Below is the Title Page and Chapter 1.
Fast Money and
Greek Crisis 2015
A chapter-by-chapter work-in-progress of a satirical novel
Paul A. Myers
Ebook edition being published by chapters on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter and other electronic media
Published and produced by Paul A. Myers Books
Copyright © Paul A. Myers 2015
All rights reserved.
Cast of Fictional Characters
Jim Schiller—the American managing partner of Bermuda Triangle Ltd., a hedge fund based in Geneva, Switzerland
Jack Hawkins—the British partner of Bermuda Triangle Ltd.
Jürgen Kretschmer—the German partner of Bermuda Triangle Ltd.
Dieter—the German computer geek for Bermuda Triangle Ltd.
Édouard Soissons—an investigator for Strategic Intelligence International, a Paris-based international consultancy
Alain Renier—a former French finance ministry official and expert on banking now employed by a big French bank
Sophie d’Auverne—a former high official at the French finance ministry and consultant for Strategic Intelligence International, a Paris-based international consultancy. Now she is a member of the European Parliament and a Deputy Commissioner of Finance in the European Commission, but in reality she is a high level envoy shuttling between top European policy makers.
Inès d’Auverne—grand-mère, the elderly grandmother of Sophie who has recently died
Martine d’Auverne—mother of Sophie and widow of Inès’s only son, Jean-Pierre
Marie-Hélène d’Auverne—daughter of Sophie and about fourteen years old
This novel is a work of fiction and a product of imagination. The principal characters are fictional; actual persons are public personages and are used in a fictional way.
Chapter 1. Laguna Beach
Jim Schiller sat on the couch nursing a weak gin-and-tonic and watched the big screen TV affixed to the wall across the room. Next to him sat his paramour Sophie d’Auverne furiously texting on her iPhone. Up on the screen, Greek citizens stood in long lines outside banks in Athens waiting to withdraw money from the ATM machines. The camera focused on euro notes ejecting out of the dispensers with a grinding whirl and being snatched up by eager hands and stuffed into empty purses and wallets. Other customers standing behind roughly pushed the recipients out of the way as soon as the machines stopping whirring. The next-in-line elbowed their way up to the machines, shouting “My turn!”
“That’s your money pouring out of those machines,” said Jim with a laugh as he looked at Sophie. “All Frankfurt, all day long.”
“You’re not in?” she asked, referring to Bermuda Triangle, the Geneva-based hedge fund of which Jim was the managing partner.
“Naw. We’re net zero exposure to Greece. Wouldn’t have left Geneva if I hadn’t drained all the risks out of our positions. No siree, Bob!”
She crinkled her nose at him. “Of course not, particularly after the money you lost this spring.”
“Now no reason to rub it in, Sophie,” he replied. She was right. They got caught on the wrong side of the Swiss franc revaluation; how was he to know that the Swiss would bow to inevitable fundamentals and let the Swiss franc float. Most politicians, when confronted with facing the fundamentals or going over the cliff, opt for the cliff.
“Well if the Swiss would have been more European…”
She gritted her teeth and said, “I’m European.”
“Point made,” he said with an air of minor triumph.
“And Denmark,” Sophie waspishly added.
Jim winced. The Danish kroner had taken off like a bird on flight, driven by strong fundamentals of what was regarded as the most competitive economy in the world. He and his partners thought it was a sure deal. How’d he know that all the little blond people would come out of their gingerbread houses and stuff it to a phalanx of international speculators. “How was I to know that the governor of the Danish central bank had a strong backbone and indomitable will?”
“Who settled Normandy?”
“Where’d they come from?” She sat there and twirled some strands of flaxen hair between forefinger and thumb while looking at him like a school teacher pondering a slow child. He hadn’t noticed the strands of flaxen hair in the sea of auburn waves before.
“Denmark?” said Jim in a slow, hesitant voice. She nodded affirmatively. Sophie’s family chateau was in Normandy. Had been in the family for centuries.
Putting her finger over the mouthpiece, she said, “Keep this up and you’ll be down in the Cayman Islands dodging taxes with that other wannabe.”
Jim winced again. Sophie had flown in yesterday for a quick weekend together before returning to the financial wars of Europe. She had made a confidential presentation to the International Monetary Fund in Washington the day before on the Greek currency crisis. Jim was hoping to stay in Laguna Beach the entire week, touch base with some of the west coast investors who were getting a little tetchy over lack of return on their investments. Same old story. “We could get that with Vanguard and not worry about you chocolate makers in Europe overbaking the cake,” they would say as they munched brownies laced with marijuana, adding, “It’s medicinal.” Everything was medicinal on the west coast. Jim would start to explain and they’d interrupt, “And that guy Dieter. Got him under control?” Dieter was their resident computer genius. Admittedly he needed special handling or he’d be in the running to be the next Greek finance minister if he got loose.
“Let me go outside and ponder Denmark for a while,” said Jim as he stood up and walked out onto the long deck overlooking the beach below and the blue Pacific ocean stretching into the distance. Sophie kept texting, sometimes in German, sometimes in French.
Jim leaned against the rail at the far end of the deck. Suddenly, he spotted his neighbor on the next deck. He started waving his arms. “Hey, Mister Bond King, how’s it going?”
Over on the other deck, the flailing arms of the what had once been a pretty polished New York investment banker caught the eye of the neighborhood billionaire, the world renowned Bond King. He lifted his arm up with god-like majesty, palm down, and chanted, with sage-like gravity, “I’m long on the good.”
“You’re the money market,” said Jim with adolescent enthusiasm.
“Not anymore,” solemnly intoned the Bond King.
“You don’t have all the power?”
“Today, I’m a prophet without honor.”
“Well, you sure used to intimidate those guys in Washington D.C.”
“No more. Today, they listen to false gods.”
“Lesser gods that practice the false rituals of quantitative easing…portfolio indexing and other dark arts…”
“They placed a high priestess on the throne, the sorceress with the silver bobbed hair.”
“What’s her program?”
“She promises an endless dawn…a world with no nightfall…”
“Well, hey that’s all above my pay grade. Do you have any recommendations on where I could put a couple of billion in not-so-patient capital?”
“Yes, we recommend Liechtenstein convertible subordinated mortgage-backed collateral bonds…that’s where all the New York bonus money goes.”
“How do they work?”
“Interest payable semiannually into your Dubai savings account. Guaranteed free of all tax reporting.”
“You sure on the tax angle?”
“Mitt assures me it’s true.”
“The Dweeb would know. He’s never seen a tax he couldn’t dodge...or a draft…”
“Yes, he assures me the transaction is as white as the Patriarch’s gown.”
“Well, thanks for the tip. My Dubai investors will love it.”
“May prosperity flow through your portfolios,” said the Bond King and he slipped away through the sliding glass doors behind him, bored with a golden sunset he couldn’t own.
Just then Jim’s cell phone started to vibrate in the pocket of his Levis. He pulled it out and swiped his finger across the glass surface and put it on speaker.
“Jim Schiller here.” Sophie came out and stood next to him, absently texting a message here and there.
“One moment, Geneva,” said an operator. Sophie looked at him with interest.
Jim stood still, a frown crossing his face. They knew he wasn’t to be disturbed unless it was something important.
“Yes…our investment position has changed…” he mumbled while repeating the words.
Sophie watched and then her cell phone rang with a voice call. She picked it up as she walked away from Jim, speaking into the mouthpiece, “Yes, Christine…”
Back across the deck Jim listened with consternation, repeating the words, “Dieter’s algorithm got away from him…took a bad hop…we’re long a billion in Greek bonds…and in deep on Greek bank stocks…”
Jim walked across the deck and into the living room and stared with unblinking comprehension at the TV screen, the Greek customers lined up at the ATM machines, his ATM machines...
“That’s us?” he mumbled.
Sophie followed him in and watched Jim stare at the TV with a wide smile on her face. She finished off her conversation, “Yes, I know…sooth the raging beast…Angela insists…fine, Christine, I’m ready to go…” She hung up and went into the other room.
Jim hardly paid attention to her departure; he just stared at the TV screen and the unfolding financial panic in Athens.
“Yes, I can leave right away,” he said into the iPhone. “Really? Right here, off the deck?” With the phone still glued to his ear, Jim walked over and got his laptop case, walked into the bedroom passing Sophie as she went the other way, carrying a small suitcase while her iPad poked out of her big Longchamps handbag. That handbag meant she was combat loaded, ready to go.
“Got to go,” she said chirpily.
“Me, too,” he said desultorily. He threw some clothes into a bag and walked back out, still in a daze, and over to the railing alongside the deck and stared out across the ocean towards Catalina Island. He could see a helicopter coming straight towards him.
“That helicopter?” he said into the iPhone. “They’re going to winch me right up off the deck?”
He listened some more. “Yeah, I got my laptop. And a change of underwear. Some socks. You say the helo’s taking me to the airport. The Gulfstream will be waiting. I’ll be in Geneva in the morning.”
He looked at the helicopter rapidly approaching. The telephone line went dead. He put the phone back in his jeans’ pocket. He put the big strap of his laptop over his shoulder and across his chest. Going Ranger style, he thought.
Sophie came over and stood in front of him looking at the approaching helicopter and then she turned and said, “That’s my helicopter. Yours is the little one out on the horizon,” and she pointed to another helicopter approaching about five miles out.
Jim looked up at the approaching helicopter and saw a blue plastic pennant emblazoned with the gold stars of the European Union attached to the front skid of the helicopter. “I’ll be damned.”
The helicopter hovered over the deck and lowered down a basket. Sophie opened the gate, stepped in, fastened the straps, and bolted the gate shut. She looked up and waved at the crew chief like a veteran commando and the basket rapidly ascended. She called out below to Jim, “I’ll be in Berlin, then Frankfurt.” The basket was pulled into the rear cabin area and the helicopter banked and raced away up the beach towards John Wayne airport and a waiting European Union executive jet.
Jim stood on the deck and watched the next helicopter approach. Kind of a dinky little thing, he thought. The crew chief lowered the bucket from the helicopter. The pilot, all long hair and a big Poncho Villa mustache, gave him a good natured wave with a big cigar and an encouraging smile.
Jim got into the basket, snapped the harness closed, and looked up and waved okay. The crew chief winched him up and pulled him in.
“Your lucky day,” shouted the crew chief.
“We were just heading for Mexico when we got the call to pick you up.”
“Yeah, you know, doing stuff.”
“Kind of loud,” said Jim, pointing up to the turbine engine rattling away as if it were pining for an overhaul.
“Yeah, war surplus.”
“Take your pick. Strap in, we’re off into the wild blue yonder.” The helicopter banked and raced up the beach heading for John Wayne Airport and a waiting Gulfstream.
The helicopter crew chief held Sophie’s hand as she hopped out of the aircraft and walked briskly over to the waiting executive jet emblazoned with the European Union flag, the circle of gold stars on the bright blue background. She walked up the steps and was greeted at the top by the cabin steward. The crew chief handed her luggage up and waved goodbye. Her chief of staff—dark suit, white shirt, narrow tie—stood just inside holding a portfolio of briefing papers. “I have the most recent reports from Brussels.”
“Good,” she said as she walked forward and took her place in an oversized seat. Her aide sat directly across and opened the book. “Just give me a summary, please,” she said pleasantly. “I’ll probably be out-of-date by the time when we land.”
“Yes,” said the aide. “Monsieur Moscovici wanted you to have the latest information before arriving at Berlin.”
“Yes, Pierre is always thoughtful,” she said, mentioning her nominal superior, Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs on the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch. Moscovici was previously French finance minister in President François Hollande’s Socialist Government. After major electoral losses, Hollande kicked Moscovici upstairs to the EU so he could showcase a major cabinet change—lots of show, little change.
“But before you start, let me sit back and relax for a minute, collect my thoughts.”
The cabin steward brought a glass of lemonade. She sipped the drink and leaned back in the seat. Sophie was a member of the French opposition party, the center-right UMP party, now renamed the Les Republicans by its resurgent political leader Nicholas Sarkozy. She smiled while she recalled Sarkozy, a towering ego on platform shoes who at least saw himself as resurgent. Three-quarters of the French hoped he’d go away.
When Hollande arranged for Moscovici to be named European finance minister, German chancellor Angela Merkel had insisted that Sophie be appointed his deputy. Hard for Hollande to resist the appointment of another French national to an important post. But he now knew where the power would reside. Mario Draghi had heartedly concurred in her appointment, saying “At least someone I can talk to.”
Sophie had a clear understanding of the division of duties between her and Pierre. He was in charge of monitoring the Stability and Growth Pact, the set of rules on deficits and debt that all members were supposed to follow. That was a small lawn to mow in Brussels. Like most EU ministerial portfolios, it was long on title and short on authority. Supposedly when a country wandered outside the crosswalk, Pierre would blow his whistle and point to the offender.
In contrast, Sophie worked on behind-the-scenes negotiations with leading politicians and policy makers in those troublesome situations where countries were clearly outside the bright lines and heading towards crisis. These were the kind of talks the top European leaders didn’t want to read about in the morning papers over coffee.
The aide said to Sophie, “Pierre, of course, has some sympathy for the Greek position.”
Yes, thought Sophie. Socialist to socialist. “We all do,” soothed Sophie.
“Tomorrow in Berlin will be a big day,” said the aide. “Possibly the beginning of a soft compromise.”
Yes, the favorite ending for any initiative from the French president, thought Sophie. Well, that was the message the aide had been instructed to deliver. She got it. She made a nod to the aide.
“Nevertheless, the first order of business in Berlin is to sooth the raging frustrations and massage the concerns of Wolfgang,” she said with a sigh, mentioning the powerful German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, the number two politician in Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition government.
Sophie also understood that the only French politician to profit from the Greek crisis would be Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right party Le Front Nationale. Hollande was just looking for a cheap way out of the crisis—preferably on the German dime. Angela understood that; the German chancellor was a master at throwing small bones to Paris. Let Hollande dally with his girlfriends went the thinking.
The little Gulfstream sat on the edge of the runway. Jim walked over towards it, leaving the helicopter behind. He looked down the runway and up into the sky and saw in the distance Sophie’s jumbo Falcon jet make a smooth banking turn and head for Berlin. He walked over and up the steps, dipped his head to get inside and stayed hunched down as he walked forward. A pleasant attendant came forward smiling, a logo emblazoned “Air Temps, Inc” across her breast. “Welcome,” said the hostess. “Captain Smith will be our pilot today. First Officer Jones assisting. Let me say to you that all of us from Air Temps, Inc welcome you.”
“Who’s Air Temps, Inc?”
“We staff most of the rent-a-jets flying out of Southern California. This little baby is a timeshare.”
“Little dinky plane. Can it get all the way to Geneva?”
Captain Smith stepped forward and said, “Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll just hip hop across that ol’ ocean, gassing up as we go! You ever been to the Azores?”
The attendant said, “Here’s some papers we’re supposed to give you. Your most recent emails I believe.”
“Thank you,” he said as he sat down in a big comfortable seat. “Scotch and water if you got it?”
“No problem. Your man Dieter booked you for the Bargain Buffet Service with all the little extras included. I stopped by Trader Joe’s on my way over.”
“Great.” He shuffled through the papers. He had asked one question into the telephone back at Laguna. What went wrong with the algorithm?
He found the latest email. Dieter said they didn’t know what went wrong with the algorithm. An effect with no cause? Strange?
The plane roared down the runway. Jim leaned back in the seat and sipped his drink.