Regardless of what you think of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a good rule of thumb is that if you are regulated by the agency, you probably don’t want to go out of your way to unnecessarily insult and/or anger it. In fact, to play it safe, you might want to just show the place complete and total deference, whether you’re violating its rules or not. This is an attitude that many investment professionals have adopted over the years, some of their own volition, others by strong advisement. Then you have Sheldon Maschler. The former chief trader of Datek Online, who in 2003 paid a $29.2 million fine and was banned from the securities industry, took a different approach. From Wall Street Journal reporter Scott Patterson’s new book, Dark Pools:
During the hearings, Maschler displayed a stunning irrevenerce toward the regulators. One day, he showed up in bathing trunks and a T-shirt that read NASDAQ SUCKS. The judge, outraged, tossed him out, telling him to come back in a different shirt the following day. Maschler did as ordered– wearing a T-shirt that read NASDAQ SUCKS in different colors.
Regulators were quickly crawling all over Maschler’s ragtag office. One day, a typical one in the market for Datek, each trader sat staring at his Watcher in Maschler’s basement, all decked out in their standard work uniform– baggy shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes or flip-flops. Suddenly, they all noticed an odd presence in the room: two men in crisp suits looming over the stairwell door.
Maschler exploded like a grenade.
“Who…the FUCK…are YOU!” he screamed, jumping from his seat and jabbing his Macanudo in the air.
“We’re from the SEC,” one of the suits said. “We’re looking for Sheldon Maschler.”
“Who the FUCK let you in!”
“The door was open.”
“If my fly was open, would you suck my dick?”
The Datek traders buckled in their seats, struggling to contain their laughter.
“Now get upstairs and RING THE FUCKING BELL!” Maschler roared.
The two SEC officials sheepishly crept back upstairs– and rang the bell. Maschler pressed the intercom buttom.
“Hello, who is it?” he said calmly.
There was a pause. Then, “It’s the SEC.”
“Come on down!”
Maschler greeted them warmly, all smiles, backslapping. “Now, wasn’t that easier?” he said, waving around his Macanudo and blowing smoke into their faces.