Chapter 10. The Newton Factor

As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead trying to kill me.

George Orwell, writing in 1944 for the BBC

Harry Newton's web site, the one Bill Heyman had called a "gold mine," captured me at first sight. In a fraction of a New York heartbeat, I was hooked.

"Auction Rate" was emblazoned in thick black letters the size of a bullet against a blood-red background. And below the banner, against a yellow stripe, was Harry Newton's declaration of war:

"Auction Rate Preferred Securities is the largest fraud ever perpetuated by Wall Street on investors. It dwarfs all frauds in history, including Madoff."

I read the sentence several times. It is impressive that someone involved in finance had written a clear, declarative sentence. I continued reading from the site:

"There are three takeaways from this fraud," Newton continued. "First, you can't believe anything—absolutely anything—that anyone on Wall Street tells you. Second, Wall Street is only interested in the fees it can extract from you. Third, Wall Street (i.e., its representative) has absolutely no interest in whether the item(s) it sells you has any long-term (or short-term) value whatsoever."

My instinct was that this declaration, this stick in the eye of the financiers, was written by a unique and savvy individual—a realist without fear.

I sensed that I had found an alter ego. Harry's web site was the perfect vehicle for my slog through ARS land. Everything and anything of ...

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