Author Sheelah Kolhatkar’s debut book, “Black Edge,” is a stark reminder of the dark side of Wall Street.
The book details the rise and fall of SAC Capital Advisors, its ambitious founder Steven A. Cohen, the problem of insider trading in capital markets, and the government’s ultimately fruitless fight to bring a case against Cohen.
SAC Capital Advisors gained notoriety in the late ‘90s and early 2000s for becoming one of Wall Street’s most successful hedge funds, with Cohen building the firm into a US$14 billion empire.
Kolhatkar recounts as traders looked on at Cohen’s ability to take big risks and reap the rewards, all seemingly devoid of basic human emotion. But a crackdown against insider trading began exposing just how vast the problem was, particularly in the hedge fund industry.
The book contains interviews with industry veterans and former SAC Capital traders, including one who said any fund that didn’t make use of insider information “wouldn’t survive.” She writes about a group of traders at SAC Capital that had a system for ranking information, including white, grey and, black edge – referring to “clearly inside information.”
“Hedge funds are driven by information,” Kolhatkar said in an interview on BNN. “The better the information is that you have, the more money you’re going to make.”
The book comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump has signed executive orders to claw back regulations in the American financial sector, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Kolhatkar compared unscrupulous behavior at hedge funds to that of doping in cycling. “Once somebody starts to do it, the pressure increases on everyone else to do it as well,” she said. “This is why smart financial regulation is actually really important to maintaining the integrity of the market.”
“This sort of, explosion of insider trading in the hedge fund world came at the end of a long period of deregulation in Washington,” Kolhatkar said.“It’s worth considering what the potential downside of [financial deregulation] is.”