Frank Partnoy
Jan 1, 1998
Profile Books
F.I.A.S.C.O. is an insider's diary, a shocking education in the jungle of high finance in the 1990s, from New York to Tokyo. It tracks the progress of a young Morgan Stanley salesman as he learns the ropes of this sophisticated jungle, where billions of dollars are lost in the creation and trading of securities so unlikely and so complicated that almost nobody - certainly not the unwary or under-educated buyer - understand them.

Frank Partnoy tells of a world filled with feral 'rocket scientists', clever salesmen who persuade unsuspecting victims to buy derivatives (whose value is linked to or 'derived' from some other security). These salesmen often joke about their creations as weapons of mass destruction; and, in fact, the clients are often 'blown up' or have their 'faces ripped off'.

Partnoy's colleagues sharpen their killer instincts at an annual drunken skeet-shooting competition called F.I.A.S.C.O., the Fixed Income Annual Sporting Clays Outing. Against well-trained derivatives salesmen, buyers don't face much better odds than a clay pigeon, and the actual fiascoes involve billions of dollars of well-publicized losses at Orange County, Barings, Procter & Gamble, and many others.

In 1994, when the author attended F.I.A.S.C.O., and when the first big derivatives losses hit, the rallying cry at Morgan Stanley should have struck fear into the heart of any investor. 'There's blood in the water. Let's go kill someone.' Partnoy's story shows how Morgan Stanley's sales force put that advice to work.
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