"Sheelah Kolhatkar's Black Edge is a tour de force of ground-breaking reporting and brilliant story telling. It's a revealing inside account of how the Feds track a high profile target -- and, just as importantly, an unsettling portrayal of how Wall Street works today."
-- Jeffrey Toobin, author of American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst
About Black Edge:
The rise of a powerful new class of billionaire financiers over the past two decades marks a singular shift in the American economic and political landscape, culminating in the election of President Donald Trump and the unprecedented wealth of his cabinet members. Their vast reserves of concentrated wealth have allowed a small group of big winners to write their own rules of capitalism and public policy. How did we get here? Through meticulous reporting and powerful storytelling, New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar shows how the ambitious billionaire Steven A. Cohen broke all the bounds to become one of the richest and most influential figures in finance, all while putting himself safely beyond the reach of the law—and what happened when the Justice Department put him in its crosshairs.
The pioneers of the hedge fund industry such as Cohen didn’t lay railroads, build factories, or invent new technologies. Rather, they made their billions through speculation, by placing bets in the market that turned out to be right more often than wrong—and for this, they have gained not only extreme personal wealth but formidable influence throughout society. They are the biggest winners in today’s economy. Hedge funds now manage nearly $3 trillion in assets, and the competition between them is so fierce that traders will do whatever they can to get an edge.
Cohen was one of the industry’s greatest success stories, the person everyone else in the business wanted to be. Born into a middle class family on Long Island, he longed from an early age to be a star on Wall Street. He mastered poker in high school, went off to Wharton, and in 1992 launched the hedge fund SAC Capital, which he built into a $15 billion empire, almost entirely on the basis of his wizard-like stock trading. He cultivated an air of mystery, reclusiveness, and extreme excess, building a 35,000 square foot mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, and amassing one of the largest private art collections in the world. On Wall Street, Cohen was revered as a genius: one of the greatest traders who ever lived.
That image was shattered when SAC Capital became the target of a sprawling, seven-year investigation, led by a determined group of FBI agents, prosecutors, and SEC enforcement attorneys. Labeled by prosecutors as a “magnet for market cheaters” whose culture encouraged the relentless pursuit of “edge”— and even “black edge,” which is inside information—SAC Capital was ultimately indicted and pled guilty to charges of securities and wire fraud in connection with a vast insider trading scheme, even as Cohen himself was never charged.
Drawing on three years of investigative reporting, Black Edge offers a revelatory look at the gray zone in which so much of Wall Street functions, and a window into the transformation of the U.S. economy into a system that rewards financial speculation above almost everything else. It’s a riveting, true-life legal thriller that takes readers inside the government’s pursuit of Cohen and his employees, and raises urgent questions about the power and wealth of those who sit at the pinnacle of modern Wall Street.
"Fast-paced and filled with twists, Black Edge has the grip of a thriller. It is also an essential exposé of our times—a work that reveals the deep rot in our financial system. Everyone should read this book."
— David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Lost City of Z
"Black Edge is not just a work of major importance, it is also addictively readable, and horrifyingly compelling. Kolhatkar pulls back the curtain on the cheating, corruption, and skulduggery that underlies large swaths of the hedge fund industry—and some of Wall Street’s most fabled fortunes. Readers will find it as hard to put down as it is to stomach."
— Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
"Black Edge is a real-life thriller about the government's attempt to get the legendary trader Steve Cohen on insider trading charges – and the lengths he goes to elude them. Using deep reporting and top-notch storytelling, Sheelah Kolhatkar is able to shed new light on one of the least known and most fascinating characters on Wall Street."
— Bethany McLean, co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All The Devils Are Here
About the Author
Sheelah Kolhatkar, a former hedge fund analyst, is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she covers Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and politics among other things. Her writing has also appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and other publications. She lives in New York City.