UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, UPPER MANHATTAN – It is harrowing story, but, unfortunately, an all-to-familiar one: a bright, young man descends into an online world that warps his mind with twisted ideologies and entices him to fight for a cause he barely understands.
The day that Bobby Caldwell of Appleton, WI, left home for good he packed light: a pair of slacks, an Oxford-cut button-down, new Ferragamos that he saw in a video once. He had an unbranded Patagonia vest for those chilly Midtown mornings; everything else would be provided once he arrived at his ultimate destination, the International School for Investment Studies.
ISIS, as the school is commonly known, is a subsidiary of an elite Ivy-League business school, and serves as the breeding-ground for radical-Capitalist thought, churning out bankers, investors, and middle managers every spring to do economic violence against millions of hard-working Americans.
Bobby’s path to ISIS rose from unsuspecting origins. His father was a staunch trade-unionist, his mother a public school teacher; he had studied Anthropology at Wesleyan and spent four years in marketing at an e-commerce startup. Bobby admitted that he dabbled in index funds in his youth, but never anything as serious as options trading or high finance. Ultimately, like too many of his peers, it was the power of the internet, and its power to amplify radical thought, that drew Bobby into the world of Capitalistic extremism.
“A friend thought I’d like Joe Rogan on YouTube,” Bobby tells Boredroom News, “but their algorithm kept feeding me more and more [Martin] Shkreli vids; soon I was spending every day on Poets and Quants arguing about ‘BB IB’ and how to get into private equity with zero experience. I was hooked.” It was through this online Objectivist miasma that an ISIS recruiter reached out, luring in young people similar to Bobby who feel “lost” in modern society and yearn for a new Gilded Age governed by railroad barons and banking magnates.
“I applied after only one information session and then heard nothing for months.” The weeks dragged on. Bobby wondered whether he’d be assigned an economic sector to exploit or if he could pick one. He yearned to be a banker. He asked questions about finance classes and wondered if he would be tested on his knowledge of Ayn Rand. “I’m not even familiar with Atlas Shrugged,” he allegedly told the recruiter.
Finally it was time to leave home for good. Having purchased a plane ticket to Newark with money his father had put aside for union dues, Bobby took a late-night ferry across the Hudson to avoid detection. The moment he arrived in Manhattan he was greeted by fellow ISIS recruits who welcomed him. “They showed me their Robinhood balances, they discussed the evils of the Welfare State. I felt I was home.”
The following few weeks were a blur. Bobby claims that basic training, “The Core” as ISIS called it, was fueled by Monster energy drinks, Long Island Iced Teas, and copious amounts of cocaine. [Editor’s note: it is virtually inconceivable that any individual could consume the volume of alcohol and drugs that Bobby mentions.] Despite the chemicals pumped into his body, Bobby enjoyed the training curriculum with such favorites as Hostile Takeover to Violent Takeover, Manipulating People and Earnings, The Art of the Deal, Maiming Children with Grenades – a Honeywell Case Study, and For-profit Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.
However enthralled Bobby was with his fellow Libertarian peers, it was his fascination with one of his instructors that not only hardened his resolve to radical Capitalism but was, ultimately, his downfall. Alan “Uncle Al” Berman, a former Wells Fargo executive who had been ousted after various scandals, soon thralled Bobby while teaching Increasing the Income Gap at ISIS. When Boredroom News interviewed Mr. Berman for this article he was forthcoming about his relationship to Bobby Caldwell as well as the various misadventures with the law that landed him in is current residence, a federal detention facility in Colorado.
“I was an instructor at ISIS,” Mr. Berman freely admits, “but I was also running my activist hedge fund on the side; everyone at ISIS was doing something similar. Mine was short-only, so I was looking for an analyst to help me out. You know, a lackey to load up on some really inflammatory research and go take down a company or two. If they happened to blow up [their own reputations] in the process, that’s collateral damage I was willing to accept.” And so it was Uncle Al’s offer of an unconscionable amount of money that enticed Bobby to join this elite sleeper-cell hedge fund for an in-semester internship.
What Bobby and Uncle Al did not know, however, was that there had been an unannounced guest on the training grounds that semester; Agent Melanie Moran, of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had been monitoring Mr. Berman for months and was ready to spring her trap. “I had gained Mr. Caldwell’s confidence by making sure he saw my pin-ups of Milton Friedman and asking him to the annual Trump fundraiser hosted by the Dean. Once I joined [Mr. Caldwell’s] covert study group, all I did was ask questions about his net worth and he was more than happy to tell me everything. He was bragging about making more in a month than whole families on welfare make in a year; it was disgusting, but I played along.” With little prying, Agent Moran discovered the ugly truth: Bobby Caldwell had received highly confidential non-public information about the impending acquisition of a clothing startup by Levi’s. Through non-GAAP accounting, Bobby siphoned money from another of Mr. Berman’s companies’ pension fund to purchase personal stock during Levi’s recent IPO.
The hammer of justice fell swiftly; Agent Moran and her SEC team raided Mr. Berman’s midtown office and seized Bobby’s Thinkpad. (“It was a bad day,” Bobby recalls, “I had like nine unsaved Excel sheets open.”) Facing 30-50 years in a Federal “pound-me-in-the-ass” Prison, Bobby cheerfully turned on his mentor for a reduced sentence. “My only loyalty is to the Almighty American Dollar,” Bobby re-affirmed at his court appearance. Pleading guilty to violating Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Bobby’s legal team, lead by soon-to-be-disgraced Michael Avenatti, raised the issue of Bobby’s mental health to get a reduced sentence.
“He was no Rockefeller or Bezos-like monster,” said lawyers at the hearing, “just a kid trying to make a quick buck that got swept up by the dark Capitalist undercurrents gripping our nation.” The defense’s claims that Bobby could be reformed and re-enter society were belied by his frequent outbursts in the courtroom. Despite his constant calls for capital to “drive innovation” and “economies of scale,” Bobby was eventually sentenced to 3-6 months in minimum security facility in Martha’s Vineyard. “A fantastic networking opportunity, especially since Jeff stopped talking,” Bobby says assuredly as he looks forward to a brighter future in finance.
“Probably start my own fund when I get out, teach at ISIS for a few years and make half-baked run for governor,” he says. But concerning his own misdeeds in the past again the collective of humanity, however, Bobby Caldwell is unrepentant, “I know that Adam Smith will reward me in heaven.”