant.  Probably, all true.  George always told us to be quiet, as professionals, and to stay out of the limelight.  Advice he might pass along to his son.

Finally, I’m now listening to Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg.  I thought I would find it boring.  Same-old-same-old.  Yada, yada.  It is depressing.  How many times do I want to hear that men are far more often mentored than women, and that women make 70¢ for every dollar a man makes.  Please, I prefer ignorance at this point.  Knowing these facts isn’t going to help me make money.  But wait, there are some huge positives about the book.  Sandberg does give some incredibly pragmatic advice on negotiating and mentoring to the generation now moving up.  And just like in The Billionaire’s Apprentice, the narrator sounds just like Sandberg.  It’s as though she is narrating the book.  Uncanny.

It’s no longer possible to profit by owning Audible stock, as the Company is now owned by Amazon.  If it was public, I would buy the stock.  I only wish I had become a subscriber earlier, given all the miles I’ve logged, and continue to log, back and forth to Boston.

Margaret Johns

Founder & Chairman

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