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Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest Con Paperback – July 9, 2013
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“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."
"Lawson's spellbinding account of Sam Israel's rise and fall is a phantasmagoric trip through the larcenous outer reaches (as well as the dark heart) of the world of finance. Octopus made me worry that I was being followed or swindled."
—Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“[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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Lawson has mined the darkest, most seductive world I can imagine and delivered up a story that almost defies comprehension. Octopus is written with a force and clarity that I found absolutely irresistible…It’s a hell of a book.”
—Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Storm
"Liars and fraudsters and con men, oh my. Beyond the Bayou hedge fund implosion and faked suicide, Guy Lawson wonderfully winds the bizarre tale of Sam Israel's demise into a swirl of global conspiracy and ultimate delusion."
—Andy Kessler, New York Times bestselling author of Running Money and How We Got Here
"A scintillating real-life thriller about one of the most peculiar frauds in history…Part true-crime thriller, part Wall Street investigation, Octopus is filled with startling revelations.”
—Gary Weiss, former investigative reporter for Business Week and author of Born to Steal, Wall Street Versus America and Ayn Rand Nation
"An absorbing, splendidly detailed and darkly illuminating tale of our times.”
—David Whitford, Editor-at-Large, Fortune magazine
"A rollicking, roller-coaster ride of a book that is utterly impossible to put down. Crackling with energy, Guy Lawson's account of Sam Israel -- rogue Wall Street trader and grifter par excellence - and the con within a con within a con that led to his ruin is a story that no novelist could possibly make up. Forget the sniveling Bernie Madoff and his garden-variety Ponzi Scheme; for anyone wanting to understand just how truly crazy Wall Street became and why, this is the book to read."
—Scott Anderson, Vanity Fair contributor and author of Triage
"[Israel's Ponzi scheme] speaks to the banality of evil. But there is nothing banal about Guy Lawson's telling of the most incredible story I've ever heard in or out of Wall Street."
—Jared Dillian, author of Street Freak: Money and Madness at Lehman Brothers
"Thrilling, outrageous and true, Octopus is a riveting ride through the shadow world of global high finance. A desperate man with a touch of insanity, Sam Israel is a character straight out of what we could only wish this story were: fantastic fiction."
—Martin Kihn, author of House of Lies and Bad Dog (A Love Story)
About the Author
GUY LAWSON has traveled the world reporting on war, crime, politics, and sports. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Harper's, GQ, and Rolling Stone. He and his live in upstate New York.
Top Customer Reviews
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 ›
Sam III's father, Larry, was A Wahington and Lee grad, not Tulane. Larry's father, Sam, Jr., held a chair at Tulane and was a benefactor and a trustee.
As a teenager, Sam III totaled his father's Mercedes, and was hospitalized for a lenghthy time with serious injuries. This may have been the beginning of his back and drug issues. He was never physically able to contend for a football position at Tulane. I guess if you tell the story often enough it becomes true in your mind.
What Uncle had a party that Sam III bartended and met the financial wizards?. All the Israels that held positions at ACLI were cousins. Sam,Jr., Leon Jr., and Adrian (Ace) were cousins. The next generation, Larry, Tom etc...were also cousins. This party is where Sam III supposedly met Freddy Graber for the first time? Never happened. Vodka, lime???? What happened to Freddy's Old Grand Dad and ginger? After the ACLI/DLJ merger period in 1980/1981, John Castle and the Israels were at odds, so Larry left ACLI and took trading/office space at Fred Graber's operation. Sam III met Freddy in December 1981 because Larry arranged it!
The $100,000 subway story was taken directly from ACLI folklore. Only the story involved a South American dictator, ACLI Coffee, and a black bag with $100,000. No one knew if the story was true, but it made for great theater after a few cocktails. It seems Sam III liked the story too!
In all my years I never heard Graber referred to as "king". Julian Robertson maybe, but never Fred.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a weird, weird, weird tale in the financial markets. Recommended.Published 1 month ago by S. G. Kennedy
Guy Lawson's Octopus was a tremendous read. I was familiar with the story of the collapse of Bayou, but did not pay attention to the details at the time. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Chad
...because it happened. It kept me fascinated, "wondering what incredible scam would be next. Lawton knows how to keep you in suspense.Published 1 month ago
This is a book about human psychology; Sam Israel may have had his unique issues, but it's interesting to watch how he let himself be talked into believing preposterous things and... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Dean Jens
Hard story to believe as it is told by the author. Would help if story received a little more verification from others who must have been associated with Nichols and Israel.Published 12 months ago by Theodore
couldn`t put it down.
know the family and the whole situation distresses me.
Fascinating book about Wall Street, how it works and how a hard worker with a lot of drive went completely off track.Published 15 months ago by Foodie1942