Bucky McKeever was sick and tired of not having it all. Everywhere he looked, he saw men living large; high on the hog, if you will. As a low-level manager at a large investment firm, he was surrounded by the high-voltage energy of day-trading and financial wheelings and dealings. His boss, Mr. Jonathan Stevens, a man of only 35, was already a multi-millionaire; a graduate of Wharton Business School and a mergers and acquisitions expert, he could earn more in one deal than Bucky made in a lifetime.
As the New Year approached, Bucky McKeever developed a plan to remedy this unfortunate state of affairs. This was his New Year’s resolution. As he often brought Mr. Stevens his lunch, Bucky would have the opportunity to observe his boss’s desk and paperwork. And that’s when, like a cobra, he would strike.
As luck would have it one foggy Monday morning, the action and energy on the trading floor was at a fever pitch, and Mr. Stevens was thick in the middle of a major deal that could potentially bring together a giant utilities company and a telecommunications outfit. The merger would involve upwards of $25 billion dollars, which meant Mr. Stevens’ commission would number in the $100 million range.
His boss looked up for a second and saw Bucky standing there, and curtly said, “Bucky, could you please bring me a coffee and a donut? You know how I like my coffee.”
Bucky responded, “Sure thing, Mr. Stevens. I’ll be right back.”
With that, the plan was initiated. It was go time. Bucky walked quickly and decisively to the nutrition area and picked up the order. But, on the way back, he took a slightly serpiginous course, conveniently passing directly behind the boss’s desk. As nonchalantly as possible, he scanned the desktop. His heart skipped two beats when he saw a note pad with the title “To Purchase,” and what appeared to be stock trading symbols. Bucky darted his head quickly from side to side. No one was watching. With one quick zip, the note was stuffed in his pocket.
Later that evening, once in the safety of his home, Bucky un-crumpled the note and perused it. He read the symbols and looked them up on his own trading program: CER, MIL, BRD, ORG, BTR, and TOM. They all seemed like good companies, but one on the list, the first, seemed to stand out: ‘Cellular Glass Industries (CER), a manufacturer of a matrix involved in the production of the glass in cell phones.’ Bucky read further into the company profile. ‘Our glass matrix is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of cell phones. Our company is currently in negotiations to produce all the glass for Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy series. Current stock price: $12.40.’
Bucky had read enough. This time, Bucky was going to hit the jackpot. At 9:30 AM the following morning, as soon as the stock market opened for trading, Bucky, using all the money he had in the world, and using the maximal margin leverage available, put in an order for 57,000 shares of CER, and also purchased short-term call options for an additional 12,000 shares. He then sat back with the satisfaction of knowing that, this time, he was going to get a piece of the pie.
Just then, his boss, Mr. Stevens, called him on the intercom with a question. “Hey, Bucky, did you happen to see a list I had on my desk yesterday afternoon? It had six items on it.”
Bucky answered, “Um, no, Mr. Stevens. What kind of a list was it?”
Mr. Stevens responded, “Oh, it was nothing. Just a shopping list. My wife told me to get cereal, milk, bread, orange juice, butter and tomatoes on my way home. But because I didn’t see the reminder on my desk, I totally forgot about it. That’s OK. I’ll pick up the stuff on my way home this evening.”
A shopping list?! With his heart pounding out of his chest and beads of sweat forming on his forehead and upper lip, Bucky tried to get back onto his trading platform, but there was a glitch. His computer was down. A warning message indicated some kind of internal software problem.
Desperately, Bucky tried several computers, finally finding one that was available and functioning. As quickly as possible, he accessed his trading platform with the intention of selling the entire position. But as soon as he clicked on CER, an alert appeared: “All trading of CER is currently suspended pending news.”
Bucky collapsed back in his seat. A vague feeling of nausea and impending emesis took hold. He had gambled every penny to his name and then some. Additionally, he was on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in margin leverage. It was essentially the end of his viable life.
His boss, Mr. Stevens, walked by and noticed that Bucky looked sweaty and green. He inquired, “Bucky, what’s wrong? You don’t look good. Are you feeling OK?”
“No, Mr. Stevens, I’m feeling sick. I tried my hand at day trading, and I’m afraid I may have made a catastrophic mistake.”
Mr. Stevens said, “Bucky, I’m really sorry to hear that. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off and go home and get some rest?”
Bucky answered, “Honestly, Mr. Stevens, I don’t think that’s going to help, but I appreciate your offer. Maybe I’ll just stay here and work and try to get my mind off my awful mistake. I’m afraid I’m financially wiped out.”
His boss said, “Bucky, I’m not really sure what to say at a moment like this. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. But I have to get back to the trading floor. We have been working on a big deal with a glass matrix manufacturer, and it looks like we were successful. It’s a company called Cellular Glass Manufacturing. They were just named the exclusive maker of all the glass for Apple and Samsung phones. It’s a blockbuster deal. When the stock reopens later this afternoon, it’s going to go through the roof. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the stock open at $200 and move up from there.”
Bucky catapulted out of his seat. “I’m rich!” Bucky screamed. “I finally did it! Mr. Stevens, I quit. I wouldn’t work for a worm like you one more minute! Ha! Ha!”
Suddenly, the tumultuous scene was interrupted by the intercom. “Mr. McKeever, there are two federal agents here from the Securities and Exchange Commission. They want to discuss something with you. Something about insider trading.”
Bucky’s knees buckled as he slumped back into his chair, once again looking sweaty and green.
Mr. Stevens inquired, “Bucky, why would agents from the Securities and Exchange Commission want to talk with you?”
The two agents, dressed in the traditional black suits and sunglasses, appeared. “Mr. McKeever?
Bucky stammered, “I’m McKeever.”
The senior agent continued. “Mr. McKeever, we were notified that you were involved in a highly suspicious trade this morning that suggested insider trading. Now, as I’m sure you know, insider trading is a serious crime that can result in significant prison time. Could you explain the circumstances of this trading activity? It involved a stock with the symbol CER.”
Bucky gulped hard, while his boss, jaw hanging aslack, stared at him. With all eyes on him, Bucky slowly reached into his back pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper with six symbols on it.
“It’s just cereal. It wasn’t a stock symbol. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought it was a company, but it was just cereal.”
Mr. Stevens, totally perplexed, asked, “Bucky, what on Earth are you doing with my shopping list?”
Bucky sat frozen in position. Somewhere deep in his consciousness, he knew he had to say something. But, for the moment, it somehow felt better just to sit frozen in position.
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I love how you worked in a Damoclean element to this terrific story, already a good and modern morality tale in its own way! My heart definitely dropped as soon as he couldn't access his trading account any further, which is excellent writing because I did not see that mini-scare coming, and the surprise impacted me strongly. I'm surprised he kept trying access after that, when the correct action for most of us would have been "Jet to country with no extradition." (Joking, joking :) The twist at the end with the note was just icing on the j...
Thank you so much, Wendy!