Side" is the type of book hedge funders hate.
The new tell-all account by former Galleon Group, Argus
Partners and J.L. Berkowitz stock trader Turney Duff is a
301-page study in the worst stereotypes of Wall Street. There
are vivid anecdotes of insider trading and dealing at Galleon
under Raj Rajaratnam; cocaine-and-whiskey fueled debauchery in
New York and Miami paid for by bankers desperate for hedge fund
business; and nasty hazing incidents involving shots of tequila
Duff's coming of age story during the fast-money,
loose-rules days before the 2008 financial crisis is the stuff
Wall Street critics love to seize on. Duff's account of his
work on trading desks seems to underscore what naysayers have
long contended: that the investing game is rigged and that
financial professionals are a bunch of ethically challenged
Most hedge funders, of course, won't see themselves in Duff.
They do their own analysis instead of pumping what Duff calls
his "hedge fund mafia" for investment ideas. They go home to
their families instead of spending nights at the "White House,"
a sell-side-funded Manhattan safe house for enjoying cocaine
and prostitutes. And they don't descend into drug-induced
paranoia that results in lost homes, girlfriends and jobs.
Duff is, by his own admission, insecure and unstable. His
experiences are as much a function of his inability to control
himself as they are about the fast-trading, hard-partying
culture that nearly destroys him.
Duff grows up middle class in small town Maine. After
college in Ohio, he makes his way to New York City to become a
journalist. Having trouble finding a writing job, Duff becomes
an entry-level sales assistant at Morgan Stanley in 1994. He
joins Galleon in 1999 and becomes a healthcare focused stock
The author describes a malicious culture at Galleon
under Rajaratnam and co-founder Gary Rosenbach. Employees are
pitted against each other and verbally abused, trades are made
on insider information and clients of the hedge fund are robbed
of some of their deserved trading profits.
history of lawsuits and eventual demise in 2009 back up
some of Duff's claims. Rajaratnam is serving
11 years in prison term for insider trading and others at
the firm have gone to prison for similar wrong-doings.
Rosenbach was never charged and left the firm just before
Rajaratnam's arrest; he now owns Rose Valley Ranch in
Weatherford, Tex. and
rides horses in cattle herding competitions. A lawyer for
Rosenbach, Doug Koff, declined to respond to Duff's
While Duff finds the culture at Galleon abusive, he also
starts having fun. Shy at first, he learns to immerse himself
in meetings with the brokers who want his fund's business, and
with the after-hours party culture that goes along with it.
First at Galleon and then at Krishen Sud's Argus beginning in
2001, Duff relishes the perks that come with being a desirable
client. He is flown to South Beach on a private jet and given a
bag of ecstasy to party through the weekend. He watches the
2002 Patriots-Rams Super Bowl from the 50-yard line. He takes
helicopters to the Hamptons and jets to Las Vegas.
But the fun doesn't last. While he's making lots of
money--$1.86 million in 2003 alone--his party binges begin to
hurt his performance at work and his relationship with his
girlfriend and their young daughter. He goes to rehab. He
relapses. He loses his job. By the end of the book, Duff is a
broken addict who can only save himself by leaving Wall
It can be hard to keep track of who Duff really is. In one
scene he's the nice, naïve guy in the office being
humiliated by his crass bosses. In the next he's pushing his
way into exclusive Manhattan nightclubs by saying "I don't wait
in lines. I snort them." He's sober, wanting only to be a
responsible father. Then he's throwing himself into a street
puddle to fake a mugging as an excuse for missing work and
family obligations during a cocaine binge.
"The Buy Side" isn't always elegantly written. Duff
sometimes uses gimmicky literary devices like using a made-up
image of a check with his annual pay as a chapter or a series
of relationship anecdotes introduced by letters that eventually
spell "I LOVE YOU." The writing can also be choppy. Duff goes
back and forth between stories without breaks in a way that's
sometimes confusing. But overall it's a clearly written, easy
to understand glimpse at what it is like to work at a volatile
hedge fund and the lifestyle that can go along with it.
Duff just wants to tell his story and largely avoids broad
indictments of hedge funds and Wall Street. But his mere act of
telling the story is rare and valuable. It's impossible to read
his book without wondering how much of the selfish, destructive
culture he describes still exists--and what it means for the
future of the industry.