From 1997 to 2000 I lived abroad. I studied and worked in Brussels and London. In addition, I traveled all over Europe and Asia, learning about many different cultures and meeting many interesting people. The only problem I had with being abroad was that I missed spending time with my very large immediate and extended families back in the states. During my last Christmas vacation while living in Europe, I spent some time with my mom in New Orleans. She was not feeling very well and looked a bit frail. Hence, during the summer of 2000 I resigned from a position as a structurer of derivatives products at a London investment bank to return to the states to be closer to my family.
Between 2000 and 2009 I experienced some amazing highs and lows living in the States again: Al Gore winning the popular vote and the Supreme Court selecting Bush as president; working as a vice president of derivatives structured products at a Silicon Valley dotcom investment bank that went bust; working as a derivatives quant and trader at Enron when it went bust; living through the pain and suffering of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina -- which devastated my hometown New Orleans; getting fired for blowing the whistle on derivatives trading and risk management issues while working as a financial engineer/quant at Harvard Management Company; taking care of my ailing mom and disabled veteran brother on Miami Beach after they lost their homes in New Orleans due to hurricane Katrina; dealing with the global economic crisis; and trying to deal with my mother's sudden death last year. If I had a chance to redo a decade of my life, it would certainly be the last one. However, we don't get redos. So I did all I could to learn from these experiences and to move forward.
Except for a few short trips to Europe and to the Bahamas, I'd spent most of my time in the states since 2000. However, this past December I was fortunate to be able to return to Europe. I have been spending my time in various western European countries -- consulting, doing research, lecturing and writing a book. My life in Europe is much more serene and healthier than it was in the states. I can actually drink the delicious tap water. Also, most of the food is organic, folks have health care, crime is low, not many folks are packing guns, the education systems are very good, college tuition is quite inexpensive and political debates are stimulating. There are lots of great restaurants, night clubs, museums, beautiful lakes, very scenic Alps for skiing, great public transportation systems, etc.
Another exciting thing about living in Europe at the moment is seeing firsthand how the various European countries are dealing with the global economic meltdown. I just love Germany's Angela Merkel's take-no-prisoner attitude. She basically told Greece to straighten up and fly right before the Germans would consider bailing out the Greeks. Too bad the U.S. did not take a similar approach before bailing out greedy Wall Street bankers. Greek citizens are rioting in the streets -- protesting their corrupt and incompetent government. For several years corrupt Greek politicians paid Goldman Sachs millions of dollars to structure toxic derivatives products so they could hide Greece's debt from the other EU countries.
Not too long ago, some Greeks set off a bomb at JP Morgan Chase investment bank in Athens. (My European friends tell me that they were really aiming for Goldman Sachs, but there is no Goldman office in Greece. So JP Morgan Chase was as good as they could get.) Also, a former banking colleague recently informed me that lobbying is illegal in London. In Switzerland, the locals are hired first! The Swiss believe in taking care of their own -- not that outsourcing yadda, yadda, nor importing foreigners to do work while their own citizens are unemployed. And illegal immigration? Forget about it! You just try that with the Austrian, German or Swiss police. It will make Arizona's new immigration law seem like a gift to Mexico.
Regarding my first Huffington Post blog, several friends and colleagues suggested I write about some of my finance war stories -- to help the average person understand what investment bankers do. They urged me to begin to write about what I saw and experienced firsthand in the financial markets that may have contributed to the financial crisis -- for example, what were some of the Wall Street honchos doing (or not doing) when the financial system was falling apart. Were these fat cat bankers MIA? AWOL? Negligent? These are a few of the questions that may need to be answered in outstanding lawsuits as well. Also, after watching some of the recent hearings on the financial crisis, many of my friends and I felt frustrated because not one single Wall Street banker claimed to know anything or take any responsibility for anything that happened on his watch.
These banksters even have the audacity to hire lobbyists to fight regulations and any type of consumer finance protection for the U. S. taxpayers who bailed them out. All this nonsense started to make me very angry -- especially because I personally know some of these bankers and also know what some of them were doing (or not doing) when Rome was burning. So I decided I needed to do something instead of just sitting around complaining about how we were getting ripped off by Wall Street. Hence, I threw my two cents into the debate about the economy by writing my first Huffington Post blog article.
I thank all of you for taking the time to read this blog article. I know it was a lengthy one. I also am truly grateful to many of you for taking the time to actually comment on the article. You have no idea how much I learned from reading your comments! Some of these comments were very positive, some were very entertaining, some of them were quite insightful, a few seemed a bit incoherent, and some were just downright brutal! I also see that several of you have signed up to my twitter page. A few of you have even been kind enough to email me and to contact me via facebook. Some of you also asked me to write more blogs on the financial markets. Thank you so much for your feedback.
When writing the first blog article, it was my intent to use a bit of humor and some personal stories to explain technical terms like derivatives, etc. Having been a professor at several academic institutions, I have found this approach to work well with many students.
In retrospect, I think I prefer small academic-type forums for discussing the financial markets and for researching meaningful solutions to our economic problems. This preference is not really conducive to the blog environment. So, I think I won't be doing a lot of blogging in the near future -- but do stay tuned. I will have lots more time to write in the not-too-distant future. For now, I think it's best for me to just stick to solving math, finance and physics problems for students who sign up to our Phat Math social network, writing a book about my experiences in the financial markets, giving lectures on the professional speakers' circuit and working on a variety of consulting projects in the U.S. and Europe.
Thank you so much. I wish you all the best!