Jason Stafford, the hero of Michael Sears debut novel Black Fridays, is a Wall Street trader done wrong. After an accidentally mismarked trading ticket provides a boost to Stafford’s daily P&L, he makes a habit of concealing losses by outdating trades. Three years and half a billion dollars of hidden losses later, Stafford runs afoul of compliance officers and government regulators, and winds up in jail.
That’s all prologue: Upon his release from prison, Stafford finds himself in need of work and largely a pariah in the securities industry. With a young autistic son to support, he takes a consulting job at fictional Weld Securities, delving into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of a young trader.
For Mr. Sears, novel-writing is a third career. The Bellport, Long Island native, studied literature and theater at the University of Maryland, then embarked on a career off-Broadway, supporting himself by bartending and with a series of bit roles in soap operas such as All My Children, Guiding Light and One Life to Live.
He got to know some financiers—”I thought they’re smart people, but they’re not scary smart,” he told The Observer over salads at Broadways haunt Joe Allen on a recent afternoon—and, frustrated with his acting career, enrolled in Columbia Business School in the early-1980s. He got his start on Wall Street at Lasser Marshall, and after a stint at Chase, went to work at Paine Webber, where he stayed through the firm’s acquisition by UBS in 2000. After a couple of years working on private investments, Mr. Sears joined a new group at Jefferies & Co., before retiring from Wall Street for good. Read More