Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More from "My Road Home."

Wednesday, July 18th

I didn't just wake up one day and end up in prison. Sadly to say, it was years and years of cutting corners, making bad choices, and losing my moral compass. The majority of the above fueled my inability to face my weaknesses, most notably, an addiction to financial gambling and recklessness. I had it all, was given every tool to succeed, and look what happened. Ashamed doesn't begin to describe my feelings.

Shortly after graduating from Villanova University in 1980, I began my career on Wall Street at the prestigious brokerage firm Paine Webber. Earning the princely sum (to me it felt like I had hit the jackpot) of $12K per year. I worked hard, was one of the first ones on the desk every morning, and felt exhilarated by the excitement of the financial arena I stepped into each day. Shortly afterwards I became intoxicated by it all and had to have the accouterments that went with it all; stuff like the Rolex watch, along with the leased BMW 3 series.

About eighteen months later I had saved enough to make my 1st stock trade, plus I was ready to jump on board this financial casino. It was about time to conquer the markets. Remembering the day like it was yesterday, I deposited $8000 in my brokerage account and purchased call options (betting the stock would move higher in price) on a California S&L by the name of First Charter Financial. I had done my homework, the stock had taken a beating the past few weeks and I felt it was ready for a bounce back. Sure enough, only hours after I bought in, the stock went up, on paper I was richer by $2K ... a lot of money back in 1981. My exuberance took hold and I screamed to everyone on the trading desk, "Shoe shines are on me today," I was a big-shot, my time had come, look out Wall Street!

Well no sooner had I paid the shoeshine man, to the tune of $60, did the market begin to collapse, my options along with it. "What the hell is going on," I shouted to no one in particular. Nobody answered, but something indeed was going on. In hindsight it should've been a sure omen that the stock market was no place for me. As it turns out, the day I decided to make my 1st trade, was the same day the President of the United States was shot. Yes, Ronald Reagan was shot. The stock exchange quickly closed down for the day, and my investment was just about gone. Not to mention my shine money.

However I failed to heed this omen and proceeded to continue on with my life on Wall Street. In spite of myself I was able to forge a pretty lucrative career as a bond broker, earning on average, depending on the year-end bonus, anywhere between $200-300K per year. My sons were born, and along with my wife, we lived in the exclusive suburb of Short Hills, NJ ... the same town I grew up in. We belonged to private country clubs, took trips, drove nice cars, etc, etc. But for every step forward, there was that eventual step or two backwards. I was surrounded by action, 12 hours of day of money changing hands, millions and millions of it. The lure wore me down, I could hold out only so long before I would binge and turn into "Jerry the reckless trader" who loses all sense of reality. During that time nothing else (and I mean nothing) matters except my trading, my bets on the market.

This pattern continued on & off over the years, my marriage taking a toll from the ups and downs, the highs and lows. I remained on the street but morphed a bit of my career over to the media side of finance. I was hired by various news organizations to report and comment about the markets, going on live TV for Bloomberg, CNBC, as well as the leading financial network in India, NDTV. I worked hard at these appearances, took pride in my reporting, always trying to present the best trading advice possible. And I was good at it, invited back time and again. I was the "good Jerry" when I did this.

Then I got arrested/indicted. This world came to a screeching halt, no one wanted to know me or take my calls. I was finished. Every shred of credibility I had worked so hard at establishing had vanished in a heartbeat.

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