Too Clever For Your Own Good

“According to everyone we’ve spoken to, the market is expecting Raj Rajaratnam to get convicted of insider trading. But hold on. I’m still not 100% convinced that Raj will get convicted.” So began article on last week as the Raj jury went into deliberation.

“Having been at the Raj trial, I can tell you — it is not going well for the government,” the writer happily informed us. “The jury is taking forever to convict Raj. If this were the open and shut case that everyone thought it would be, it would be over by now. And it’s not even close! No matter what, this is great news for hedge fund managers.”

The writer then went on to speculate about the alternate juror that stepped in at the last minute.
“A leather-wearing, middle-aged, government-employed African American who is studying to be a minister. The man screams “Raj is innocent” to me. Clearly he doesn’t like his boss -- the government, which is prosecuting Raj -- so he’s studying to be a minister so he can quit. And his new boss, God, is all about forgiveness. Plus, he wore leather frequently to the trial. To me, that says he’s a bit of a risk taker.”

The writer of course couldn’t have been more wrong. Raj was convicted on all counts. Unanimously. He is going to jail for pretty much the rest of his life. The only “great news” that other hedge fund managers are celebrating is that they have yet to be indicted.

In one of those Forrest Gump moments of my life I met Raj in the late 1990’s when I was working in high tech and he struck me as an affable but decidedly regular guy with no particular intellectual acumen. Yet the story of his trial and conviction this week provides a very valuable insight into our own world of speculation.

The Clusterstock writer was clearly a well informed, intelligent analyst much like many currency traders I know. However, she failed to grasp the big picture, namely that the government had Raj on tape effectively trading on inside information. The guy didn’t even bother to pretend that he was not cheating. Instead the Clusterstock writer focused on a million little points of minutiae to prove her “out of consensus” thesis.

I have seen traders make the same mistake a thousand times. Instead of following market direction, traders always want to fade it, because they think they know best. I find it ironic that the single most popular video on the BK Youtube website is “Picking Tops and Bottoms” which has more than 10,000 views while my videos on flow -- a much more effective trading strategy -- garner only 1,000 views. Perhaps that’s as it should be. Perhaps if everyone traded trend and didn’t try to second guess the market, we would never be able to make any money out of it. But all I know is that being too clever for our own good never ends well when you are trading FX.

Boris Schlossberg

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