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Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest Con Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307716074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307716071
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"By far the most rollicking, trippy book to emerge from the 2008 financial crisis."
--Financial Times

“Lawson [has] found gold…This is a fantastic story, in both senses of the word, with a freshness that recalls Liars Poker.”
--Bryan Burrough, New York Times
 
“Read this book to understand Wall Street…Someone is going to Octopus into a movie. By this time next year, Lawson will have a fat deal…The reason for that is that Octopus is an  incredible dark comedy with one of the craziest true-life ironic twists you can possibly imagine.
--Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
 
"Lively...turns a lens on the fast and loose ways of Wall Street...would make an excellent gift for a regulatory complicance officer...or a shrink."
--Bloomberg Businessweek

“A cautionary tale of the highly sophisticated, often endemic fraud that still lurks on Wall Street…I was riveted by Mr. Lawson’s telling…the story is mind-boggling.”
--Andrew Sorkin, New York Times (Dealbook)
 
“Entertaining…a colorful contemporary story about greed and ambition warping judgment, about con men duping other con men…replete with secret markets, shady intelligence operatives, and even a space alien that overdosed on ice cream.”
--Reuters
 
“Full on Twilight Zone…features not just rampant fraud but guns, supposed CIA double agents, drugs, JFK’s assassination, and oh yes, world domination.  Did I mention that this is a nonfiction book?...An outrageous but definitely movie-worthy tale.  Lawson’s reporting is prodigious.”
--Fortune
 
“Like The Sting…An astounding story that forces you to remind yourself that this actually happened not ten years ago, to real people with real money.”
--Maclean’s
 
“[Features] a series of spy-thriller escapades that could have been plucked from a Jason Bourne movie…More fun and thrilling than any work of journalism about hedge funds has the right to be.”
--Canadian Business
 
 “An inside look at a savage tribal society [of Wall Street traders] that also reminds one of that rollicking farce concocted by Mel Brooks, ‘The Producers’… Brings to life one of the most colorful, and often engaging, con men of this or any other century…an entertaining, well-told tale.”
--Washington Times
 
“If you dig movies about cons, like Catch Me If You Can, The Sting, and The Spanish Prisoner, you will blow through Octopus, Guy Lawson’s deftly and enthusiastically told tale of Same Israel and the Bayou hedge fund.”
--The Daily Beast
 
“Penetratingly comprehensive…Lawson nimbly traverses the labyrinthine depths of a worldwide banking con that managed to involve looted Federal Reserve notes and the JFK assassination…An eye-opening window onto Wall Street’s destructive culture of unchecked hubris and a harrowing thrill ride into the unraveling mind of a desperate operator.”
--Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

GUY LAWSON has traveled the world reporting on war, crime, politics, and sports. His work has appeared in many national publications, including the New York Times, Harper's, GQ, and Rolling Stone, and he previously coauthored The Brotherhoods.  He and his family make their home in upstate New York.



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Customer Reviews

Lawson's investigative reporting skills really shine and his telling of this story is riveting.
Earons
Sam started on Wall Street when traders could still make money on their feelings about the market, coupled with a bit of insider trading and tips from their brokers.
Ian Kaplan
The twists and turns of the story kept me glued to the pages as I had to find out how it all unfolded.
frost822712

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By goNYgoNYgo on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you asked 10 different people who Sam Israel is, you would get 10 different responses. All the answers would be more bizarre than the next. Some how Guy Lawson was able to piece all of these things together. It all makes sense now - kind of. This twisted tale kept me turning the page and wondering if this all could be real. It is. I highly recommend this book. The writing is amazing, the story telling is perfect and this is a story you WANT to hear. It's ALL there.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bob on July 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I found out a little about myself reading this book. I'm a very easy "mark," extremely naieve and I'm not clever enough to be a decent crook. Octopus takes so many twists and turns I almost gave up reading it in the middle. However, I persisted and am glad I did. The story is at once exciting, sad and eye-opening. Lives are ruined by unimaginable stupidity, ruthlessness and greed. I can't even begin to get my mind around the huge sums of money involved here - in the billions. If this were fiction, I'd say the story line was over the top. Governmental regulatory agencies come out looking like apathetic bozos. Since this is non-fiction I am left wondering about the veracity of this "secret shadow market" the FBI, CIA, the SEC and the Federal Reserve. Will what we don't know hurt us? As a movie, I can picture Sam Israel and Bernie Madoff playing bridge in prison at the end, each with so many cards up their sleeves, they don't have enough to play with.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By virginia36 on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest ConThe first half is a sad commentary on the tragic Ponzi scheme that Sam Israel concocts, ensnaring family friends and colleagues. Then, as he casts about for ways to extricate himself, the second half becomes a non-stop train to Crazy Town. Hard to believe, amazing to read. I found myself shaking my head again and again, stunned by the outrageous twists and turns. Years from now this may be looked at as a more cautionary tale than Madoff's- because it's about so much more then just greed. It's about our ability to delude ourselves- at any cost. Shocking, sad, amazing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Doug Cornelius on July 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Sam Israel is a scumbag. He is a liar and a cheat. He admits so in Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest Con by Guy Lawson. Israel was the nefarious trader behind the Bayou Funds, one of biggest hedge fund ponzi schemes, at least until Bernie Madoff finally fell to Earth.

Lawson met with Israel while Israel was in prison. He want to write about Israel's fraud at the Bayou Fund. Lawson found him to be devious, defiant, impossible to not like.

Israel started as a trader, not an investor. He made his money on the short movements of stocks. He made his big money by cheating. He would front run client trades. He would trade on inside information.

Then he decided he want to be his own boss, so he started the Bayou Fund. But he was not successful. Rather than disclose this to investors, he rebated a big chunk of brokerage fees to show a good return. He figured he could make it up in the next trade.

Then he missed again. Again, he didn't want to admit his shortcomings so he chose the path of deceit. But now the amount was too much to fix with creative bookkeeping. He turned to a complete fabrication of financial results. Israel called this "The Problem."

He kept trading to try to fix The Problem. He thought the next trade could make enough to fix The Problem. But it kept getting bigger as his actual results continued to be well below the result he was telling investors.

Then Israel ran into a shadowy figure that told him about a secret market for prime government bonds sold at huge discounts. He could get enormously wealthy by trading in the secret market.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JenningsMurphy on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Very interesting read. Once the story started to unfold it was hard to put this book down. However, I did find this book hard to believe at times. In addition, the book could have easily been 100 pages shorter. It was still a fascinating read and as someone who is working towards their MBA with an emphasis on Financial Fraud I would recommend this book. It reads as a thriller with key elements of fraud. It's a simple and enjoyable book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Geraldine Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Guy Lawson presents a detailed description of the highly sophisticated fraud that still lurks on Wall Street. This thrilling tale reveals truths and dark secrets of the con job that took place, an eye-opener and a wake-up call. This incredible story of Israel and the Bayou Hedge Fund is a mind-blowing inside story of an outrageous con. Extremely thought-provoking, riveting, and engaging from beginning to end. This mind-boggling tale will have the reader pondering long after the book is closed, something that's tough to absorb, and a story that affects not only Wall Street, but All Americans. Highly Recommended!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Marks' Reviews on August 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very unique book, extremely well written and hard to put down, as you can't wait to see what happens next. One thing it shows is how deep the layers of denial and delusion can go with people who are faced with their lives unraveling, and the spectre of prison. To believe you could make a trade where you would make $200 million dollars on the trade with "no risk" is laughable not only to the financial sophiticate, but also to most lay people. Another takeaway is what kind of "Mark" currently is targeted in the Big Store long con. In past days, ala the movie "The Sting", the mark was usually very well heeled financially, and the appeal was to his greed. In today's economic times, the target has probably shifted from the well heeled to the financially desperate. The global nature of the frauds makes detection and apprehension by the authorities exceedingly difficult. All in all an extremely good book, which you cannot help but enjoy
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