Michael Lewis latest column explains what connects this year’s most popular stories on Bloomberg. But before he gets going on that he talks a bit about a very special penis.
“New Jersey Man Clips Penis in Vacuum Mishap.”
As recently as 1998, this headline on the Bloomberg was born to attract a crowd on Wall Street. That one sentence was equipped to win any battle of financial news stories, and it did. On the day the story broke, May 15, there was no shortage of harder news: mass riots in Indonesia, a spike in U.S. inflation, Sandy Weill’s announcement that he would like to buy Fidelity.
None of that news interested Bloomberg readers so much as the tale of the New Jersey man sucked into his own vacuum cleaner.
Last year’s biggest stories were a bit less, uhm, penisy.
Upon closer inspection, however, it wasn’t the useful financial news that captured Wall Street’s attention. You can count on one hand the stories that might move markets, or affect business: three items about the Federal Reserve and a pair of stories about giant corporate acquisitions.
News that implicated Wall Street jobs and paychecks, on the other hand, drew huge crowds: Goldman Sachs’s bonuses, Morgan Stanley’s bonuses, Credit Suisse’s trading losses, commodity traders’ losses, commodity traders’ booming pay — the list goes on.
And Amaranth. Amaranth. Amaranth. Amaranth. One reason you saw so many Amaranth stories last year is that you kept reading them. But not just any old Amaranth story.
What Wall Street readers wanted from their Amaranth stories was the answer to three simple questions: Who won, who lost and, above all, how much? The interest in Amaranth, in short, seems to have been the first cousin to the interest in Goldman Sachs’s bonus pool. After all, the $6 billion lost by Amaranth didn’t simply vanish. Someone on Wall Street was on the other side of those trades. Goldman’s bonus pool came from somewhere.