The Loneliest Man on Wall Street
How I Got My Start in Finance
Featuring Roddy Boyd
Published on: May 6th, 2019 • Duration: 9 minutes • Topic: Private Banking, Journalism, Banking, CareerRoddy Boyd, author of “Fatal Risk: A Cautionary Tale of AIG’s Corporate Suicide,” shares his story with Real Vision’s “How I Got My Start in Finance” this week. Fraudsters, scam artists, and schemers beware! This video is excerpted from a piece published on Real Vision on April 5, 2019 entitled “Finding Fraud.”
JUSTINE UNDERHILL: Welcome to "How I Got My Start in Finance." Roddy Boyd has a knack for finding fraud. He's the author of Fatal Risk, A Cautionary Tale of AIG's Corporate Suicide. He explains how his time as an investigative journalist and experience with Wall Street led to a career exposing some of the biggest scams in the world.
RODDY BOYD: Just to be called an investigative reporter is just what my life had been directed to do. I was born in New York City suburbs, northern West Chester. Pound Ridge, Bedford is where I was raised primarily. And moved to Connecticut when I was 18.
I went to one of those kind of goofy boarding schools up there. And kind of decided I wanted to get a little more urban, and wound up in Fordham University in the Bronx. The mid-80s was an interesting time to be there. But it was good. I learned a lot.
I met my wife there, which I view as my primary accomplishment there, or primary benefit.
BRIAN PRICE: Likewise.
RODDY BOYD: Yeah, I came out of there with a degree in English. And looking back on it, I certainly love literature, but most of the time I was at Fordham, I was I was really focused on journalism. I used to cut a lot of classes just to go to the library and get into the microfiche, or go back into the stacks for really old copies of, quite frankly, papers that aren't around anymore, like The New York Sun. Or I think one time I was looking at The New York-- something Telegram.
And I'd spend hours just reading. I found the original, the muckrakers, like Ida Tarbell and stuff like that, what she did with Standard Oil and exposing the Rockefeller colossus. And I just-- it was brutal of my grade point average, but I really wasn't terribly interested by my junior year in Chaucer, Milton, or Shakespeare. I was, however, very interested in understanding how life worked, how our government worked, how policy was made, how the economy worked.
And I used to just spend hours going to-- covering council meetings, or doing exposes around the campus, and making no friends doing that. And I learned to develop a thick skin. And I learned to do a lot of work. I understood that if you're going to say anything in public, you best had do your work beforehand.
And doing work beforehand, I had learned, I just sort of pieced this together, was understanding facts sets, understanding rules, regulations, the interconnection between business and policy, or between finance and operations.
And I took all of that, did some stringing or freelance work for the Greenwich Time for a while, but I got married very young, and had a child pretty young. And I decided well, while working as a journalist for $13,000 or $14,000 a year in 1990 was a noble thing, my wife and kid did have to eat. And there were more kids behind it as it emerged.
So I wound up on Wall Street for about seven or eight years. And really disliked it. Disliked it intensely. And most everything I did was-- I used to sort of mentally say, OK, well, this is one more day down until I can do what I want to do.
And I look back at one particular incident. I was a trader. And I was on the phone with a large, I think, mutual fund, or actually, institutional investor in Boston. And this guy wanted to buy some convertible preferred securities that I was selling. And it was going to be a fairly good trade for us.
But I was talking to the guy, and I'm like, look, these are pieces of garbage. I don't think you're going to be well suited to buy this. I've done some work on the company, let me tell you what I think. And it's just total silence on the other end. He's like, are you a trader trying to talk me out of a trade?
He was just baff-- I mean, the guy told on me, as it were. And I got in a lot of trouble. And that's what-- I just wasn't-- wasn't made for that life, wasn't made for trading desk life. And I was able to-- but I learned an intense amount about not only business, and finance, and trading, and valuation. So even though it was a rough proving ground, I certainly acquired a knowledge base that has served me remarkably well in later years.
BRIAN PRICE: So let's jump to 2012. And you're part of the team that establishes the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation, the mission of which is to have a goal of providing in-depth financial investigative reporting for the common good. So given your work, given the fact that you're a board member of this foundation, are you one of the loneliest guys in the world?
RODDY BOYD: At times-- I mean, at times. I have long since accepted that I'm not going to make a lot of friends doing this. That while people profess to appreciate it, they appreciate it in the abstract. Everybody says they love investigative reporters-- reporting-- but they don't really love investigative reporters.
And you don't make a ton of friends doing this. And you don't, by definition, have a ton of allies. So, yeah, it is a lonely job. But I like it. I think it's important. And it's what I'm made to do. It's what we need at this moment, quite frankly.
BRIAN PRICE: Why do you say that?
RODDY BOYD: Because there isn't really other people doing what I do. I should say there are plenty of great reporters out there. And some of them do fine business journalism. And some of them do it on the regular. But there isn't an organization out there dedicated 24/7 to exposing abuses, or misrepresentations, or, quite frankly, just plain, old, naked fraud as their mission.
And our mission is to do it for the common good. You know, we don't take advertisement. We don't short stocks. We don't tell people when the story's coming. We don't do any of that. And I think that's important in this day and age.
JUSTINE UNDERHILL: Calling out frauds isn't an easy job even for Roddy Boyd. After learning how the Wall Street sausage is made, armed with his predisposition for relentless truth seeking, he set out on a journey that gained him deserved notoriety and respect. For Real Vision, I'm Justine Underhill.