The Novel of Financial Deception
Enters Its Third Year Online
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Casing Wal-Mart
Miller Risk Advisors

Rigged Chapter 21



Ross M. Miller
Posted August 19, 2004

The flight up the coast gave me time to collect my thoughts, assess the situation, and devise a strategy. One thing I liked about my days as a professional gambler was that I had plenty of time to think. On days when I was not in a tournament, I would start playing in the evening and continue well into the night and (more often than I liked) into the following morning. After I cashed in my chips, I would drive back to my place in the desert where I would sit down and enter my big hands (both winning and losing) into a computer so that it could analyze them while I copped some Z’s. During the remaining daylight hours, I could think—just think—without interruption.

If I felt like going out, I would hunt for used computers. By the time I left town, I owned more than a hundred computers—most of them networked together and playing each other in thousands of simulated tournaments each day. I wrote tight, efficient code that made optimal use of older microprocessors, so I could run them on obsolescent computers that Las Vegas businesses were happy to have me take off their hands. I gave the computers that I couldn’t use to local schools. I spent my days experimenting on computers and my nights experimenting on fellow humans.

When Roland brought me to work with him, I got expensive new scientific workstations to replace my stable of workhorses and switched from gambling to more respectable pursuits. I started my own group at the old lab, which eventually became the first tribe and over time mutated into the Binars.

My current laptop computer was of little use even though (thanks to Moore’s Law) its raw computational power approached that of my old network with every machine fired up. Thinking of my current situation in poker terms, however, did help. People talk about how important location is in real estate, but it is just as important in poker or any other “game” where information is being concealed. In this case, I knew what the real problem at the Lowell Aggressive Growth Fund was and perhaps someone at the hive knew the real reason that I was on this plane.

In poker, a player’s “location” is called “position”—where one sits at the table relative to the dealer, who has the best position by dint of betting after everyone else. Position is so important that it affects the value of one’s cards—a hand one would otherwise fold in an instant could be worth playing as the dealer. In life, there may be no dealer, but there are often ways one can arrange it so that others act first. Once I was on the ground, I had to say as little as possible until I understood what I was walking into.

I had a general idea of what was going on with GFF and The Lowell Group, but I was missing critical details. The Lowell Group would surely be shaken up, but there was no telling how or when. And then there was the matter of was Alaska’s fate. Muir’s story of what happened at Bell Labs reminded me of Alaska’s fragility. By the time this journey was complete, I did not expect to be able to pack my bags and head home as if nothing happened. Something had happened.

The plane was well stocked with munchies, beverages, and DVDs. I nibbled my way through a Cobb salad and drank plenty of spring water to stay hydrated. For entertainment, I passed on the DVDs, instead I moved to the port side of the plane to observe the setting sun.

Dusk was gone when my plane landed at Westchester County Airport. I thanked the pilot for a smooth and safe flight and walked along a chain-link fence and past four aviation fuel tanks before heading into the main terminal. I was back in plenty of time for the ten o’clock meeting. I figured that a driver would be waiting for me, but I saw no one.

I waited and watched the occasional car zoom past under the full moon. They were the usual vehicles for this area—Lexus, Mercedes SUV, and the occasional Hummer or Range Rover. If no one came, I could always go back in the terminal and have the dispatcher call a cab for me. Then I saw it, a dazzling white hatchback with two thick blue racing stripes running down the middle of it that could have materialized out of Brian Wilson’s daydreams. Although I had never seen that car before, I knew that it had come for me. When it stopped beside me, the passenger’s door opened and a gloved hand beckoned me to “Jump right in.”

“Hey there, Roland,” I said as I climbed into the empty bucket seat. “Shelby?”

“Sixty-five. GT 350. Nice restoration job, don’t you think?”

“I’m impressed.” I didn’t have to ask who had restored it.

“Have a good flight? You’re certainly moving up in the world.”

“Am I? The flight was uneventful.”

“We’ve got an errand to run before I check you into the guest house.” The hive’s guest house was a grander version of Alaska’s lodge—a combination luxury hotel and conference center. I had been there twice with Roland when we both worked at the Research Lab, but had no reason to be there since.

It was always a treat riding with Roland. His steering, acceleration, and shifting all flowed together beautifully. He truly understood machines and had the gift of being able to become one with them.

We exited the airport onto the winding back roads of Westchester County—the perfect venue for Roland to show off the Shelby’s handling. With anyone else at the wheel, I would have been terrified, but I trusted Roland. The plentiful moonlight compensated for the total absence of streetlights. He did not say where this “errand” was, but we were headed in the direction of the hive.

“I’d floor it,” Roland said, “but this time of year there are too many deer on the road. As it is, I try to be gentle with her, but it seemed like she could use some exercise tonight.”

“No problem, though I still have a thing for your Spider. Speaking of which, have you hung onto it?”

“Unfortunately not. That car dates from before I knew what a pre-nup was. By the way, Caroline really liked you.”

I knew which Caroline Roland was talking about. “Yes, I thought that she was very nice.”

“I’d forgotten. You’ve never met her before. I’ll formally introduce you the next time. We got together while working on the Lowell deal; she was with their outside legal team. I guess there’s a lot I haven’t told you.”

“Don’t let me stop you.”

“It won’t be official until tomorrow, but I’m taking charge of The Lowell Group effective midnight and at the next board meeting I’m being promoted to Vice Chairman at GFF. Mike figured that I knew Lowell better than anyone at GFF and so it was worth having me run it.”

This bombshell triggered a score of questions. It was hard to know which to ask first. “What about Simon?”

“I’ll be Chairman and he’s staying on as CEO. We agreed that the job was too much for one person. I’m working on bringing in an operations person to further take the load off him.”

Now for the obvious question: “Are you staying on as GFF’s chief technology officer?”

“No. And that’s why I picked you up. Have you ever considered what would happen when I left the job?”

“Not really,” I said, “I figured that you had over four years remaining and a lot could happen in that time.”

“You figured wrong. I’ve hung around the hive long enough and working on the Lowell deal in Boston and meeting Caroline convinced me that it was time to move on.”

“What about Alaska?”

“That’s where you come in,” Roland said. “First, let me say that you’ve done a tremendous job. I really appreciate the way you got to the bottom of things and stirred up the pot.  Kelly examined their crossing system and we’re clear of any legal issues and Artie’s already making changes to give everyone a better shake. And with GFF getting involved with Lowell on a day-to-day basis, we should be able to head off this sort of thing in the future.”

“Are you completely in the clear?” I asked, though I really wanted to guide Roland back to the topic of Alaska. “What about the feds and people going through the trash?”

“Oh, that. We’re on top of that as well. Lowell had problems transitioning to GFF’s hazardous-waste disposal procedures and some so-called toxic materials—mainly old computer monitors—ended up going out in the regular trash during the switchover. The Globe may run with it and the environmentalists should be pleased to have something else to beat us up about, but everyone else will ignore it. We’ll just pay the fine from the change drawer and move on.”

“What about Alaska?” I asked for a second time. I was not particularly interested in GFF’s latest environmental dustup.

“Right. That’s the real reason that I picked you up. I’m not the only one who can protect Alaska—there’s always you.”

“Me, at the hive?” Now, I thought, things were making sense.

“It’s not a done deal yet. Mike wants to meet you first—that’s our errand—but it’s just a formality given what you’ve done at Lowell after the audit team blew it big time. And he’s willing to ignore those psychometric tests you took when you joined the lab.”

“What’s there to ignore?” I asked.

“Didn’t you know? You received the second worst management aptitude score in the company’s history.”

“You had the worst?”

“Of course not,” Roland laughed, “Mike did.”

“Speaking of Mike, what does he know about Alaska?”

“It’s still just one of several line items on the research budget that doesn’t require his attention. As for you, according to GFF’s human resource records, you are now listed as working at the Research Lab.”

“So that’s what John Munger was doing!”

“We had to get you into the system one way or another in order for me to put you up for my job without initiating an outside search. Believe it or not, no one’s ever integrated all the human resource systems, so it’s possible to receive GFF benefits and even draw a pension and yet not show up in the main file. I don’t doubt that you could have created a new record for yourself, but I had to have John do it for me the official way.”

“If I’m at the hive, who’ll run Alaska?”

“You will,” Roland said, “for the time being, until you name a replacement. As things stand, the place is already lacking in adult supervision so your being there full-time or part-time shouldn’t make a difference.”

“What will I do at the hive? And what about you?”

“Aside from keeping anyone from interfering with Alaska and some other special projects that you’ll learn about at the appropriate time, you’ll fly around a lot, sit in on meetings, and do anything else Mike has in mind for you. He’s a demanding guy, but you should be able to keep up with him. As for me, I’ll be going back and forth between the hive and Lowell until the renovations are complete. Then, Caroline and I will move into the townhouse after which I hope to limit my time at the hive to board and committee meetings.”

“Do I have any choice in the matter?”

“I could have an MBA from the Research Lab take over for me, but you wouldn’t like that. I think that this is called an offer you can’t refuse.”

“Thank you, godfather.”

“I’m not the godfather, that’s Mike. We can talk about things some more after you meet him; however, there is one last thing that can’t wait.”

“Yes,” I said. Now Roland would finally ask what happened with Muir and what the real problem with Ken’s fund was.

“I noticed that an old friend of mine is working at Alaska—she also got an ID card from John when you did, although yours was the only record we placed in the main file.”

“You know Tara?”

“Know her? I remember when she was knee-high to me, though I haven’t seen her in years. Her father is the green keeper at the country club.”

I knew to think before I asked which country club. Then it hit me—The Country Club—the original one in Brookline.

“Well,” Roland continued, “she made a very good impression at The Lowell Group. I’d like to have her come work for me there if you can spare her. I’m happy to set up an arrangement where she can continue her research part-time.”

It was standard operating procedure for GFF managers to ask permission before raiding employees. It was also standard operating procedure not to object to a request from someone higher up the totem pole.

“It’s fine with me, but the decision is hers.”

Before I had time to think about the implications of all this, I saw the hive lighting up the sky ahead of us. I expected Roland to turn into the main entrance, but he drove past it and directly into the moonlight.

Copyright 2004 by Ross M. Miller. Permission granted to forward by electronic means and to excerpt or broadcast 250 words or less provided a citation is made to