The Spider Network, David Enrich
David Enrich

The Spider Network

541 printed pages
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SHORT-LISTED FOR THE FINANCIAL TIMES BUSINESS BOOK OF THE YEAR
The Wall Street Journal's award-winning business reporter unveils the bizarre and sinister story of how a math genius named Tom Hayes, a handful of outrageous confederates, and a deeply corrupt banking system ignited one of the greatest financial scandals in history.
In 2006, an oddball group of bankers, traders and brokers from some of the world’s largest financial institutions made a startling realization: Libor—the London interbank offered rate, which determines interest rates on trillions in loans worldwide—was set daily by a small group of easily manipulated functionaries. Tom Hayes, a brilliant but troubled mathematician, became the lynchpin of shadowy team that used hook and crook to take over the process and set rates that made them a fortune, no matter the cost to others. Among the motley crew was a French trader nicknamed “Gollum”; the broker “Abbo,” who liked to publicly strip naked when drinking; a Kazakh chicken farmer turned something short of financial whiz kid; an executive called “Clumpy” because of his patchwork hair loss; and a broker uncreatively nicknamed “Big Nose.” Eventually known as the “Spider Network,” Hayes’s circle generated untold riches —until it all unraveled in spectacularly vicious, backstabbing fashion.
Praised as reading “like a fast-paced John le Carré thriller” (New York Times), “compelling” (Washington Post) and “jaw-dropping” (Financial Times), The Spider Network is not only a rollicking account of the scam, but a provocative examination of a financial system that was warped and shady throughout.
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A market maker’s defining trait was that he fielded queries from other banks, asset managers, hedge funds, insurance companies, and other institutions that wanted to buy or sell financial products in the market maker’s area of specialization, say Mexican government bonds. If a trader at a hedge fund called up and said he wanted to sell $10 million of those bonds, the market maker’s job (as an expert in Mexican bonds) was to quickly assess the characteristics of the proposed transaction and then offer the hedge fund a price at which he would be willing to execute the transaction. To be good at the job, the market maker needed a hearty appetite for risk, because if he agreed to do the deal, he then became the proud owner of those Mexican bonds. Sometimes that would be only for a period of a few minutes, before he sold them to another trader at a different institution, but other times it could be much longer. When someone else came along looking to buy Mexican bonds, the market maker would try to eke out a profit by selling the bonds for at least slightly more than he had paid for them
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The point was to foster camaraderie, and that was happening in spades.
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