Black Edge

  • by Sheelah Kolhatkar
  • Narrated by Kaleo Griffith
  • 12 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

New York Times Bestseller
The story of the billionaire trader Steven A. Cohen, the rise and fall of his hedge fund, SAC Capital, and the largest insider trading investigation in history—for readers of The Big Short, Den of Thieves, and Dark Money.
The rise over the last two decades of a powerful new class of billionaire financiers marks a singular shift in the American economic and political landscape. Their vast reserves of concentrated wealth have allowed a small group of big winners to write their own rules of capitalism and public policy. How did we get here? Through meticulous reporting and powerful storytelling, New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar shows how Steve Cohen became one of the richest and most influential figures in finance—and what happened when the Justice Department put him in its crosshairs.
Cohen and his fellow pioneers of the hedge fund industry didn't lay railroads, build factories, or invent new technologies. Rather, they made their billions through speculation, by placing bets in the market that turned out to be right more often than wrong—and for this they have gained not only extreme personal wealth but formidable influence throughout society. Hedge funds now manage nearly $3 trillion in assets, and competition between them is so fierce that traders will do whatever they can to get an edge.
Cohen was one of the industry's greatest success stories. He mastered poker in high school, went off to Wharton, and in 1992 launched SAC Capital, which he built into a $15 billion empire, almost entirely on the basis of his wizardlike stock trading. He cultivated an air of mystery, reclusiveness, and extreme excess, building a 35,000 square foot mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, and amassing one of the largest private art collections in the world. On Wall Street, Cohen was revered as a genius.
That image was shattered when SAC became the target of a sprawling, seven-year government investigation. Labeled by prosecutors as a "magnet for market cheaters" whose culture encouraged the relentless hunt for "edge"—and even "black edge," or inside information—SAC was ultimately indicted in connection with a vast insider trading scheme, even as Cohen himself was never charged.
Black Edge offers a revelatory look at the gray zone in which so much of Wall Street functions, and a window into the transformation of the U.S. economy. It's a riveting, true-life legal thriller that takes readers inside the government's pursuit of Cohen and his employees, and raises urgent questions about the power and wealth of those who sit at the pinnacle of modern Wall Street.

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What the Critics Say

"Fast-paced and filled with twists, Black Edge has the grip of a thriller. It is also an essential exposé of our times - a work that reveals the deep rot in our financial system. Everyone should read this book." (David Grann, New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z)
"A tour de force of groundbreaking reporting and brilliant storytelling, a revealing inside account of how the Feds track a high-profile target - and, just as important, an unsettling portrayal of how Wall Street works today." (Jeffrey Toobin, New York Times best-selling author of American Heiress)
"Well-written, with pointed characterizations of the ambitious players and their motives, this book is highly recommended for readers interested in finance, crime, and politics." (Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Decent story, if at times redundant

WRITING/STORY: Good, not great. Balances the tedium of law/finance and the intrigue of white collar crime. A bit redundant, especially when revisiting concepts or using analogies.

NARRATION: Ok. Not a lot of energy put forth, but this is non-fiction, so I wasn't expecting an over-the-top performance. The narrator handled dialogue quite well.

EDIT/SOUND: Lots of missing consonants on the end of words - enough that it became distracting. Also could have used some treatment for sibilance. It's important to note that I could not listen to this title faster than 1.25x speed. It may have been the subject matter, but it took a lot more attention than most books.
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- Christopher Wesdock

A solid telling; interesting characters

Most interesting to me was the clever design baked into the business organization itself and its internal protocols to prevent the top guy from directly, technically violating the insider trading laws. It is unclear whether that is top guy Steve Cohen's work of legal art, in particular, or some advisor's. But Cohen is a guy who gets things like that lined up sharply. There is a meticulousness in it, and obviously a great intellect behind it. Steve Cohen is not a guy who lets details slip by. We see a portrait of an intensely analytical, laser-focused moneymaker, from the poker days in college onward. He seems like a lopsided person, which translates to a moneymaking machine, turned on full-force 24/7. On the other hand, admitting up front this portrait (in virtue of his private nature) is very incomplete, the visible things can be very off-putting, at least to me. His art purchase grandstanding strikes me as mostly puerile, nihilistic showing-off, despite the slobbering blandishments of the sycophants who make money off him. He would nickel and-dime an ex-wife, it is suggested, spending plenty to do so, but think nothing of spending over $100 million for a status-oozing art object to hang in a hallway. No way would I trade places with this guy, But he is fun to watch. In some weird way it is tragic, so grandiose and yet so seemingly shallow. But this could be largely the optics of this book. He seems forever anxiously internally impoverished and frantic to acquire symbols to pretend otherwise. The ultimate object of juvenile-minded nihilism must be that shark in the formaldehyde tank he spent $8 million for. His intelligence is obviously formidable, and I would like a more 3-D portrayal of that, but that is not easy for anyone to provide, as he's very private, of course. We have infinitely more on J.P. Morgan and even Michael Milken. The view here seems a bit one-dimensional. Or maybe the guy is. And sadly, as his story progresses, we are not treated to a lot of pivotal deal details or methods, as these are very closely guarded, and that would probably have helped a lot to display what must be his genius. The explanations we do receive are well laid-out and patiently edited and understandable to any novice/layperson. Obscure terms are defined. The story flows very straightforwardly, and the narration is a good match. Anyone who has not been around modern criminal investigations gets a fair look at how they work, including some of the dynamics affecting prosecutors' decisions in a political and legal hothouse like Manhattan. The character of the convicted underling, Michael Martoma, is interesting in his own way. All these folks show an intense drive for success of a kind that built this country, but can get on the wrong track, and lose all context and meaning.
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- Phil O.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-28-2017
  • Publisher: Random House Audio