Writing In Public celebrates the art and intelligence of essays, online and in print.

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Things don’t happen in the dark

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Ruben Cukler @ Itch/

Omer Rosen on the continuing deceptions enacted on well-lit trading floors @ Boston Review.
In the spring of 2000, I began a three-year stint on Citigroup’s corporate-derivatives team. I was just months past my twentieth birthday, with no work experience to speak of, in a world beyond my imagination. As my boss summed me up after a day of interviews, I was “fucking unpolished.”The credit-derivatives group, then just three or four people I sat next to, soon spawned an ever-expanding team managing ever-more complex creations: credit-default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and the myriad other structures built with black boxes and shrouded by acronyms. Meanwhile, my group continued to peddle mostly the forbears of these recent menaces, the more mundane interest-rate swaps and Treasury-rate locks. The newer derivatives, though hardly identical to their predecessors, nonetheless evolved in similar environments, were likewise designed to manipulate risk, and were also customized on a trade-by-trade basis.Our clients were non-financial corporations, the Deltas and Verizons of the world, which relied on us for advice and education. Our directive was “to help companies decrease and manage their risks.” Often we did just that. And often we advised clients to execute trades solely because they presented opportunities for us to profit. In either case, whenever possible we used our superior knowledge to manipulate the pricing of the trade in our favor.read more

There were differences, if you looked closely

There were differences, if you looked closely

Sometimes I am just the maker of an unfinished map

Sometimes I am just the maker of an unfinished map