RuthlessHow Enraged Investors Reclaimed Their Investments and Beat Wall Street
Ruthless is a candid exploration of the criminal subculture of Wall Street, and one of the first books to speak for the victims of the financial meltdown. On February 14, 2008, author Phil Trupp received a call from one of his brokers telling him a large portion of his investments were frozen—on ice—turning his life and plans for retirement upside down. When the fog started to clear, Trupp realized he was one of many investors caught up in what experts called the greatest attempted securities fraud in modern Wall Street history—a $336 billion scam which made the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s look like a simple street mugging. The path to destruction, financial or otherwise, often begins with a simple proposition. For author Phil Trupp it came from one of his stock brokers: "Take it, Phil. It’s free money." This free money came from auction-rate securities (ARS). Auction-Rate Securities are corporate or municipal bonds with a long-term maturity for which the interest rate is reset at frequent auctions. ARS interest rates were higher than money markets and were sold as completely safe, liquid, Triple-A rated "cash equivalents," a deceptive sales pitch that lured hundreds of thousands of investors to buy the securities. Since 2008, most auctions have failed leaving the market largely frozen. The victims ranged from individual investors to the Joffee Foundation, a nonprofit that can no longer fund programs that help prevent AIDS in Africa, to the Port Authority of New York. While this is a classic 21st century tale of Wall Street greed and betrayal, it is also a story of redemption and the life-altering struggle of American investors and others around the world who, in the end, beat the Wall Street fraud-masters. Ruthless is a story of how individual investors became mad as hell and joined together to reclaim their cash investments. So far they’ve reclaimed more than $200 billion and continue fighting for the rest. A lively, page-turning guide for any investor with a stunning lesson on how to fight back and win.
Author's Note. Introduction. Chapter 1: "Deal With It!" Chapter 2: The "Back Nine." Chapter 3: A Sweet Deal—Until It's Not. Chapter 4: "I Have No Dreams." Chapter 5: Bill Meets Mohela. Chapter 6: Power to the Blogosphere. Chapter 7: Radioactive Man. Chapter 8: Armies of the Unseen. Chapter 9: Day of Deliverance. Chapter 10: The Newton Factor. Chapter 11: Harry the Hit Man. Chapter 12: The Raymond James Caper. Chapter 13: What's It All About, Barney? Chapter 14: Stretching to Meet the Man. Chapter 15: State of Play 2009. Chapter 16: Kathy's War. Chapter 17: Hopeful Signs from the Hill. Chapter 18: Going to Meet the Man. Chapter 19: The View from Here. Appendix. Acknowledgments. About the Author. Index.
Trupp, an experienced news journalist, invested in auction-rate securities (ARS) around 2007 after being assured by his Wachovia broker that these debt obligations were safe and could be sold easily. Trupp explains that when the ARS market crashed in February 2008, he and over 100,000 other investors were left with some $336 billion in illiquid ARS. Trupp recounts his anger and tells of his odyssey to get redress for himself and other ARS investors. He heaps criticism on the greed of Wall Street, lax government regulation, and the mandatory arbitration process of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which he claims is stacked against investors. Trupp retells investor stories and how he helped publicize the ARS problem over the Internet when traditional media failed to air the problem. As a result of the pressure brought by investors and state regulators, more than half of the ARS had been redeemed at the time of his writing. VERDICT Business-oriented readers who can get past Trupp's numerous angry rants will find his first-person account instructive of how Wall Street and regulators betrayed the trust of so many ARS investors. (Library Journal, September 15, 2010)
PHIL TRUPP is a veteran investigative journalist, and the author of many books, including Sea of Dreamers: Travels with Famous Ocean Explorers and Tracking Treasure: Romance & Fortune Beneath the Sea and How to Find It! He is also a regular commentator for New York Times Dealbook and New York Magazine Online, as well as a weekly contributor to www.auctionratepreferreds.org, the Internet's top site on auction-rate securities (ARS). Trupp was assistant bureau chief of Fairchild Publications/ABC CapCities, where he covered the White House, Pentagon, Supreme Court, Treasury, NASA, and the Federal Reserve, and, today, lectures on "The Future of Journalism" at American and Georgetown Universities.
"Take it, Phil. It's free money." That's what author Phil Trupp's trusted financial advisor said when he recommended auction-rate securities (ARS). The advisor went on to emphatically state that ARS were, "Completely safe. Completely liquid. Just another form of cash." What he failed to disclose to his client was that the financial market was in serious trouble and banks had ordered brokers to move ARS off their balance sheets and into investor portfolios as quickly as possible. Soon, Phil would learn that 87% of the auctions had failed, and that $336 billion had been lost. Or was it stolen? And if so, could he prove it? Ruthless: How Enraged Investors Reclaimed Their Investments and Beat Wall Street documents the dramatic, all-too-true story of Phil Trupp's travels from Washington to Wall Street and around the World Wide Web as he asks and gets answers to the questions he and hundreds of thousands of investors just like him had, including: How does a 20-year-old market suddenly collapse? Was the failure scripted? What, if anything, could an ARS investor do to get his or her money back? Ruthless is also a story about taking action, of how the mobilization of a network of focused, angry, and financially literate bloggers put enough pressure on state regulators to ensure that justice would ultimately prevail. And it did. Today, Phil's original investment has been returned, and almost $200 billion has been refunded to other investors who fell prey to the biggest scheme ever devised by Wall Street to rob Main Street. Wall Street had hoped to make a killing off of individual investors like Phil Trupp. Unfortunately for them, Phil refused to lie down and die. Ruthless is a compelling true story of life-altering struggle and redemption. It's also one of the first books to speak up on behalf of victims of the financial meltdown, and a timely guide for any investor hoping to learn how to fight back against the criminal subculture of Wall Street.
Praise for RUTHLESS "In a period when investors have been betrayed by both the financial industry and the regulators charged to protect them, Phil Trupp has distinguished himself. I commend Phil for his dogged persistence in exposing the massive fraud encompassing the auction-rate securities market. Phil Trupp as David slays the financial industry's Goliath in his fabulous work Ruthless. As a long standing Wall Street veteran who treasures truth, transparency, and integrity, I salute Phil Trupp and Ruthless for providing an abundance of these badly needed virtues." —LARRY DOYLE, Fox News financial commentator and creator of the Sense on Cents Web site "Given recent scandals, Ruthless by Phil Trupp is a must-read. Trupp explores the criminal subculture of Wall Street in a candid manner. He is a straight shooter and tells it like it is." —BRUCE FREEMAN, The Small Business Professor® and coauthor of Birthing the Elephant Referred to as a "financial roach motel" (investors get in, but they can't get out), there had never been anything like it in Wall Street's checkered history—$336 billion in auction-rate securities were suddenly worthless. Hundreds of thousands of investors—from corporate giants like 3M and Texas Instruments, to reporters with the Wall Street Journal, to small investors—lost everything. Phil Trupp was one of those investors. He was determined to fight back, and that's what he did. Ruthless shows you how he took on Wall Street and took back what was his, and how you might do the same.
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