Beware the Broker Joker and the other felons of Wall Street...

Top 6 and a Half Stock Market Villains

April 24 by Cristóbal Crespo

They pillage, they plunder and they leave a trail of economic destruction in their wake. They’re basically pirates with pinstripe suits. Here are some of the finance world’s most notorious baddies of all time:

1. Bernie Madoff
Harry Potter, move over. The disgraced broker and fraudster also happens to be the best wizard of all time – because he made $50 billion of his clients’ money vanish into thin air. For years, he ran an elaborate pyramid scheme in the guise of an investment company. His own sons turned him in after they found out and he’s currently now serving a 150-year prison sentence. (Let’s hope they have cable in jail so Madoff can watch Robert De Niro play him in The Wizard of Lies.)

2. Jordan Belfort
The real-life “Wolf of Wall Street” went from peddling steaks in his early twenties to fleecing gullible investors through his trading firm, Stratton Oakmont. This was how Belfort and his brat-pack brokers ran their racket: They’d aggressively push dodgy stocks onto investors using exaggerated claims and outright lies. Once the share prices went up thanks to the new demand, they’d then sell their own holdings in the stocks for a massive profit.

As we all learnt from the movie, Belfort led a rock-and-roll lifestyle filled with drugs, sex and dwarf-tossing – before the law finally caught up with him. After serving time for swindling investors, Belfort became a ‘reformed’ motivational speaker. Though charging up to $80,000 for a talk sounds criminal, if you ask me…

3. Angelo Mozilo
A perma-tanned butcher’s son from the Bronx, Mozilo co-founded and built Countrywide into the biggest mortgage lender in America. The problem? It was so lax with lending standards that even your grandmother’s pet Pomeranian would have been able to get a housing loan. Mozilo even acknowledged this in company emails that would later show his deceit.

Just before Countrywide faced bankruptcy and its stock got hammered, Mozilo had sold $140 million of his own shares in the company. Together with Lehman Brothers, he’s often seen as one of the arch-villains of the subprime scandal that led to the 2008 global financial crisis.

Pretty much sums up the U.S. housing market in 2008

4. Nick Leeson
Like the villainous Magneto, Leeson had the ability to move things to cause large-scale destruction. The original rogue trader is responsible for single-handedly bringing down Britain’s oldest bank, Barings, leaving it with over $1 billion in losses.

He had been covering up losses from bad trades in a secret account and attempted to recoup the money through increasingly risky, unauthorised trades. But it was a natural disaster that finally did him in. In 1995, the Kobe earthquake hit Japan, along with its Nikkei index – which Leeson had bet everything on. He left a “I’m sorry” note at work before going on the run. He was eventually caught and jailed, while Barings was sold for the princely sum of £1.

“Do you think this ‘sorry cat’ GIF adequately expresses my regret at losing over $1 billion and bankrupting my company?”

5. George Soros
Billionaire investor Soros has amassed a fortune by singling in on currencies he sees as vulnerable and making big bets against them. At times, this has even brought whole economies to their knees.

His claim to infamy is “breaking” the pound in 1992. He had shrewdly seen that the sterling was overpriced against the German deutsche mark and decided to short it (which basically means his profits went up as the value of the currency went down). The Bank of England frantically tried to intervene as things unraveled, while Soros pocketed over $1 billion. This episode became known as Black Wednesday – and you can call Soros the Grim Reaper of currencies…

 “Oh, Donald, you think the US dollar is too strong? Perhaps I could help with that…”

6. Bob Diamond
Just like how Mafia gangs cooperate with one another from time to time, Barclays’ then-don Bob Diamond plotted with peers at other big banks to rig the Libor. Even though Libor sounds like an impotency drug, it’s actually an important interest rate in global finance, upon which trillions of dollars in contracts are based. When Barclays was exposed, it got slapped with a record fine and Diamond stepped down. Though he wasn’t the main perpetrator, he became a damning poster boy for banks gone bad.

6 ½. Gordon Gekko
Alright, so this is a fictional character played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 movie, Wall Street. But he still deserves a spot on this list for becoming an enduring symbol of everything that’s wrong with Wall Street. A corporate raider, Gekko buys companies to strip them – selling assets and cutting jobs – for profit. He is eventually sent to the slammer for insider trading. His mantra? “Greed is good.”

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