call it merchant banking
a slack fucking possum", Joadja said, prodding me at seven on Saturday
morning. She was surveying the junk stacked round the dusty ceiling.
"Why don't you ring up The Bower and get them to take away all
those old chairs and the clothes horse and that ghastly bric-a-brac.
Somebody will love it, but you need to make a fresh start. You mightn't
mind climbing up the old ladder to go to bed -- it's a cultural thing
I suppose -- but I'm sick of it. Why don't you buy one of these prefab
sat up in bed and peered into the dark recesses. There were three bright
patches in the gloom: the big skylight I'd installed years ago in a
fit of enthusiasm; the hatch leading down to my office below; and the
ancient standard lamp on Jo's side of the mattress, whose light fell
ominously on a pile of home restoration magazines littering the bed.
I was trapped.
was right, of course. You can let things slide for years, but in the
end you just have to do them. Besides, I enjoy carpentry when I get
Australian Securities and Investment Commission had sent me a fat cheque
for some contract surveillance work I'd done for the Simon Hannes insider-trading
case, so I decided to go shopping for staircases at a showroom in Willoughby.
morning was clear and bright, but by one o'clock, when I came back across
the Harbour Bridge on the train, a cold wind was blowing in from the
Snowy and the sky was a place of drama.
clouds reared like spectral mountains in a blue sky, underlined with
a luminous black that faded to green at the horizon. Long skeins of
pale grey rain drifted down thousands of feet towards Drummoyne and
Hunters Hill. A white 747 glinted against the grey backdrop as it headed
in to Mascot. Sydney was dappled in patches of bright sunshine and deep
shadow and there were pearly-pink clouds to the east, over the ocean.
I walked back to Werrong Lane through the park a flurry of cold sleety
rain caught me from behind, and I turned up my trench coat collar. Simon
Hannes was a sailor, so he would have paid attention to the sky. He'll
have a lot of time to study it in the next few years. The Macquarie
Bank director will meet some interesting and violent characters from
less privileged backgrounds while he's inside, but they will probably
be in awe of him. He's sure to be given a cushy accounting job, his
family will visit regularly and what is jocularly called "the banking
community" will close quietly around him when he gets out.
Saturday evening a couple of the investigators from ASIC dropped into
the café for a celebration. They got stuck into the piss and
fought the case over again. Thrice they tracked down Hannes, and thrice
they slapped the cuffs on him. They slapped me on the back and stepped
on my tail and preening themselves mightily. They had fought the good
fight and upheld the standards of capitalism.
did a very silly thing. If you're going to pull off a market scam, make
sure it's an enormous one, not some pissy little bit of insider trading.
Go for something really big, say, half-a-billion dollars big. Handle
a privatisation, an infrastructure deal or a big internet float for
example. Make sure you get seen with John Howard, or Jeff Kennett or
Bob Carr, and cultivate a journalist or two from the business pages
and the re-write bimbos from "Money". And if the deal turns
sour, and the cashflow looks crook, and the creditors get restive, talk
it up and raise some more equity. What the hell. There's safety in numbers
and the bubble will just keep getting bigger and there'll never be another
crash like 1929.
it really big and it has to be legal. They call it merchant banking.
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 1999