Liar's Poker (25th Anniversary Edition)

Her desire to be noticed was tangible. He had achieved, by the standards of Wall Street, technical mastery of his subject. Trading mortgages in New York was mouthwateringly good. I didn't ever doubt I got what I deserved. The men on the trading floor may not have been to school, but they have Ph. How cunning is my opponent?

Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street

Book Details

From an unlikely beginning art history at Princeton? With the eye and ear of a born storyteller, Michael Lewis shows us how things really worked on Wall Street. In the Salomon training program a roomful of aspirants is stunned speechless by the vitriolic profanity of the Human Piranha; out on the trading floor, bond traders throw telephones at the heads of underlings and Salomon chairman Gutfreund challenges his chief trader to a hand of liar's poker for one million dollars; around the world in London, Tokyo, and New York, bright young men like Michael Lewis, connected by telephones and computer terminals, swap gross jokes and find retail buyers for the staggering debt of individual companies or whole countries.

The bond traders, wearing greed and ambition and badges of honor, might well have swaggered straight from the pages of Bonfire of the Vanities. But for all their outrageous behavior, they were in fact presiding over enormous changes in the world economy. Lewis's job, simply described, was to transfer money, in the form of bonds, from those outside America who saved to those inside America who consumed. In doing so, he generated tens of millions of dollars for Salomon Brothers, and earned for himself a ringside seat on the greatest financial spectacle of the decade: It was good to be rich.

On the other hand, ten million dollars was, and is, a lot of money. If Gutfreund lost, he'd have only thirty million or so left. His wife, Susan, was busy spending the better part of fifteen million dollars redecorating their Manhattan apartment Meriwether knew this. And as Gutf reund was the boss, he clearly wasn't bound by the Meriwether code. Maybe he didn't even know the Meriwether code. Maybe the whole point of his challenge was to judge Meriwether's response. Even Gutfreund had to marvel at the king in action.

In fact, he smiled his own brand of forced smile and said, "You're crazy. I make a lot of money. It came through a distant cousin of mine who, years before, and somewhat improbably, had married a German baron.

Though I was not the sort of person regularly invited to dine at St. James's Palace, the baroness, happily, was. I rented a black tie, boarded the tube, and went. This event was the first link in a chain of improbabilities, culminating in a job offer from Salomon Brothers.

What had been advertised as a dose encounter with British royalty proved to be a fund raiser with seven or eight hundred insurance salesmen. We fanned out across the Great Hall in dark wooden chairs on wine red carpets beneath sooty portraits of the royal family, as if auditioning to be extras on "Masterpiece Theatre. I knew this only because, as luck would further have it, I was seated between their wives.

The wife of the more senior Salomon Brothers managing director, an American, took our table firmly in hand, once we'd finished craning our necks to snatch a glimpse of British royalty.

She prodded, quizzed, needled, and unsettled me for about an hour until finally she stopped, satisfied. Having examined what good had come from my twenty-four years on earth, she asked why I didn't come and work on the Salomon Brothers trading floor. I tried to keep calm. I was afraid that if I appeared too eager, it might dawn on the woman she had made a terrible mistake. I had recently read John Sutf reund's now legendary comment that to succeed on the Salomon Brothers trading floor a person had to wake up each morning "ready to bite the ass off a bear.

I explained to her my notion of what life should be like inside an investment bank. The description included a big glass office, a secretary, a large expense account, and lots of meetings with captains of industry. This occupation does exist within Salomon Brothers, but it is not respected. It is called corporate finance. It is different from sales and trading, though both are generally referred to as investment banking. Sutfreund's trading floor, where stocks and bonds are bought and sold, is the rough-and-tumble center of moneymaking and risk taking.

Traders have no secretaries, off ices, or meetings with captains of industry. Corporate finance, which services the corporations and governments that borrow money, and that are known as "clients," is, by comparison, a ref ined and unworldly place.

Because they don't risk money, corporate financiers are considered wimps by traders. By any standards other than those of Wall Street, however, corporate finance is still a jungle full of chest-pounding males. The lady from Salomon fell silent at the end of my little speech. Then, in a breath, she said limp-wristed, overly groomed fellows on small salaries worked in corporate finance. Where was my chutzpah? Did I want to sit in an office all day?

What was I M ome numbnut? It was pretty clear she wasn't looking for an answer. So I asked if she had the authority to offer me a job. With this she dropped the subject of my manhood and assured me that when she got home, she would have her husband take care of it. At the end of the meal the eighty-four-year-old queen mother tottered out of the room. Then I realized that it must be the front of the palace and that we fund raiser types had been let in like delivery boys, through the back.

Anyway, the queen mother was headed our way. Behind her walked Jeeves, straight as a broom, clad in white tie and tails and carrying a silver tray. Following Jeeves, In procession, was a team of small, tubular dogs, called corgis, that looked like large rats. The English think corgis are cute. The British royals, I was later told, never go anywhere without them.

A complete hush enveloped the Great Hall of St. As the queen mother drew near, the insurance salesmen bowed their heads like churchgoers. The corgis had been trained to curtsy every fifteen seconds by crossing their back legs and dropping their ratlike bellies onto the floor. The procession at last arrived at its destination. We stood immediately at the queen mother's side.

The Salomon Brothers wife glowed. I'm sure I glowed, too. But she glowed more. Her desire to be noticed was tangible. There are a number of ways to grab the attention of royalty in the presence of eight hundred silent agents of the Prudential, but probably the surest is to shout.

That's what she did. Actually they were already pale, so perhaps I exaggerate. But they cleared their throats a great deal and stared at their tassel loafers. The only person within earshot who didn't appear distinctly uncomfortable was the queen mother herself.

She passed out of the room without missing a step. At that odd moment in St. James's Palace, representatives of two proud institutions had flown their finest colors side by side; The unflappable queen mother gracefully dealt with an embarrassing situation by ignoring it; the Salomon Brothers managing director's wife, drawing on hidden reserves of nerve and instinct, restored the balance of power in the room by hollering.

I had always had a soft spot for the royals, and especially the queen mother. But from that moment I found Salomon Brothers, the bleacher bums of St. To some, they were crude, rude, and socially unacceptable.

But I wouldn't have had them any other way. These were, as much as any investment bankers could be, my people. And there was no doubt in my mind that this unusually forceful product of the Salomon Brothers culture could persuade her husband to give me a job. I was soon invited by her husband to the London offices of Salomon and introduced to traders and salesmen on the trading floor. I liked the commercial buzz of their environment.

But I still did not have a formal job offer, and I wasn't subjected to a proper round of job interviews. It was pretty clear, considering the absence of harsh cross-examination, that the managing director's wife had been true to her word and that Salomon intended to hire me.

But no one actually asked me to return. A few days later I received another call. Would I care to eat breakfast at 6: I said naturally that I would. And I went through the painful and unnatural process of rising at 5;30 A.

But Corbett didn't offer me a job either, just a plate of wet scrambled eggs. We had a pleasant talk, which was disconcerting, because Salomon Brothers' recruiters were meant to be bastards. It seemed dear Corbett wanted me to work at Salomon, but he never came right out and proposed.

I went home, took off the suit, and went back to bed. Finally, puzzled, I told a fellow student at the London School of Economics what had happened. As he badly wanted a job with Salomon Brothers, he knew exactly what I had to do. Salomon Brothers, he said, never made job offers. It was too smart to give people the chance to turn it down. Salomon Brothers only gave hints. If I had been given a hint that it wanted to hire me, the best thing forme to do was call Leo Corbett in New York and take the job from him.

I called him, reintroduced myself, and said, "I want to let you know that I accept. He explained that I would start life at "the Brothers" in a training program that commenced the end of July. He said that I would be joined by at least other students, most of whom would have been recruited from colleges and business schools. Then he hung up. He hadn't told me what I would be paid, nor had I asked, because I knew, for reasons that shall soon emerge, that investment bankers didn 't like to talk about money.

I knew nothing about trading and, as a result, next to nothing about Salomon Brothers, for Salomon Brothers is, more than any other on Wall Street, a firm run by traders. I knew only what I had read in the papers, and they said that Salomon Brothers was the world's most profitable investment bank. True as that might be, the process of landing a job with the firm had been suspiciously pleasant.

After some initial giddiness about the promise of permanent employment, I became skeptical of the desirability of life on a trading floor. It crossed my mind to hold out for a job in corporate finance.

Had it not been for the circumstances, I might well have written to Leo we were on a first-name basis to say I didn't want to belong to any club that would have me so quickly for a member. The circumstances were that I had no other job. I decided to live with the stigma of having gotten my first real job through connections. It was better than the stigma of unemployment. Any other path onto the Salomon Brothers trading floor would have been cluttered with unpleasant obstacles, like job interviews.

Six thousand people had applied that year. Most of the people with whom I would eventually work were badly savaged in their interviews and had grisly stories to tell.

Except for the weird memory of Salomon's assault on the British throne, I had no battle scars and felt mildly ashamed. Oh, all right, Iconf ess. One of the reasons I pounced on the Salomon Brothers opportunity like a loose ball was that I had already seen the dark side of a Wall Street job hunt and had no desire to see it again. As a college senior in , three years before the night I got lucky in St. James's Palace, I applied to banks. I have never seen men oh Wall Street in such complete agreement on any issue as they were on my application.

A few actually laughed at my resume. Representatives from several leading firms said I lacked commercial instincts, an expensive way, I feared, to say that I would spend the rest of my life poor. I've always had difficulties making sharp transitions, and this one was the sharpest.

I recall that I couldn't imagine myself wearing a suit. Also, I'd never met a banker with blond hair. All moneymen I'd ever seen were either dark or bald. So, you see, I had problems. About a quarter of the people with whom I began work at Salomon Brothers came straight from college, so passed a test that I failed. I still wonder how. In this I wasn't unusual. If they'd heard of trading floors, college seniors considered them cages for untrained animals, and one of the great shifts in the s was the relaxing of this pose by the most expensively educated people in both America and Britain.

My Princeton University Class of was among the last to hold it firmly. So we didn't apply to work on trading floors. Instead we angled for lower-paying jobs in corporate finance. The starting salary was about twenty-five thousand dollars a year plus bonus. When all was said and done, the pay came to around six dollars an hour. The job title was "investment banking analyst.

They were slaves to a team of corporate financiers, the men who did the negotiations and paper work though not the trading and selling of new issues of stocks and bonds for America's corporations. At Salomon Brothers they were the lowest of the low; at other banks they were the lowest of the high; in either case theirs was a miserable job.

Analysts photocopied, proofread, and assembled breathtakingly dull securities documents for ninety and more hours a week. If they did this particularly well, analysts were thought well of by their bosses. This was a dubious honor. Bosses attached beepers to their favorite analysts, making it possible to call them in at all hours. A few of the very best analysts, months into their new jobs, lost their will to live normal lives. They gave themselves entirely over to their employers and worked around the clock.

They rarely slept and often looked ill; the better they became at the jobs, the nearer they appeared to death. One extremely successful analyst working for Dean Witter in a friend I envied at the time for his exalted station in life was so strung out that he regularly nipped into a bathroom stall during midday lulls and slept on the toilet. He worked straight through most nights and on weekends, yet felt guilty for not doing more. He pretended to be constipated tSl n case someone noticed how long he had been gone.

By definition an analyst's job lasted only two years. Then he was expected to go to business school. Many analysts later admit that their two years between college and business school were the worst of their lives.

The analyst was a prisoner of his own narrowly focused ambition. He didn't want to expose himself in any unusual way. He wanted to be thought successful by others like him. I tell you this only because I narrowly escaped imprisonment myself, and not by choice. And had I not escaped, I surely wouldn't be here now. I'd be continuing my climb up the same ladder as many of my peers.

There was one sure way, and only one sure way? Major in ecomomics; use your economics degree to get an analyst job on Wall Street; use your analyst job to get into the Harvard or Stanford Business Schiool; and worry about the rest of your life later.

So, more than any other, the question tlhat my classmates and I were asking in the fall of and the spring of was: How do I become a Wall Street analyst? Over time this qiuestion had fantastic consequences. The first and most obvious was ai logjam at the point of entry. Any one of a number of hard statistics cam be enlisted to illustrate the point. Forty percent of the tlhirteen hundred members of Yale's graduating class of applied tco one investment bank.

There was, I think, a sense iof safety in the numbers. The larger the number of people involved, tHie easier it was for them to delude themselves that what they were dosing must be smart. The first thing you learn on the trading floor is that when large numbers of people are after the same commodity, be it a sstock, a bond, or a job, the commodity quickly becomes overvalued.

Unfortunately, at the time, I had never seen a trading floor. The second effect, one that struck me at the time as tragic, was a strange surge in the study of economics. AVt Harvard in the course in the principles of economics had forty: At Princeton, in my senior year, for the first time in the history of th If school, economics became the single most popular area of concentration. And the more people studied economics, the more an economiics degree became a requirement for a job on Wall Street.

There was a good reason for this. Ecomomics satisfied the two most basic needs of investment bankers. Firstt investment bankers wanted practical people, willing to subordinate their educations to their careers.

Economics, which was becoming an ewerr more abstruse science, producing mathematical treatises with no obwious use, seemed almost U i J -f-tj, S1 www fjitJSihow. The way it was itaught did not exactly fire the imagination. I mean, few people would claim they actually liked studying economics; there was not a trace off self-indulgence in the act. Studying economics was more a ritual satcrif ice. I can't prove this, of course. It is bald assertion, based on what ''economists call casual empiricism.

I saw friends steadily drained of life. I often asked otherwise intelligent members of the prebanking set why they studied economics, and they explained that it was the most practical course of study, even while they spent their time drawing funny little graphs.

They were right, of course, and that was even more maddening. It got people jobs. And it did this because it demonstrated that they were among the most fervent believers in the primacy of economic life. Investment bankers also wanted to believe, like members of any exclusive club, that the logic to their recruiting techniques was airtight. No one who didn't belong was admitted.

This conceit went hand in glove with the investment bankers' belief that they could control their destiny, something, as we shall see, they couldn't do. Economics allowed investment banking recruiters to compare directly the academic records of recruits. The only inexplicable aspect of the process was that economic theory which is, after all, what economics students were supposed to know served almost no function in an investment bank.

The bankers used economics as a sort of standardized test of general intelligence. In the midst of the hysteria I was suitably hysterical. I had made a conscious decision not to study economics at Princeton, partly because everyone else was doing it for what sounded to me like the wrong reasons. Don't get me wrong. I knew I'd one day need to earn a living.

But it seemed a waste not to seize the unique opportunity to stretch your brain on something that genuinely excited you. It also seemed a waste not to use the rest of the university. So I landed in one of the least used departments on campus.

Art history was the opposite of economics; no one wanted it on his resume. Art history, as an economics major once told me, "is for preppy girls from Connecticut. They dipped into my department for a course a term, which appeared on their resumes as only one component of that average. The idea that art history might be self-improving or that self-improvement, as distinct from career building, was a legitimate goal of education was widely regarded as naive and reckless.

And as we approached the end of our four years in college, that is how it seemed. Some of my classmates were visibly sympathetic toward me, as if I were a cripple or had unwittingly taken a vow of poverty. Being the class Franciscan had its benefits, but a ticket onto Wall Street wasn't one.

To be fair, art was only the start of my problems. It didn't help that I had flunked a course called "Physics for Poets" or that my resume listed bartending and skydiving as skills. Born and raised in the Deep South, I had never heard of investment bankers until a few months before my first interview. I don't think we had them back home. Nevertheless, Wall Street seemed very much like the place to be at the time. The world didn't need another lawyer, I hadn't the ability to become a doctor, and my idea for starting a business making little satchels to hang off the rear ends of dogs to prevent them from crapping on the streets of Manhattan advertising jingle; "We Stop the Plop" never found funding.

Probably the real truth of the matter was that I was frightened to miss the express bus on which everyone I knew seemed to have a reserved seat, for fear that there would be no other. I certainly had no fixed idea of what to do when I graduated from college, and Wall Street paid top dollar for what I could do, which was nothing. My motives were shallow. That wouldn't have mattered, and could even have been an advantage, if I had felt the slightest conviction that I deserved a job.

Many of my classmates had sacrificed the better part of their formal educations for Wall Street. I had sacrificed nothing. That made me a dilettante, a southern boy in a white linen suit waltzing into a war fought mainly by northeastern prep school graduates. In short, I wasn't going to be an investment banker anytime soon.

My moment of reckoning came immediately after the first interview of the season, with the Wall Street firm of Lehman Brothers.

To get the interview, I had stood in six inches of snow with about fifty other students, awaiting the opening of the Princeton University career services office. All through the winter the office resembled a ticket booth at a Michael Jackson concert, with lines of motley students staging all-night vigils to get ahead.

When the doors finally swung open, we rushed in and squeezed our names onto the Lehman interview schedule. I had memorized those few facts widely accepted by Princeton undergraduates to be part of an investment banking interview survival kit.

Investment banking applicants were expected to be culturally literate. For example, in at least, they had to be able to define the following terms; commercial banking, investment banking, ambition, hard work, stock, bond, private placement, partnership, and the Glass-Steagall Act.

Slass-Steagall was an act of the U. Congress, but it worked more like an act of God. It cleaved mankind in two. With it, in , American lawmakers had stripped investment banking off from commercial banking.

Investment bankers now underwrote securities, such as stocks and bonds. Commercial bankers, like Citibank, took deposits and made loans. The act, in effect, created the investment banking profession, the single most important event in the history of the world, or so I was led to believe. It worked by exclusion.

After Slass-Steagall most people became commercial bankers. Now I didn't actually know any commercial bankers, but a commercial banker was reputed to be just an ordinary American businessman with ordinary American ambitions.

He lent a few hundred million dollars each day to South American countries. But really, he meant no harm. He was only doing what he was told by someone higher up in an endless chain of command. A commercial banker wasn't any more a troublemaker than Dagwood Bumstead. He had a wife, a station wagon, 2. We all knew never to admit to an investment banker that we were also applying for jobs with commercial banks, though many of us were. Commercial banking was a safety net. The investment banker was a breed apart, a member of a master race of deal makers.

He possessed vast, almost unimaginable talent and ambition. If he had a dog, it snarled. He had two little red sports cars yet wanted four. To get them, he was, for a man in a suit, surprisingly willing to cause trouble. For example, he enjoyed harassing college seniors like me. If you were invited to Lehman's New York offices, your first interview might begin with the interviewer asking you to open the window. You were on the forty-third floor overlooking Water Street. The window was sealed shut.

That was, of course, the point. The interviewer just wanted to see whether your inability to comply with his request led you to yank, pull, and sweat until finally you melted into a puddle of foiled ambition. Or, as one sad applicant was rumored to have done, threw a chair through the window. Another stress-inducing trick was the silent treatment. You'd walk into the interview chamber. The man in the chair would say nothing. You'd say that you'd come for a job interview.

He'd stare some more. You'd make a stupid joke. He'd stare ana snajce nis nead. You were on tenterhooks. Then he'd pick up a newspaper or, worse, your resume and begin to read. He was testing your ability to take control of a meeting. In this case, presumably, it was acceptable to throw a chair through a window. Lehman Brothers is the best. I want to be rich.

On the appointed day, at the appointed hour, I rubbed two sweaty palms together outside the interview chamber and tried to think only pure thoughts half-truths , such as these. I did a quick equipment check, like an astronaut preparing for lift-off.

My strengths; I was an overachiever, a team player, and a people person, whatever that meant. My weaknesses; I worked too hard and tended to move too fast for the organizations I joined.

My name was called. Lehman interviewed in pairs. I wasn't sure I stood much of a chance against one of these people, much less two. Lehman had sent to Princeton one man and one woman. I didn't know the man.

But the woman was a Princeton graduate, an old friend I hadn't expected to see. Perhaps I would survive. As I walked into the cubicle, she didn't smile or otherwise indicate that she knew me. She later told me that such behavior is unprofessional. We shook hands, and she was about as chummy as a boxer before a fight. She then retired to her corner of the room, as if waiting for the bell to ring. She sat silently in her blue suit and little bow tie.

Her accomplice, a square-shouldered young man of perhaps twenty-two, held a copy of my resume. Between the two of them they had two years of investment banking experience. Many of them hadn't worked on Wall Street for more than a year, but they had acquired Wall Street personas. One of their favorite words was professional. Sitting stiffly, shaking firmly, speaking crisply, and sipping a glass of ice water were professional.

Laughing and scratching your armpits were not. My friend and her accomplice were exhibit number one in the case against becoming a professional. One year on Wall Street and they had been transmogrified. Seven months earlier my friend could be seen on campus wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt that said dumb things. She drank more beer than was healthy for her. She had been, in other words, a fairly typical student. Now she was a bit player in my Orwellian nightmare. The young man took the seat behind the cold metal desk and began to fire questions at me.

ME making my first mistake by neglecting to seize the chance to praise investment bankers and heap ridicule on the short work hours and Lilliputian ambition of commercial bankers ; Investment bankers underwrite securities. You know, stocks and bonds. Commercial bankers just make loans. Aren't you worried about getting a job? ME clinging to the party line of the Princeton art history department ; Well, art history interested me most, and the department here is superb.

Since Princeton doesn't offer any vocational training, I don't believe that my choice of concentration will make much difference in finding a job. ME; I'm not sure. Isn't it about five hundred billion dollars? You know we interview hundreds of people for each position. You're up against a lot of economics majors who know their stuff.

Why do you want to be an investment banker? ME obviously, the honest answer was that I didn't know. After a waffle or two, I gave him what I figured he wanted to hear ; Well, really, when you get right down to it, I want to make money. You work loag hours in this job, and you have to be motivated by more than just money.

It's true, our compensation is in line with our contribution. But frankly, we try to discourage people from our business who are too interested in money. The words ring in my ears. Before I could stop it from happening, I was standing outside the cubicle in a cold sweat listening to the next candidate being grilled.

Never for a moment did I doubt the acceptability to an investment banker of a professed love of money. I had thought that investment bankers made money for a living, dhe way Ford made cars. Even if analysts were not paid as well as the older investment bankers, I had thought they were meant to be at least a tiny bit greedy.

Why did the square young man from Lehman take offense at the suggestion? A friend who eventually won a job with Lehman Brothers later explained. Believing it was another matter. From then on, whenever an investment banker asked for rny motives, I dutifully handed him the correct answers: It was several years before I convinced myself that this one was remotely plausible I think I even fed some variant of it to the Salomon Brothers managing director's wife.

That money wasn't the binding force was, of course, complete and utter bullshit. But inside the Princeton University career services office in you didn't let the truth get in the way of a job. I flattered the bankers. At the same time I seethed at their hypocrisy. I mean, did anyone, even in those innocent days, doubt the importance of money on Wall Street other than people from Wall Street when talking to people from elsewhere?

In the following year, while running through three different jobs, I managed to demonstrate that I was as unemployable as the bankers had found me. I didn't ever doubt I got what I deserved. I just didn't like the way I had gotten it. I did not learn much from my stack of Wall Street rejection letters except that investment bankers were not in the market for either honesty or my services not that the two were otherwise related.

Set questions were posed to which set answers were expected. A successful undergraduate investment banking interview sounded like a monastic chant.

An unsuccessful interview sounded like a bad accident. My Lehman interview was representative not just of my own experience but of thousands of interviews conducted by a dozen investment banks on several dozen college campuses from about onward.

This thread is less dependent on Lewis' personal experience and features quotes apparently drawn from interviews with various relevant figures. Lewis was an art history student at Princeton University , who nonetheless wanted to break into Wall Street to make money. He describes his almost pathetic attempts to find a finance job, only to be roundly rejected by every firm to which he applied.

For example, in Lehman Brothers had rejected his employment application. He then enrolled in the London School of Economics to gain a master's degree in economics. While in England, Lewis was invited to a banquet hosted by the Queen Mother , where his cousin, Baroness Linda Monroe von Stauffenberg, one of the organizers of the banquet, purposefully seated him next to the wife of the London managing partner of Salomon Brothers.

She hoped that his intelligence might impress her enough for her to suggest to her husband that Lewis, be given a job with Salomon Brothers. The strategy worked, and Lewis was granted an interview and subsequently received a job offer.

Lewis then moved to New York City for Salomon's training program. Here, he was appalled at the sophomoric, obtuse and obnoxious behavior of some of his fellow trainees, and indoctrinated into the money culture of Salomon Brothers and the Wall Street culture as a whole. Despite his lack of knowledge, he was soon handling millions of dollars in investment accounts. In , he witnessed a near-hostile takeover of Salomon Brothers but survived with his job.

However, growing disillusioned with his work, Lewis quit the firm at the beginning of to write this book and become a financial journalist. The first edition was published October 17, The book is an unflattering portrayal of Wall Street traders and salesmen, their personalities, their beliefs, and their work practices.

During the training sessions, Lewis was struck by the infantilism of most of his fellow trainees. Examples included yelling at and insulting financial experts who talked to them, throwing spit balls at one another and at lecturers, calling phone sex lines and then broadcasting them over the company's intercom , gambling on behavioral traits such as how long it took certain trainees to fall asleep during lectures , and the trainees' incredible lust for money and contempt for any position that did not earn that much.

Lewis attributed the bond traders' and salesmen's behavior to the fact that the trading floor required neither finesse nor advanced financial knowledge, but, rather, the ability and desire to exploit others' weaknesses, to intimidate others into listening to traders and salesmen, and the ability to spend hours a day screaming orders under high pressure situations.

He referred to their worldview as "The Law of the Jungle. He also noted that, although most arrivals on Wall Street had studied economics , this knowledge was never used; in fact, any academic knowledge was frowned on by traders. Lewis also attributed the savings and loan scandal of the s and s to the inability of inexperienced, provincial, small-town bank managers to compete with Wall Street.

He described people on Wall Street as masters at taking advantage of an undiscerning public, which the savings and loan industry provided in abundance. Lewis portrays the s as an era where government deregulation allowed less-than-scrupulous people on Wall Street to take advantage of others' ignorance, and thus grow extremely wealthy.

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