• In 2007 the outgoing chief executive of the City regulator, the Financial Services Authority, admitted that insider trading was ‘rife’. The FSA’s own annual analysis concludes that ‘suspicious share price movements’ took place prior to 29 per cent of the public takeovers that occurred in 2009. The FSA was created in 1997 and in its first decade of existence secured three minor convictions for insider trading.
• In 2004 President George W. Bush justified not increasing taxes for the wealthy by claiming that ‘the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway’. In 2006 the National Audit Office revealed that 30 per cent of the UK’s largest 700 companies paid no tax at all. In February 2009 the Trade Unions Congress published research stating that tax avoidance by wealthy UK residents through tax havens cost HM Revenue & Customs £4 billion every year.
• Despite the trillion-pound bank bailout, City bonuses in respect of 2009 reached close to £8 billion – an increase of almost 50 per cent relative to 2008. So far virtually no concrete changes to financial regulation have been implemented in the UK despite universal recognition that it was bankers who almost brought about the collapse of the global economy.
'Well, you only get one shot at the title, and she blew it,’ I lied through a coked-up rictus grimace.
The banging house music made decent conversation almost impossible but my clients and I were way too wired to dance properly and so had little choice. Anyway, it didn’t really matter much because conversation with these clowns was always going to be macho horseshit and tiresome oneupman- ship at the best of times. We huddled together on the luxurious cushioned seat just feet away from the dance floor, our eyes darting around checking out the fit young East European golddiggers.
On the low table in front of us were two bottles of Grey Goose vodka, a huge bucket of ice and a shedload of different mixers. All this would set me, or rather my bank, back £500.
Seeing as we’d already blown well over a grand on cocktails at Fifty St James and a meal at the Wolseley this night of debauchery was certainly going to take some explaining to the expenses department. Still, a couple of these hedge fund boys were bound to give me some man-sized orders the next day so I’d almost certainly get away with it, again.
‘Well, I’m bored with talking about me . . . so how about you guys talk about me for a while?’ I joked, trying to steer the conversation away from the fact that I had recently been binned by an amazing girl I was still utterly besotted by. I knew I’d fucked up really appallingly and I was suffering as never before. I was in the grip of growing realisation that I’d possibly just lost the love of my life for an office fling that didn’t even get past first base. But the last thing I wanted to mention to these pricks was something ‘vulnerable’ that would detract from the image of God-like invincibility that everyone around the table sought to project. Anyway, the lads were focusing their saucer eyes on some particularly slinky mover, who must have been all of about nineteen. She looked like your standard, slender, barely legal Lithuanian hooker. We all stared at her for a bit and then proceeded to follow the predictable routine of commenting on her attributes in a way that would confirm to each other our rampant heterosexuality as well as our boundless virility.
‘Fuck me, check out the buns on that slapper! You could break fucking coconuts on her arse!’ exclaimed Richard, the richest and evidently the most erudite of the clients I had the dubious pleasure of entertaining that night. ‘And there’s only one thing wrong with her face . . . it ain’t covered in my muck,’ he added with a disgusting leer. Richard was the sort of self-satisfied, loathsome tosspot who didn’t just think the world owed him a living, he damn well knew it did. I had spent four long years buttering up this offensive deviate and it was paying off.
‘Hell’s bells! She’s got a set of Bristols on her that just ain’t quittin’,’ shouted Brad, virtually foaming at the mouth such was his manufactured excitement. He was another foul, depraved human being and was most certainly not the sharpest tool in the box. In fact, we three others often joked that he’d find it difficult to chew gum and walk at the same time.
‘Mate, he who hesitates masturbates . . . why don’t you go and have a boogie with her? Show her some of your moves? Otherwise you’re just gonna spend another night cranking yourself to sleep,’ laughed Dimitri, a diminutive, pox-ridden, sleazy whoremonger whose dilated pupils betrayed the fact that he was buzzing his nuts off.
‘Yeah, come on, Richard, stop giving it the Terry Big Spuds and strap a pair on, you fucking Wendy,’ added Brad.
‘Yeah, in your own time, Richard, while we’re still young . . .
this side of Christmas would be nice,’ said I, joining in with the general ribaldry.
‘Christ alive! I’m getting advice on picking up girls from the thumb-it-in-soft posse? Fucking hell, I might as well get anger management lessons from Russell Crowe! I’m gonna call up Leslie Ash right now to ask for her advice on cosmetic surgery.
Chaps, I don’t wanna be rude or anything but the only reason you sick onanists ever get laid is because you never leave home without a stash of Rohypnol and a shedload of Viagra, so please don’t give it large.’
Ah . . . we were slipping into the old familiar routine. Good, the evening was going as planned. Although Richard’s little speech sounded angry, which as the hosting stockbroker meant I initially felt a little concerned, a quick glance in his direction assured me that he was merely playing a role, and was very happy to do so. Richard rarely talked, he just held forth, and today was no exception. Of course, I wanted everything to go smoothly tonight but in this context ‘going smoothly’ meant non-stop childish banter that only to the uninformed observer was aggressively hostile. I sat back happy in the knowledge that this false bonhomie would soon translate into some serious commission.
We had spent the earlier part of the evening talking shop over our overpriced dinner and Richard had even been kind enough to share some inside information with us about a transport company that was going to be acquired on Monday at a 25 per cent premium. All of us had virtually promised him that we’d be getting our long lost aunts, great-uncles and anyone else who wasn’t directly connected to us to invest shedloads in said company at the break of dawn. I planned to punt my usual unit size of £100,000 via a cabal of five old school friends and was looking forward to the twenty grand winnings that my three-day ‘investment’ would garner after my pals had each taken their usual £1,000 costs.
Funnily enough, now that the ‘business’ was over, I was almost having fun. This was a pleasant surprise considering the company I was keeping and the fact that the Eurotrash losers at Chinawhite that night were generally at least ten years younger than me – making me feel once again like the worst paedo in the paddling pool. Still, by late 2007 I’d been partying with obnoxious clients for over a decade and faking sincerity had become second nature.
Shit, these smug, charmless idiots probably thought I actually liked them.
The drinks were being downed at a rate of knots, and since my main role that night was simply to ensure that my clients never had an empty glass in front of them whilst providing them with enough toot to keep things rocking, I lined up four more triple vodka and tonics and, as we clinked glasses, proposed a toast of sorts: ‘The liver is evil and must be punished!’ My faithful stooges laughed and repeated the mantra. Richard, seemingly annoyed that I, and not he, had raised a titter, decided he would add further to the general hilarity: ‘A weekend not wasted is a wasted weekend!’
Pleasingly, Brad and Dimitri didn’t laugh quite so heartily at his piss-poor gag. It didn’t make much sense anyway because, as usual, we were having our knees-up on a Thursday – the traditional night for client entertainment. All Richard’s inane joke succeeded in doing was to remind me that it was a school night and I had to be in the office at 6.55 a.m. tomorrow, which was approximately six hours away. My brain quickly calculated that we had at least a gram and a half of wallop left and that meant I didn’t have a chance in hell of leaving the club before it closed at 3 a.m. So, if I was lucky I’d get two hours of moody kip, max. I felt something I’d been feeling increasingly over the previous couple of years: I was getting way too old for this tiresome bullshit.
Richard suddenly stood up and with an extremely unsubtle beckoning hand movement motioned that he was after the Boutros.
‘Oi, pecker breath, quit talking and start chalking. Hand over the ticket now. You’ve been hanging on to it way too long, my son. Mate, if you’re not gonna take a shit, get off the fucking pot!’ He sneered in a dismissive manner which reminded me once again, just in case I’d forgotten, that he was the client and I was his simpering bitch. After numerous years at the beck and call of arrogant clients I instinctively jumped to it and pulled the wrap out of my shirt’s breast pocket.
‘Richard, it really is a total pleasure to see you again,’ I said for the benefit of any security guards who might be clocking our moves as I shook his hand and slipped the contraband from my palm into his.
‘Whatever,’ he muttered as he marched off to the toilets, an unmistakable purpose in his stride.
When he got back he looked edgy.
‘Steve, Steve . . . is my tie on straight?’ he said, wiping his top lip frantically. This was our code for whether there were traces of Charlie deposited around the nose.
‘Nah, mate, you’ve got nostril wings to die for!’
We then repeated the preposterous charade of shaking hands and I transferred the wrap on to the knee of Dimitri, who was chomping at the bit like a Glasgow smack addict. He immediately jumped up and strode towards the bogs.
‘God’s teeth! If I have another line of that speedy gak they’re gonna have to peel me off the fucking ceiling!’ shouted Richard, his grinding jaw making his words blend together. ‘Anyway, muppet boys, it’s time for you to watch and learn from the master.’ And with that he moved off towards the slinky girl who was still dancing nonchalantly in her skintight white catsuit. As he did so he rocked from one foot to the other. I imagine this was meant to be some kind of funky move but in fact he just resembled an embarrassing uncle dancing at a wedding, complete with ‘white man’s overbite’.
Brad and I watched his jerky, spasmodic dancing with amusement.
There was no way in hell he was going to get anywhere with the chick and I secretly delighted in the fact that his clumsy attempts to make eye contact with her and garner a smile were being soundly ignored. As soon as Dimitri came back from his nasal mission, gurning as if he was auditioning for My Left Foot, I made my own way to the gents.
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