If it is a stroke story you want — seek it elsewhere! If you want your humor dry as your martini, then read on, Macduff!
First, let me make it perfectly clear: I'm no Nick Leeson. For at least two reasons, I'm no Nick Leeson.
You don't remember Nick? He was the trader for Barings Bank in Singapore who lost almost a billion quid of his bank's funds, using highly leveraged positions, betting on the future direction of the Nikkei — the Japanese stock market for you people who don't keep up with the world of finance. He lost big and fell hard, and in the end he took Barings down as well. He did time in the nick for that — but not that long, because it was just a property crime. He was sentenced to six and one-half years, and actually did less. Of course, his future employment prospects were somewhat, shall we say, limited?
In contrast, when I took an unofficial 'loan' from the bank for which I work, I wasn't trying to make a big win for the bank, like Nick. No, I was strictly doing a bit of free enterprise for myself. In short: I'm even less moral than the average banker, and that's saying something.
Oh yes — the second way in which Nick and I differed was: I didn't get caught!
In fact, I won my bets on financial markets with a lot of extra leverage, with the result that I was able to restore what I had 'borrowed' with sufficient profit that the bank's officers presented me a bonus for having an outstanding quarter! ₤25,000 of bonus — enough to make a decent year into a lucrative year for me. But it was the ₤250,000 that the bank didn't know about, sitting in an offshore account, far from the bank examiners (and the Inland Revenue, ) that really made my year. Knowing how the bank's various security processes work, I had carefully and completely erased any signs that would trip an alarm with the auditors.
Oh, pardon me, although I've told you I'm not Nick Leeson, please allow me to introduce myself: I'm Ben Chattham, and I've been working for the past three years for a small private bank, dare I say 'exclusive' bank in the City; a bank that caters to the very wealthy of the world. Saudi princes, Argentine Generals, American billionaires, Chinese War Lords — those sorts of chaps.
As careful as I had been, I have to admit that I was still somewhat apprehensive when the Senior Vice President of my group, Sidney Wright, known to one and all as 'Sid' (his small concession to democracy), requested that I come to see him in his office, as soon as practical. I gathered up my notes that I would need to summarize my current trading positions, as well as a few choice bits of materials, should things get ugly. No reason to expect that, but semper paratus!
Stopping by the Gent's on the way, I washed my hands, used a damp towel on my face, and looked at myself in the mirror. I was, at 35, the prototypical 'poor boy makes good' story, rising from a working class background, to university, and, with a great deal of ambition and perseverance, to an obscenely well-paid position in an elite financial institution. My hazel eyes looked back at me from the mirror, as I ran a hand through my sandy-brown hair. The dark-blue Armani suit with the subtle pinstripes, over a silk shirt, was just right. Straightening my school tie, I was ready, like Daniel, to enter the lion's den.
I walked down the hall and knocked on the door of Sid's office; a window office looking out over the Thames in the building affectionately known around London as "The Gherkin". Sid's sanctuary.
I opened the door and stuck my head in first.
"Did you wish to see me, Sid?" I queried.
"Oh, Ben, yes, please come in. Take a seat."
Sid's office was plush. His furniture was made of Brazilian Cherry and upholstered in dark red leather, which contrasted with the gray, deep, wall-to-wall carpet. One didn't sit in Sid's chairs, one into them. Sid dealt directly with banking clients. The trading offices were far more Spartan, I assure you.
Sid Wright was neither as tall, nor, not to brag, as well fit as I. But Sid came from 'old money', and would likely in the not-too-distant future be Sir Sidney Wright, OBE, or KBE, or whatever honors were being bestowed on wealthy bankers with political connections these days. Sid is about 15 years older than I. He's gone a bit gray in recent years, I think one would call it salt and pepper. And he likes to meet people in his office where he can sit behind his desk in a chair that is about 2 inches higher than the other chairs in the room. A small vanity.
Sid sounded a bit stressed. I took a seat and started to spread out my papers, as I normally would when reviewing our positions. It took Sid a moment, but he looked up and noticed what I was doing.
"Oh, sorry, Ben. I didn't call you to discuss your trades. I need to speak to you on another topic completely." he explained, using his 'its time to apply some stick' tone.
I sat back in the chair and waited for the axe to drop.
"Ben," he looked into my eyes, so I looked back with my best poker face, "We have to have a certain man-to-man. You know that I have always trusted you implicitly and you have always demonstrated an admirable willingness to be 'up front' about things. Well, I have to put a somewhat embarrassing question to you."
My stomach was beginning to churn at his words. What could I have missed, what small detail had I overlooked in covering my tracks. On the other hand, I hadn't seen any security people, much less any Metropolitan Police skulking in the halls.
"I'll come to the point. Ben, have you been tupping my wife?" came the rather abrupt query.
It took a second for his question to register with me. When it did, my day brightened considerably. A smile came across my face as I looked up to answer.
"Why yes, Sid, why do you ask?" I replied in a polite voice, with a slightly curious inflection.
"Because over the past two months, my wife has become, how shall I say it, a completely different woman in the boudoir! She suddenly appears to actually enjoy herself when we have sex, and has developed several skills and tastes that she didn't have before; and that I know I didn't teach her."
Sid reflected for a minute, before I interrupted his reverie.
"May I ask why I, particularly, came to mind, sir?" I addressed Sid.
"Logic, dear boy, strict logic and a process of elimination." He continued, "You see, knowing my wife's love of money and all things expensive, I first considered Sir Edward."
We both laughed at that.
Sir Edward was one of the founders of the bank, and indeed was reputed to be rich as Croesus. On the other hand, he was also 92 years of age, and had never married or shown any inclination towards women. They say that in Sir Edward's earlier days young men in the mail room and operating the elevators had to step lively to avoid being cornered by Sir Edward. Several of them who had acquiesced to his advances found themselves bent over the desk in his private office, or on their knees before him being educated in the finest public school tradition.
Long retired, Sir Edward still attended the monthly review meetings, as well as all dinners and parties sponsored by the bank. Most of us had experienced Sir Edward's hand groping our arses on the odd occasion.
"I quickly concluded that Sir Edward was not likely Caroline's paramour." Sid continued.
"Then I recalled that young man, the American, Ralph, in the futures trading group. He is, I'm told by several of the assistants, 'hot', by which I suppose they mean he is tall, with dark wavy hair and dark eyes."
"Oh yes, I think I know who you mean. The fellow who did his MBA at the trade school on the Charles river in Boston." My friends from the HBS always took umbrage at the description.
"Yes, quite." Sid agreed with an evil smile on his lips.
I could hardy keep the smirk off my face. Sid and I had both taken our degrees at Oxford. There you are, a third reason I was not like Nick Leeson — a far better education.
"I can't imagine Caroline with Ralph." I reflected, "I know he has a certain style that attracts the younger women, but I can't envision a sophisticated woman like Caroline finding him the least bit charming. Did you notice at lunch the other day when he ordered a Merlot with his fish? Gawd, I almost died at the look on the Sommelier's face."
Sid barked a short laugh, "Yes, a California merlot at that!"
"Consequently," he concluded, "it really left only you. Assuming, of course, that her 'special friend' was someone I knew, and I can't imagine Caroline going out finding a lover willy-nilly. You were the one man in our circle who is sufficiently witty, charming, well mannered, and of an age and looks, that Caroline would even consider taking as a lover."
"Thank you, sir, I'm flattered," I responded.
"Simply being objective." came Sid's calm assessment.
This was why we all loved Sid — a solid fellow in any sort of crisis.
We sat there silent for a moment. I could see that Sid was formulating another question.
"Ben," he finally asked, "could I inquire as to the genesis of this liaison?"
"Of course, sir," I said, happy to relate the circumstances.
.... There is more of this story ...