Blackmail

The London Paper  –  10th Sept 2007

Is it better to be loved or feared? I would rather be feared. Fear lasts longer than love.” This was the conclusion of mafia boss Sonny LoSpecchio in Robert De Niro’s A Bronx Tale, and it’s one that I’ve recently been pondering. 

Fortunately, I had an experience last week that may go some way to answering Sonny’s question – at least in the context of stockbroking.

Sceptics may question whether there are any similarities  between being a stockbroker and a mafia don, but I see few differences. To maximise my bank’s commission, which dictates how much I earn, I use two principal methods: bribery and threats. Even a cursory knowledge of gangster films suggests that these are the methods used by our Cosa Nostra brethren.

I, and my fellow brokers, bribe clients into “loving” us by taking them to fancy restaurants, sporting and music­ events and, of course, strip joints. I also threaten clients by telling them I’ll take them off my bank’s client list so that they never receive our stock tips unless they deliver commission.

Allegedly, some banks even threaten clients that they will not receive decent allocations  in any “hot” companies they bring to market unless they dispense revenue.

Anyway, the other day I was at Space in Ibiza, dancing like it was going out of fashion (which, after my risible efforts, it probably will), when I spied a hedge fund manager client who has been tight as a gnat’s chuff with his commission of late.

With his arms in the air and his top off, he certainly had the air of someone who was over-excited. But, even better, he occasionally stopped his energetic dancing to snog some beautiful young brunette who seemed to be wearing a nice belt – until I realised it was her skirt. The fact that I knew this man to be married made me feel like it was Christmas come early.

I sidled up to “John” and, despite his best efforts to avoid catching my eye (which considering the size of his pupils was never going to happen), started proceedings with a simple: “all right mate, how’s it going?” The ensuing  chat covered all the bases: stock-market turbulence , Jade Jagger’s Jezebel night at Pacha – oh, and his wife and kids. It could not have been more awkward , which was exactly as I planned.

When young Isabella went off to “powder her nose” all I needed to say was “call you in two weeks” for him to understand where I was coming from. If commission levels from “John” suddenly rise, I think we can rest assured  it’s not because of a new-found appreciation of my research.

John Wayne summed it up best when he said: “If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

I should find out over the next few months if it is better to be feared or loved, but I think we all already  know the answer.

PS: Please note that the names in this article have been changed to protect the innocent – as well as my client and me.

Thoughts ?

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