Money, power and greed: have I got a deal for you

Bill Regardie Founder, Regardie's Magazine
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The stock market stinks and insured savings accounts pay zilch. US Treasury securities are safe, but you’d starve if you had to live off the interest. So what’s a guy to do?

With rates so low, it’s not surprising that the sleaze balls have slithered back into the financial markets. Known as boiler room operators, they’ve polished their game and tightened their spiel.

Think of them as the sons of Bernie Madoff, armed with the newest technologies of today. They’ve got high-speed computers, wire transfers and offices in Venezuela to escape the SEC.

But, as a wise man once said, just because they’re sleaze balls doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I ran into one of them recently in the Washington Palm. He told me he’d been hit by the recession too—he used to order six-pound lobsters, but with money tight, he can only afford four-pounders.

He agreed to let me behind the door and run his “script” with him. To protect his reputation, and his life, let’s just call him Rocky “White Shoes” Rockefeller. Trust me, you’d never know from first glance what he’s up to.

Rocky would be the shark and I’d be the mark. He pantomimed picking up the phone.

“Is this William Regardie?” he said in a panting, almost desperate voice.

“Yes it is.”

“Thank God I reached you. I’m Rocky Rockefeller with the Rapture Investment Group. Bob Levy said I had to call you and I almost forgot. I was about to leave for the day. Do you have a moment?”

Everyone who’d lunch at the D.C. Palm knows Levy. That’s his in.

“I’ll make it short. Would you have any interest in some guaranteed 7.35%, 50-year Virginia offshore oil and gas bonds that are 92% federal tax deferred? I know, it sounds too good to be true when the best you can make is 2% at your bank. But Levy is in.”

Then came the killer pause. As any great salesman knows, the next person who talks loses.

I lost.

“What do you mean, guaranteed?”

“First, as you know, Virginia is one of the few states that is going ahead with offshore drilling. They’re awarding the first fields next year.

“Second, the drill operators, First Texas-Virginia Big Oil, has a 22-year history with 78% success rate.

“Third, our lawyers are Bean & Bean of New York, whose senior partner is the former US Senator.

“Finally, it’s only a $50 million offering and $48.8 million has been sold since the offering was released yesterday. The rest will be gone by tomorrow at noon—it’s going in $200,000 increments.

Rocky paused again. And won again.

“Give me a minute to think about this,” I said.

“Take your time,” he responded, cooler than Steve McQueen. “I’m just filling in some papers.”

“I’ve got some questions.”

And right there, he had me. That’s when the real Rocky cut the script.

“See Regardie, that’s where you’re hooked. You could hang up. But greed overtakes you like one of those housing investors of the last decade who had to have one more home in West Palm or Vegas. You ask yourself, where else am I going to make 7%-plus on my money?

“It works because it doesn’t sound outrageous. It’s not like I’m promising 18%. Remember, Madoff ran so long because his returns were steady. The guy was never flashy.”

“So what’s next?” I asked.

“Once the hook is set, I promise to overnight all the documents. I don’t pounce yet. I indicate all the places to sign on the paperwork with the red flags. They get returned in the enclosed overnight envelope.

“The catch is, at that point I need a 25% deposit via bank wire. If that comes through, I know it’s only a matter of time until I get the rest.”

“Wow, that’s good, I respond. Then what do you do?”

“I celebrate. Why do you think I’m eating this lobster?”

Bill Regardie was the founder and publisher of Regardie’s Magazine.