Aug 17, 2022 • 9M

Chapter 6, Part 3: Hedge fund hustler

Arizona businessman Josiah Austin was an early investor in one of Martin Shkreli's first hedge funds. Things did not go well.

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My experiences uncovering the story of, and falling in love with, Martin Shkreli.
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Illustration of the Charging Bull statute near Wall Street.
Illustration of the Charging Bull statute near Wall Street.

Like a lot of industries, the Wall Street hedge fund world is kind of a small town. People get reputations, they get intimately familiar with big-shots and competitors, and they cross paths and sometimes clash. Particularly when it comes to traders, the space is heavily populated with intense (and mostly male) eccentrics, laser-focused on beating the market and achieving massive money-making ambitions.

But even in a sea of capitalist weirdos, Martin Shkreli stood out. Michael Kimelman, a former hedge fund guy convicted of insider trading in 2011 (as part of a huge crackdown spearheaded by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office), wrote a book about his experiences from prison and described meeting Martin on one occasion in the early 2000s.

This was about a decade before Martin, as the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, jacked up the price of a toxoplasmosis drug by 5,000 percent in a day, and became almost instantly branded the “Pharma Bro” and the “most-hated man in America” in the press.

At the time Martin was a biotech trader, known for his work as an intern for CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer’s hedge fund Cramer Berkowitz & Co. and for work with other Wall Street stars closely associated with Steve Cohen’s former multi-billion-dollar firm SAC Capital. (If you’re familiar with hedge funds, Cohen needs no introduction. If you’re not — well, maybe the best way I can explain is that the “bad guy” in Showtime’s “Billions” is loosely based on him.) 

Damian Lewis, an actor who played a character loosely based on hedge fund manager Steve Cohen in Showtime’s “Billions.) (Getty Images)
Damian Lewis, an actor who played a character loosely based on hedge fund manager Steve Cohen in Showtime’s “Billions. (Getty Images)

Kimelman described Martin as “freakishly skinny” and “on the spectrum.” 

“His uncombed, wild hair fell over a disturbed child’s face,” he wrote. “The visual presentation…

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