Aug 21 • 23M

Notes on "Hedge fund hustler" and "What's in a scam?"

Some additional commentary for SMIRK subscribers on recent posts.

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My experiences uncovering the story of, and falling in love with, Martin Shkreli.
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Hello everyone,

This is some bonus material for paying SMIRK describers in which I provide some additional background and commentary on recent installments of the memoir. In particular, this segment focuses on last week’s posts, “Hedge fund hustler” and “What’s in a scam?” .

Illustration of hands in handcuffs.
Illustration of hands in handcuffs.

A transcript of today’s commentary is also provided below:

(NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS A TRANSCRIPT OF AUDIO NOTES. IT IS NOT A COMPOSED PIECE OF WRITING, AND THERE ARE A LOT OF “UM’S,” AND “LIKES,” AND “YOU KNOWS,” ETC.)

”…I think the issue of hustling and fraud are interesting issues that deserve to be poked at a little bit. When you see stories about fraud in the media, or if you've ever watched a fraud trial (I have seen several trials from start to finish, like big securities fraud trials), there's kind of this defecting to a hard bitten language that is very evocative, and it sort of sounds like something that comes out of the 40s.

And that makes sense. Because, you know, a lot of this language harkens back to the “The Big Con,” by David Maurer which was sort of a canonical work on scam artists and cons and the kind of fraud that we go to in our minds, when we hear words, like, “he defrauded someone.” You think of someone conning as someone looking for a mark, and trying to part that mark from their money through some kind of deception.

My dog-eared copy of the “The Big Con,” a book which helped establish our language for describing business fraud.
My dog-eared copy of the “The Big Con,” a book which helped establish our language for describing business fraud.

So we use words, “scam artist,” “grifter,” all this stuff sounds like it comes out of a 40s movie. Because that's how powerful “The Big Con” was, in terms of having that staying power in all of our minds in our culture.

Those kinds of scams definitely happen all the time. And it probably always happened as long as humankind has been on this planet. We've always come up with ways to lie, to try to get what we want, right? You know, we're human beings. We have complex minds, we're creative, or imaginative, we will look for an easy way to do things if it's possible.

Even in the animal kingdom, if you're looking, aside from from primates, even, you can find animals, like certain kinds of birds, and other intelligent species that will misrepresent themselves.

But anyway, so backing up to scams and fraud and cons — when you if you watch a trial from start to finish, or if you've watched several securities fraud trials, like I have, the prosecutors all sound like they're sort of plagiarizing each other in certain parts. They get to some part where they talk about greed, and then they get to some part where they they start invoking this language that we're all used to, these kinds of label for all kinds of fraud.

And when you hear it over and over again, you know, your eyes roll, because you're…

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