[from Chapter 16]
Justin opened up his copy. “Last year, it looks like you took a $30 million charge for investing in new equipment. But I could not find anywhere what kind of equipment it was.”
The Russian said, “Ah, yes. That was our capital equipment purchased with a view toward enhancing our security.”
“Security?” Justin asked.
“Yes, security. You see, the more secure we are, the less our enemies can touch us.” Grigori stood up abruptly. “In fact, why don’t I show you what that 30 million bought us?” He gestured for Justin to follow him. They left the office and walked through an underground tunnel about the length of a football field. They went up a stairway and stepped out into a giant warehouse, which they had seen from the outside on the way in. Justin looked around as Grigori proudly displayed the capital purchase.
After a tour of Crystal Ball’s operations area, Justin followed Eliot into his office. A bank of monitors displayed everything from commodity prices to financial headlines to crawling stock tickers to the evening news in Karachi. Everything of note that happened anywhere on the globe was on display here, up close and in HD. It was almost as though the office was at the center of the world. Waxman looked at one of the screens.
“Our biggest position is in Dynex Holdings. It’s been doing great for the last nine months, but it’s probably time to ditch it.” He picked up the phone and presumably spoke to a broker, probably overseas. “Yeah, sell everything I have in Dynex.” Another phone call, this time to someone internal. “Let’s unload Dynex.” A pause. “Yes, everything.” Then, he looked back at Justin, “Well, now’s the time for our contrarian strategy to pay off.”
[from Chapter 8]
At another investment firm in a different city, a man paced in front of his corner office window. He touched a hand to his long stringy black hair larded up with gel and felt the familiar hardness all around for the helmet it was. For the shiny helmet, for his ferret-like appearance and for his ability to slither into and out of the murky waters of gray market finance virtually unnoticed, he was called the Mink. As he looked back to his desk the phone lit up noiselessly, signaling an incoming call. Noting the caller ID, the man snapped it up. “What?”
[from Chapter 17]
author's note: I used to work with a great guy of the same name.
Back across the Atlantic, or the Pacific depending on perspective, Robert Nielsen stood on the threshold of another wasted day. Nielsen was wrong to put so much hope on one horse. He should have learned by now but he needed a diversion, something to take his mind off of reality once in a while. His reality had included dreams of enlisting to become an elite soldier, only to be dashed by a medically disqualifying pes planus, also known as flat feet. After that, a position in the FBI half of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Task Force seemed a natural fit for him, but his college grades hadn’t matched his efforts. Since the accounting degree became unattainable, he settled for marketing. After a stint in the private sector, he found the pace of government work more suitable and, for the last thirteen years, had occupied a position in a mid-level department assigned to investigate ephemeral crimes against an opaque criminal code.
[from Chapter 9]
…No chance of working in Boston again. That was okay. Moving on was a way of life for him. The child of parents in the Foreign Service, he spent his grade school years in places ranging from first-rate cities like Helsinki and Berlin to the second world of Russian-occupied Estonia and Kiev, all the way down the totem pole to New Delhi and, worst of all, an eighteen-month stint in Ouagadougou. That one was the worst. That one had broken the family.
[from Chapter 18]
Justin scratched his head as he pondered the next challenge. Despite its complexity, securities analysis could be applied to any business, in any environment. All it involved was assigning a value to a particular organization, then dividing that amount by the number of shares outstanding. Assigning the value, though, was the hard part. At its most basic, it involved distilling the sum of the subject company’s cash flows down to a single point in time, usually called time zero and often meaning ‘now’ in plain English. All inflows, as far into the future as could be seen, had to be estimated then discounted back to the present at some assumed interest rate, which could itself be based on many different things. All outflows, which were more predictable yet absolutely not certain, likewise had to be discounted to the present. The difference between the two was a current value representing the company’s future profits. Then he just had to add in the value of the rest of the company’s tangible assets, like office equipment, buildings, real estate and machinery, all the way down to the fuel in the company’s trucks and the soda in its cafeteria.
[from Chapter 1]
Justin Lowe gripped the chrome bar running the length of the commuter rail car with an iron ferocity. Today’s news heralding the buyout of his employer, Solomon Wittenberg Asset Management LLC, dripped all over the front page. Justin felt his stomach churn and pinpricks of sweat dot his upper lip as he absorbed the unexpected news like a sucker punch. That he had to read it along with the general public was a slap in the face.
For Solomon, a mutual fund mainstay since its inception in the colonial era, it would surely be the death knell for a firm that had sailed through every major event in the country’s history, from its very founding to the Civil War to Black Monday and on through decades of a confiscatory Congress.
No doubt the sour mood of despair would permeate every-thing at work. Justin had the shortest tenure of anyone on the International Equity team, and though at twenty-six he was the youngest, he had enough experience to know that people would be spooked. Rumors would stomp around unbridled and poop all over the floor.
And on top of all that, there was an extremely loud man on the train, spoiling the morning quiet.
Justin looked up. He studied the man up ahead speaking loudly into his cell phone. Something was called for. Though the breach of peace was bad enough on the tensely packed car, the man was plainly ignoring a very pregnant woman who had gotten on at the last stop. She clutched the seat handle as she stood in the aisle along with perhaps ten others waiting their turn to catch a vacant place. Though there were only four stations left, Justin knew that more seats wouldn’t open up until the stop at Back Bay, twenty minutes away.
He started to make his way to the front, where the offending mouth was. As he approached, he excused himself as he stepped from side to side between bodies. Justin slowed his pace as the click-clacking became less frequent, and reached the man just as the train slowed to pull in at the next station.
“Excuse me, sir?” Through the ambient noise of dozens of pairs of feet shuffling around, the wheels braking and newspapers folding, the man on the phone managed to hear Justin.
Justin Lowe, a brilliant young securities analyst specializing in international finance, is searching for purpose in a soulless world of wealth. Despite his uncanny ability to spot lucrative patterns, he is seduced by the prospect of a new career that isn’t what it appears. Between ocean-hopping adventures looking for treasure in the untamed frontier markets of the developing world, he sees hope for personal salvation in the form of a shimmering Iranian political refugee whose past is as complex as his own.
However, his globe-trotting exploits in search of windfall profits end when he is framed by his manager and an ex-colleague. Desperately trying to avoid prison, he races across the world to uncover the truth about his betrayers. Along the way, he unearths a nuclear-exporting scheme that topples a regime and takes away the one person who has given his life new meaning. In order to honor the woman he loves, Justin must forego his unbridled ambition and sacrifice a financial fortune.
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