I was thinking a lot about the recent news that the FSA has ordered all mobile telephone calls to be monitored for any trader or investment banker using a corporate mobile telephone.
It doesn’t seem like such a great idea though, as traders and bankers will just switch to personal mobiles or those of their partners.
This has already been evidenced by a recent insider trading case, where the culprits were found to be using their partner’s email addresses to send advice and messages to each other to avoid being caught.
So here’s my vision of the future for regulators.
A dark and gloomy Monday morning sometime in the future. A grey skinned man in a dark suit and coat enters the lobby of FCBC (Fat Cat Banking Corporation) and asks to see the Chief Executive.
The receptionist looks completely disinterested, and doesn’t even pick up the phone to call anyone, until the anaemic and emaciated figure flashes his badge at her. Yes, you heard me, he flashed his badge and used those words that no-one wants to hear: “I’m the Regulator.”
The receptionist suddenly jerks into life and says, “Yes your honour” as she picks up the phone and calls Eva, the PA to uberfuhrer Dave Jzerkoff.
“Eva, it’s Carla. Yes, the Regulator is here … no, how was I to know?” she says flustered. The Regulator knew what Sally had asked. It was the normal question: “why didn’t you warn us?”
“Yes, I’ll send him right up.”
Carla turned to the Regulator and pointed down the lobby: “please take the elevators to the 95th floor where Sally, PA to Mr. Jzerkoff, will be waiting for you.”
With a grimace, the Regulator walked on by and headed down to the large elevator bank beyond.
He was bored with this life.
He was bored with catching crime.
Crimes that were hidden from most people’s view, as they only occurred through data transports and communications between financial systems.
The only thing that kept him going was the sweat.
Not his, but the sweat of the hi-folluting Big City fliers who he caught doing dirty dealings during their lunch hours and after work bedtime workouts.
So here he was in the chase again.
This time FCBC were in deep water.
Not only had he caught Jzerkoff’s right hand man, Dan Slowhand, but he had caught him with a multibillion dollar sting that could bring down the house of FCBC.
The Regulator grimaced again.
Nothing hurt. He just preferred to grimace rather than smile, as it made him seem more interesting and worthy.
As he breathed out of the elevators on the 95th floor, a mousish looking woman in her mid-30’s skittled into view.
“Ah, Mr. Regulator, we are so …”
“It is the Regulator Sally, not Mr”, he growled.
She skidded to a stilleto’d halt and gave him a quizzical look.
“Now look sir, there is no need to be short with me …” she begged.
He grimaced again.
“I have every reason to be short with you Jzerkoff’s maiden, as he has been shorting with everyone …” he paused for effect, “… a practice that you know is forbidden.”
The woman now looked girlish in wide-eyed innocence and intoned that she had no idea what he was referring to but to follow her, which he did.
The opulence of the 95th floor was something to behold, with Picasso’s, Dali’s and Matisse paintings and sculptors laying unappreciated around the thick pile carpettted boardrooms.
God, these guys made him sick.
Maybe that’s why he was so grey and grimacing.
Or maybe it was just the never-ending fight against hi-tech crime.
Or maybe it was the litre of whisky he drank to sleep each night.
Whatever it was that made him grimace and grey, he missed the days when he used to trust these guys.
Sally ushered him into a red-leather chaired boardroom and asked him to wait.
He didn’t like waiting.
He knew what was happening.
It was the usual game.
Sally would go back and tell Jzerkoff that the Regulator had arrived and was not in a good mood.
Jzerkoff would ask if there was anything that he said.
She would recount the whole conversation, including the bit about “shorting”.
Jzerkoff would be nervous but would then ask himself: “what could they know, we’ve been careful.”
He would then gather himself and come down to the boardroom.
The Regulator knew that as Jzerkoff opened the door, he would be asking himself: “have you been careful enough, Mr. Jzerkoff.”
Jzerkoff looked a bit non-plussed as the Regulator had caught him offguard.
“I’m sorry, but who are you?” he asked, rapidly regaining his composure as most of these hi-follutin’ banking types did. The Regulator was used to it.
“I am the Regulator”, he said, flashing his badge once more.
“So”, said Jzerkoff, appearing to be aloof and unfazed.
“I am here because of your shorting of the markets and, specifically, the Government.”
The Regulator knew that he was going to get Jzerkoff’s interest with this statement and, sure enough, it did.
A bead of sweat slid down Jzerkoff’s right side forehead, over his eyebrow and into his eye, before he smoothly swept it to one side.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about Regulator, but you better have some proof”, said Jzerkoff as he went over to the drinks cabinet that adorned the complete side of one wall of the red-leathered room to match the red-leathered chairs.
“Sure I got proof”, said the Regualtor, “but I want you to confess first.”
The grimace stretched into a grin, as another drip of sweat slid down Jzerkoff’s neck. This was the bit the Regulator loved.
“Drink?” asked Jzerkoff.
A classic stalling move.
“I don’t think so, Mr. Jzerkoff. Aftedr all,” said the Regulator looking at his watch, “it’s only ten past nine in the morning.”
Another bead of sweat.
“I meant coffee, tea or juice of course Mr. Regulator”, said Jzerkoff being respectful,.
“My name is the Regulator, not Mr. Regulator”, said the Regulator, “as you very well know Jzerkoff.”
Jzerkoff looked a little surprised at the Regulator’s tone, and the fact that he had also now dropped the respectful “Mr.” and had just referred to him as Jzerkoff.
No-one referred to him as just Jzerkoff.
“OK, Regulator, let’s cut to the chase”, said Jzerkoff as two more bands of sweat slid down his temple, “what have you got?”
The Regulator grimaced, grinned and groaned all at the same time. He wasn’t sure whether he was feeling true pleasure or pain at this moment, but he loved this moment.
“OK, Jzerkoff, we have Dan Slowhand.”
Jzerkoff’s face went pale as he poured himself a whisky at the bar, and then sat down in the largest and most comfortable red leather armchair.
“What about Dan?” he asked.
“You know”, said the Regulator, “your right hand man.”
“Sure, I know Dan. But what do you exactly have on him?” his voice had a slight tremble, as he asked the question.
“We have his voicemails”, said the Regulator.
Jzerkoff looked visibly relieved.
“Is that all”, he said, as a matter of fact.
The Regulator was pleased, as this was the moment all bankers sweated the most.
“And his texts, instant messages, chat room history, bedroom conversations, toilet mumblings, farts, coughs, sneezes and orgasms”, he loved that line, “Jzerkoff … we have everything on Dan.”
Jzerkoff’s face quivered for a fraction of a second imperceptibly.
No-one would have noticed except the Regulator, but then the Regulator looked for this moment to see if he had his man.
He had his man.
Jzerkoff immediately gathered himself.
“Listen Meester Regulator”, he said scornfully, mocking the Regulator’s dismissal earlier of the term Mister.
“I don’t care what you say you have on me or Dan or FCBC”, he was getting ready for the fight, “I want you to show me and, until you can or you do, please leave our building and don’t come back.”
The Regulator loved it.
Every Jzerkoff said the same thing at this point, and every Jzerkoff was caught at this point, whether they had a Slowhand or not.
“Thank you Mr. Jzerkoff”, said the Regulator menacingly. “You’ve told me all I need to know.”
At which point, the Regulator gathered his coat and walked to the door.
“What do you mean?” said Jzerkoff. “You come in here with these false accusations, brandishing your badge and calling me Jzerkoff when, as everyone knows, it's Mister Jzerkoff. Now you want to leave, just like that, without showing any evidence or calling any charges or …”
The Regulator turned swiftly and suddenly.
An arm short out.
A long arm.
The long arm of the Regulator.
Before Jzerkoff could turn, the Regulator had him by the throat and powerfully lifted him to the wall.
As Jzerkoff was held there, about a foot off the ground, his legs swinging wildly, the Regulator brought his mouth close to Jzerkoff’s ear and spat out these words:
“Listen Jzerkoff, from the moment I met you, I knew you were scum. You may be the Chief of a large Fat Cat Banking Corporation that spans every continent and deals in derivatives designed to destroy destinies and destinations, but I have one thing you and your cohorts of trading slaves will never have ….”
The sweat was now pouring down Jzerkoff’s face, it oozed from his pores and smothered his shirt until drips and beads of salted water were gathering on the floor beneath his flailing legs.
The Regulator continued …
“I have a team you see. I have a team of precogs?”
Jzerkoff nodded, as best he could with five meaty fingers digging into his Adam’s apple.
“Well I have five of those precogs. They monitor your every moment, your conversations and your dreams, your words and your mumbles, your status updates and your instant messages.”
Jzerkoff was turning purple and looked pretty ill. The Regulator didn’t care.
“I have knowledge of every banker and trader in this City, their trading strategies and alpha ideas, their insider news and stakeholder relations … I know everything.”
Jzerkoff’s eyes rolled towards the ceiling and the Regulator was aware that he might be losing him, so he loosened his hold slightly.
“I know you have started to short the country and that you have a strategy to bring this country to its knees through that strategy.”
Jzerkoff was listening again.
“And so we’ve decided to take you out before you do this, as you and your bank are expendable.”
With these words, the Regulator’s biceps pumped one more time and threw Jzerkoff at the window of the 95th floor office.
Jzerkoff’s body, limp with sweat and nerves, crashed through the bulletproof glass panel – the Regulator was strong – and fell the 500 metres or so that lay between the boardroom block and the boardwalk below.
The Regulator walked to the broken window to make sure that Jzerkoff hadn’t been drinking Red Bull, just as Sally jingle-jangled back into the room.
She let out a piercing scream.
The Regulator turned and grimaced.
He was at peace.
And he counted his blessings, that he was saving this country from this scum by using precogs to identify the thoughts of traders before they traded, as letting them trade could be dangerous.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is the future of regulation in investment markets.