Authors: Turney Duff
The Buy Side
takes the reader on an extremely wild ride so eloquently and honestly that we never want it to end
. Cocaine wants everything you love and everything that loves you. Turney Duff had everything and nothing while trading billions of dollars on a razor’s edge. His book takes you from Wall Street to Skid Row to the Thompson Hotel—and then, mercifully, back to sanity and finding a place in the world.
The Buy Side
is gonna move you around, and there are no seatbelts to keep you from getting hit hard.”
—Brian O’Dea, author of
High: Confessions of an International Drug Smuggler
The Buy Side
—except that this book is fact not fiction
. Turney Duff yields to temptation at every turn, and the sheer volume of criminal behavior he saw, and even participated in, is astonishing.… If you want to see Wall Street’s seamy underbelly firsthand, read this book.”
—Frank Partnoy, bestselling author of
“If you took Gordon Gekko, Bud Fox, a copy of
Bright Lights, Big City
, and threw them in a blender with an ounce of cocaine, a bottle of Patrón Tequila, and your favorite teddy bear, you’d have yourself a
Turney’s my kind of guy; a madman with heart. I couldn’t put the book down.”
—Colin Broderick, author of
Copyright © 2013 by Turney Duff
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Crown Business with colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The buy side : a Wall Street trader’s tale of spectacular excess / by Turney Duff. — First edition.
1. Duff, Turney. 2. Stockbrokers—United States—Biography.
3. Investment advisors—United States. 4. Finance—United States. I. Title.
Jacket design and photograph: Michael Nagin
I wanted to write an honest book, so I’ve tried to keep all of the names and places real. In certain cases, however, owing to considerations of privacy and a desire to not embarrass those whose intentions were honorable (and some not so honorable), I’ve chosen to alter certain identifying details and make use of pseudonyms. A complete list of these pseudonyms appears on this book’s last page. Dialogue and events have been re-created from memory and in some cases have been compressed to convey the substances of what occurred or was said. I’ve done my best to keep the time sequence in order, but it’s possible that events occurred either earlier or later in reality than they occur in this story. Otherwise, this book is a candid account of my experience on Wall Street as I remember it.
. The early darkness falls as we make our way across Tribeca, our shoes clicking on the cobblestones. At this hour the Bugaboo strollers have yielded to the coming Saturday-night revelry. My roommates and inner circle—six men and three women, all fashionably dressed as if they’re attending a red-carpet premiere—surround me. They mirror my every move, like a school of night fish. Our pace increases as we stride the few blocks to West Broadway and Canal. I wear a flannel shirt that has the sleeves ripped off, my favorite pair of worn jeans, and baby blue tinted sunglasses with studded fake jewels around the lenses.
Marcus, the owner of the Canal Room, meets us outside the club’s door. When he sees me, a smile stretches across his face. “They’re with me,” I say, flicking a thumb at my trailing companions. The doorman unhooks the red velvet rope and we follow Marcus into the club. It’s nearly empty, but not for long. Marcus is smiling for good reason. He
calls me the Pied Piper—King of the Night. And soon my following, the royalty of young Wall Street, will fill his club.
By eight p.m. the line outside the Canal Room stretches to more than a hundred people. By eight thirty it’s almost doubled. When the doors finally open it’s as though someone has pulled a stopper in a marble sink filled with champagne. Dressed in Armani and Prada, the excited throng pours inside. I stand by the door, playing the role of greeter, accumulating lipstick impressions on my cheeks and, occasionally, a small gift—a perk of the buy side. One friend, Brian, gives me ten ecstasy pills. I have no intention of taking them—well, maybe just one or two. I shove them into my pocket to use as party favors later. I’ll walk up to anyone who I know is down with it and, with a devilish grin, ask, “Breath mint?” When they open their mouth I’ll pop one in. Tonight, there are no limits.
I’ve arranged everything: the space, the bands, and the guest list. The invites were sent out by my alter ego, Cleveland D. The club has just been remodeled with a brand-new sound system, the best in New York City, and now, appropriately, it’s blaring Missy Elliott’s “Work It.” If any of the guests thought this night was just another average Wall Street bash featuring some overpriced DJ or a retro band like the Allman Brothers or Foreigner, that notion is put to rest when Lisa Jackson, a cross-dressing glam singer, takes the stage. When she breaks into “Purple Rain” and then “Ring My Bell,” it’s as though she’s just grabbed a handful of every guy’s well-tailored crotch. And she’s only the foreplay.
By nine thirty the place is throbbing. Liquor flows. People dance or sway to the music, drinks held high. I make my way to the bar, but it takes me five minutes to move five feet. I can’t talk to anyone for more than a few seconds before feeling a tug at my back or a hand on my shoulder. I can see people across the room flashing a nod or toasting
me with their drink. It seems all of Wall Street is here, at least all of Wall Street that
. Every brokerage firm is represented: other buy side traders, sell siders, bankers, fixed income traders, and the rest.
On the stage the group Naughty by Nature begins their hip-hop version of the Jackson 5 hit “ABC.” It takes just a few notes for the entire crowd to erupt, realizing they’re hearing the song “OPP.” Multiple rotating strobe lights frantically stripe the fist-pumping revelers. Treach, Naughty by Nature’s lead rapper, has the microphone in his hand and is pacing back and forth onstage. The energy surges, plateaus, then builds some more. The area in front of the stage is a pulsating mob, and as the space between the swaying bodies draws closer and closer, escape becomes impossible for anyone in front. The musical loop continues, spurring the crowd to beg for more, and then Treach finally puts the microphone to his mouth. “You down with Cleveland D?” he shouts as he points the microphone toward the crowd. “Yeah, you know me,” they shout back.
I stand next to the stage, the thump of the bass hammering my eardrums as I shout the lyrics: “Army with harmony … Dave drop a load on ’em …” I sing along with Treach as if we’re one, as if the words are as much mine as his. In front of me, four hundred guests—sexy, attractive, drunk, intelligent, powerful, and all with fat wallets—jump and sing with as much gangsta as they can muster. They’re a tribe doing a triumphant war dance. I know this room will earn hundreds of millions of dollars combined in annual income this coming year—what the Street likes to call “fuck-you money.” And on this night, I have all these princes and princesses of finance in my front pocket.
Then the flush of ecstatic excitement I’m feeling subsides and in its place comes a curious and discomforting thought. In a distended moment that suddenly opens like a chasm, it strikes me: I’ve just turned thirty-four; this party is meant to celebrate that. But it’s meant to
celebrate something more. Somehow, against the odds, I’ve become a hedge fund trader—a job description that is the envy of Wall Street. I’m at the very pinnacle of my career, a career powered not by an Ivy League MBA or some computer-like dexterity (a common skill set among the youthful and moneyed dancing in front of me) but by an odd Wall Street truth: what happens
the closing bell is as important as anything that happens during the day. It’s during those hours after office lights have been turned out that I shine.
But as I consider what I’ve accomplished, something gnaws at my satisfaction—bores a deep hole in my happiness. I can’t put my finger on it … it’s just, as I stand there, right beside the stage, looking out at this sea of privilege, I’m
. And, for the first time in a long while, I don’t know what can fill me.