Selections from the diary of an anonymous contributor, with names and places changed to protect the perps.
February 5, 2003
Ron Schauble is such a transparently nice guy that it’s hard to get upset with him when he talks nonsense. Balder than I am, with a moustache and beard that makes him look very like Lenin. In fact, someone apparently made a bust of him, and at least one guest at his house has asked him if it was a bust of Lenin. He’s quite different from how he appeared in the old days at Fenner, when Dave Coleman, rest his dear old soul, used to refer to him as “Neb” for “nebulous”—because his research reports were so hedged about that you could never make out exactly where he stood. Now he is quite the opposite: he has strong views on most things and renders them in the most mordant terms.
I was struck from the first moment I spoke to him, on the phone, after not having seen him for about 14 years, how strong and confident he sounded compared to the rather Woody Allenish kind of character he had been when he was Danny M’s court jester at Fenner . When I met him face to face, too—as it happened, he was in the bathroom at Ripham, whence I had gone before going on to be “interviewed” by him—he seemed stronger, more forceful and somehow sort of radiant, his red bald head glowing with self-assurance and his handshake firm.
Of course, the impression of knowledgability wears off. Everybody likes him—it is difficult not to—but with an affection tinged with amusement and, I won’t say derision because that implies scorn, but teasing. He likes to talk—some of the time, anyway, when he isn’t in one of his more sombre moods—and it seems that everyone on the desk has heard his stories, theories and jokes many times. Having me around was a great excuse for him to tell these to a new audience; and each time he begins there is a sort of communal snigger at the prospect of hearing yet again the oft-repeated lines.
One of his favorite jokes is about a man who wakes up one day and discovers that his penis has turned a sort of orange color. The punchline involves porn and Cheetos.
February 6, 2003
Schauble in talkative frame of mind today, not letting me get much work done. On one of his favourite themes—the environment. He often holds forth on the evils of pollution and the decimation of the Amazon rain forests, big-engined cars and the plots of large energy producers against small decentralized clean energy like passive solar design and solar panels. He invokes the image of Indian villages where it is uneconomic to lay on power lines, and envisages a time when Indian villagers will all have cell phones powered by local solar panels. He rails at Mexicans driving 1970s Pintos, dripping oil and belching smoke. (At other times he will wonder aloud whether to buy his wife, Marilyn, the Range Rover or the Benz SUV.)
The main principle of all these is the concept that diseconomies are not paid for. If it costs nothing to pollute, then nobody is going to pay extra not to pollute. And so on.
February 10, 2003
Golf at Bel Air, with Schauble, Mark Winfield and a guy called Buddy Scott, the member, an equity guy I’ve seen around on the floor from time to time. Small, wiry, dark, very shabbily dressed as a rule, looking like he is just out of bed and on his way to the bathroom, with a geeky kind of face and hunched shoulders, but who can hit the ball remarkably well despite a very strange, hunched-up, unlikely looking stance. Schauble felt compelled to take Mark out because his father is dying of cancer and he needs cheering up. He played like shit, however, so it probably wasn’t all that cheering. He is a strange kid with a disagreeable tendency to blow his own trumpet in a very complacent, East Coasty sort of way, but so young and insecure that I can’t hold it against him. About six foot two or so, rather thin, dark haired with glasses, swarthy with a five o’clock shadow at all hours.
February 27, 2003
“That just goes to show you,” says Schauble after getting some good news about a trade, “hard work and persistence… got absolutely nothing to fucking do with it.”
April 25, 2003
Schauble’s self-esteem rests very much on his material success. I don’t know whether it’s his humble affect or what, but he certainly gives the impression of having very little of what it takes to become successful materially. He was a lousy analyst at Fenner, really, and a lousy salesman. As far as I can make out, his success at Ripham came about largely because someone up there liked him—Rob Reamer, the ex-Fenner CEO of the place, I suppose. Somehow he became a salesman and started to make lots of money. I can’t imagine that it was because he was a great salesman, although he does have a certain honest, self-deprecating charm that might dispose friendly money managers to bend a little to his will. But really he seems more to be been one of those right place right time kind of people.
He pokes fun at himself, and yet also clearly sees himself as a man who made lots of money because of his shrewdness and talent, and he talks often of this. He loves to tell anyone who will listen that he lives in Malibu, which he clearly regards as an accomplishment ranked roughly equal with joining the Forbes 400. He regards himself as one who is exceptionally well plugged in to the network of world leaders.
May 25, 2003
There is one Baum who comes in periodically, a young sales guy. He was recruited from CSULB (California State University at Long Beach) by Schauble, and apparently came to work doing data entry, or as an analyst assistant or something. Somehow he became a salesman and was snatched by Greenwich. Like others taken from the West Coast to the East, he comes back frequently, out of nostalgia, I suppose, and at Ripham’s expense, no doubt. I must say I don’t like him, though it’s hard for me to say exactly why. He is ill kempt, usually with a couple days’ growth of stubble on his face. I couldn’t say what sort of clothes he wears except that he seems to me one of those people who look shabby no matter what they’re wearing. He has blue eyes, and tends not really to look one in the eye except occasionally and then with some penetration. He spends a lot of the time talking to Schauble about Malibu real estate and seems intent on buying a house there.
“I’m thinking of getting personalized plates,” said Schauble yesterday. “BU DAWG.”
“What’s the BU for?” I asked, after some thought.
“Malibu,” said Nadia.
“Oh. I thought it stood for Butt Ugly”.
There is another, Don Black, whom I also am not that keen on, though he is less obnoxious on further than first acquaintance. Also rather unshaven.
Both of them act just as though I weren’t there. Or as if I were there but somehow not worthy of notice. Not in any ostentatious way, I think, but just… I don’t know… in the same way that they wouldn’t notice, say, a bookcase or filing cabinet.
On the other hand, it may just be that I am old and they don’t know quite what to make of me. They still have that instinct, from childhood, of according some respect, however cursory, to their elders; but this conflicts with the fact that they feel, as salesmen, superior to analysts. If I were their own age, it might be more pally, being untinged with the instinctive awe of elders. Is that it? In any case, it shows a certain gaucheness.
They did a big trade in American Commercial Lines 12 1/4s today. 12mm with about 2 ½ points for almost 300k. It was Baum’s account that was the seller. Nadia said it made her puke to see the size of his credit, because she and husband, Jerry, happen to be trying to buy a condo at the moment, and no doubt his commission would have come in very handy, and it only took him about two minutes of rather easy work. This really is unfair and surely it can’t last forever (though it has managed to last a long time).
May 26, 2003
I made these notes about Baum at work today:
Hair short and thick, close to the scalp. You can actually see scalp through it here and there. It’s odd, sort of animal-like – badger or raccoon or something. Actually, mole is it. Thick black eyebrows that waggle about quite a lot. Slightly pop-eyed. When he’s on the phone, he looks around with that (“we are sanpaku”) look (whites visible around the entire pupil). He is wearing a short-sleeved yellowish shirt with one of those rather floppy collars—sort of Hawaiian style, like rayon or something, only with a sort of broad grid of dark lines on it. He has an enormous and very hideous watch. Not, as you might expect, a gold Rolex or something like that, but a sort of TV screen of a watch, large, rectangular (about as wide as his wrist). The strap is probably a full inch wide. Sneakers. Grey sort of Dockers-like trews. He wears an undervest with a crew neck under the shirt so that the white is visible at the collar.
I suppose the thing about both him and Black is the jaded quality. Neither of them is really capable of expressing any very marked emotion. They express some, but it’s muted, crippled. Perhaps this is what comes of working in that awful Greenwich office where you are liable to be slammed all the time by Barton or Manners or Plumb. The same kind of catatonia that descends on a household with a crazy woman, like Paula, in it.
The thing to convey about these people, to give an idea of their weirdness, is how remote some of them are from real life.
Perhaps that’s not really fair.
May 28, 2003
Jen, one of the girls, picks up the phone, calls over to Mike Seltzer:
“Mike, it’s blockhead.”
Mike picks up the phone.
“Dude, the week is fucking over, ok? Leave me alone.”
(This is on the Friday before Memorial Day. Blockhead is Plumb from the Greenwich office).
You just get some really weird people in this business. Paul Plumb. My first experience of him was in my early days at Ripham, after I had finally passed my Series 7 and Series 63 and was allowed to go on the morning call. So after a few seconds on the call, talking about some company—I don’t remember which—I get heckling over the hoot. “Next, next!” or something like that. Disconcerting. Somehow I persisted, stumbling through the rest of the call.
(Ezra Karimov, a large, gentle Jewish guy with a yarmulke who works as Health Care analyst in the Short Hills office, called me up afterwards and told me not to take it to heart).
Eric told me he was our top salesman.
When I paid a visit to the Greenwich office last June or whenever it was, I sort of met this Plumb. The place was very inhospitable—like most trading floors—traders for some reason are not a very welcoming lot. They gave me a seat to sit at, on the desk. I sat and read the paper. Finally, thinking I’d look pretty stupid if I just came all the way there and didn’t do anything, I steeled myself, got up and introduced myself around. There was Steve Butcher, an affable enough ex Fenner guy. Eliot Schlein (or some such name), who ended up being reasonably welcoming, making derogatory marks, in an ok sort of way, about my tie. Steve Beltman at least said hello, I seem to remember. But from Plumb not a word, or even a look. A large, thickset guy with tousled hair and a rather fierce expression. Just didn’t even acknowledge my presence in any way.
Then, back in LA, I get a call from him about some credit or other—Metris, perhaps, was one name he cared about at one time. Very friendly, with that sort of assumption of intimacy that Moynihan used to use. Still, once in a while, I get calls like this. And at other times, it’s just “Get me the fucking numbers, now!” Click.
June 29, 2003
David Milanich, former rather vanilla salesman at Fenner, wanted to take a tax loss after Fenner folded, on his presumably now worthless stock, of which he had almost 10,000 shares, so he “sold” them to Roy Polder (moustachioed unlikely Fenner salesman who also went to Ripham after Fenner) for $100. There was an understanding between them that Roy would sell it back if it were ever found to have any value. Roy, however, was being pursued, like many another Fenner guy, by sundry government and civil prosecutors, and someone told him he shouldn’t expose himself by indulging in sham transactions designed to generate tax losses, so he resold the certificate to Schauble for $100. The stock turned out to be worth about $250,000. Schauble cashed in the certificate and kept the proceeds.
Is this story true? I do seem to remember receiving all kinds of dividends on my small holding in Fenner stock, so maybe so.
The funny thing is, Milanich never came after him for it.
“He screwed me over so badly every day at work he just didn’t have the nerve,” Schauble claimed.
July 14, 2003
Schauble was upset because a trade on which he stood to make $75,000 got blocked by the boss, Allan Grandison. Grandison isn’t normally the type to turn down a 3-point trade, but in this case, apparently, the trade stood to be exposed because of something called a Big Boy letter. This happens on certain trades for reasons of which I am not certain. Perhaps when the security is private, hence not freely tradeable, so that each party has to acknowledge that it’s a “big boy” and knows what it is doing. In any case, the BBL identifies the buyer and seller; and there is always a danger they will compare notes and hence realize that the middleman has made too much.
Schauble was in a big stink about it, swearing, cursing and generally scowling. I am not good at figuring out when he’s actually serious about this, however, since he is a hard man to take seriously.
“I lost seventy-five grand,” he said. “I really feel for you,” said I. “Now shut the fuck up and go back to your $40,000 a month beach house.”