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Memoirs of a Minyan: An Officer and a Gentleman


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

During the several regime changes in my department, I saw bad things happen to good people. The steady stalwarts-the guys who came to work and produced every day-were passed over for promotion in favor of politically savvy players.

I learned a lot during those years, particularly when I was perceived as a threat to the establishment. That never made much sense, as I was a producer on the desk and an ambassador of our institution.

I was asked to recruit on behalf of the firm. They sent me to UCLA and North Carolina, put me up in swanky hotels and told me to interview college co-eds. Morgan's blue blood flowed through my veins and I did what I could to further our cause.

Agendas abound when money's around and they're not always consistent with the corporate mandate. I never kissed up or played the game and that didn't sit well with Mark Neuberger, the man who deftly navigated the changing landscape to become a Managing Director in 1996.

The Office

After the second management shake-up of my tenure, Mark was slated to run the equity derivative trading operation. He stepped over a lot of people to get there but did what he had to and got what he wanted. Unfortunately, his plans didn't include room for an up-and-comer with plans of his own.

When several high profile traders defected to other firms, Mark put his thumbprint on the operation. He took the most active tech stocks such as Dell (DELL), Intel (INTC), Microsoft (MSFT) and Cisco (CSCO) and assigned the less liquid stocks to others on the desk.

His strategy was simple-trade the names trafficked by the largest commission paying customers and leave the other, more difficult trades for others. There were times when one of our customers entered an order in an illiquid stock and Mark instructed me to facilitate the transaction.

"One firm firm," he said as he passed the risk, knowing full well that my P&L would bear the brunt of the damage.

Sometimes I facilitated the orders, other times I refused. One time, when I took down a chunk of calls that moved against me for a six-figure loss, he laughed and said. "There it goes!"

The writing was on the wall at that very moment.

One afternoon, towards the end of 1996, I was summoned to human resources high atop our new tower at 1585 Broadway. When I walked into the conference room, several people were seated around a large oak table. Mark Neuberger sat at the far end.

They informed me I was being put on probation for conduct unbecoming a Morgan Stanley professional. I studied the room and when my eyes met Mark and he looked away, I knew precisely what was happening.

They handed me my annual review and there, on a single piece of paper, it said the other desk heads-the men who ran the listed and over-the-counter operations-didn't trust me.
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