"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 —
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NEW YORK TIMES CRITICS' TOP BOOK OF 2017 • NEW YORK TIMES BUSINESS BESTSELLER • FT & MCKINSEY BUSINESS BOOK OF THE YEAR LONGLIST • CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE LONGLIST • NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY BERNSTEIN AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM FINALIST FOR 2018 • AMAZON TOP 5 BUSINESS BOOK OF 2017
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.
— Praise for Black Edge —
"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
“If Black Edge weren’t about real life, it would be an uncomplicated pleasure to read. The book is many things: a Wall Street primer; a procedural drama; a modern version of Moby-Dick, with wiretaps rather than harpoons. Kolhatkar, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a former hedge fund analyst, expertly synthesizes an enormous amount of material, including court documents and hundreds of her own interviews.”
— Jennifer Senior, New York Times
“A lot of people do not trust Wall Street. They regard it as a moneymaking machine for those who work there, which has little interest in practice in its stated aim of channeling capital into businesses and helping them to grow for the broader benefit of society. For such skeptics, Steven Cohen is Exhibit A.”
— John Gapper, Financial Times
“Mr. Cohen’s strange ascent to the pinnacle of American society, and the efforts of regulators to jail him for insider dealing, are the subject of Sheelah Kolhatkar’s excellent new book, Black Edge. Earlier books on Wall Street, such as Barbarians at the Gate and Liar’s Poker, describe the macho era of junk bonds and leveraged buy-outs in the 1980s. Too Big to Fail, which came out in 2009, recounts the bail-out of those banks. Black Edge tackles the rise of speculative hedge funds over the past two decades, of which SAC was, for a while, perhaps the most powerful.
— The Economist
“Ms. Kolhatkar, a staff writer for the New Yorker, has interviewed more than 200 people and mobilized countless new details to craft her propulsive narrative. She takes the reader into one of the most complex fraud investigations in history—the most important since the Michael Milken-Ivan Boesky saga of the 1980s, which James B. Stewart chronicled in Den of Thieves (1991)—to show how contemporary Wall Street tries to outwit the FBI and the SEC by exploiting an ambiguous area of law.”
— David McClintick, Wall Street Journal
“It’s a story of a hedge fund managers spreading cash around to get information and government investigators running wiretaps and leaning on traders to help them crack down on what they suspect is widespread cheating in the financial sector. And it’s a story of inequality in financial markets and the economy and what that means for the country.”
— Dave Davies, NPR (Fresh Air)
“Kolhatkar tells the story of billionaire trader Steven A. Cohen, who in the 1970s pioneered a new kind of hedge fund, primarily by accumulating huge amounts of suspect information. His rise and fall provides insight into the transformation of Wall Street, and the U.S. economy.”
— Leonard Lopate, WNYC
“Black Edge is the dirty stuff — the stuff you aren’t supposed to know, where the serious money gets made and you end up in jail if you get caught trading on it. It is also the name of a brilliant book about Steve Cohen, the hedge-fund king who turned $7000 into a personal fortune of $13 billion.”
— Simon English, Evening Standard
“Black Edge is a richly reported, entertaining tale about the cat-and-mouse game between the government and Cohen — much of which played out in the news media — for the greater part of the last decade, if not longer. Black Edge, which at times reads like a thriller, is a fascinating look at Cohen, whom Kolhatkar portrays as an obsessive and ruthless investor.”
— Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times
“If you liked James B. Stewart’s Den of Thieves, Sheelah Kolhatkar’s thrilling Black Edge should be next on your reading list.”
— Wall Street Journal, “20 books to read this week”
“Steven Cohen is a litmus test of people's views about finance and its role in society. Is the billionaire hedge-fund manager a supremely gifted trader or a pathological rule-breaker? Is he a self-made man or an avatar of the ultra-wealthy? Is he an art connoisseur or a crass arriviste? All these traits are on display in Black Edge, Sheelah Kolhatkar's riveting account of the U.S. government's decade-long failed attempt to bring Cohen down for insider trading. ... There are few financial-industry struggles as titanic as the one portrayed in these pages.”
— Tom Buerkle, Reuters BreakingViews
"Ruthless determination and a will to dominate are the traits that emerge in her portrait of Cohen. ... Kolhatkar paints him as a Shakespearean tragic figure."
— Josh Glancy, The Times
A "chilling account of a blighted industry [that] is as mesmerizing as a human story as it is as a financial one."
— Fortune, "9 Best New Business Books"
“Well-written and well-reported, chock-a-block with ‘you-are-there’ moments.”
— Joe Nocera, Bloomberg
“One of the best corporate crime books of the year."
— Corporate Crime Reporter
“Black Edge is one of the best books about the 2008 financial meltdown.”
— Richard Poplak, The Globe and Mail
"An utterly absorbing look at how Cohen pushed his traders to the limit—that 'black edge'—and how he mostly insulated himself from the potential ramifications. This fast-paced, true-life thriller will leave readers enraptured—and troubled."
“If you like ‘Billions,’ this read's all about the real-life hedge fund billionaire that the show is based on. And the shady ways he made a LOT of money. It's a page-turner that'll teach you quite a bit about the finance world.”
— The Skimm
"A prodigious feat of reporting."
— Malcolm Gladwell
"Congratulations on your great book. I stayed up all night reading it!"
— Martin Shkreli