Serious Money begins with a brief scene from Thomas Shadwell’s The Volunteers: Or, The Stock Jobbers (pr. 1692), in which the goal of investing is shown to be “turning the penny,” regardless of the project or its legality.
On the floor of LIFFE (the London International Financial Futures Exchange), many traders shout their transactions simultaneously, with increasingly furious energy. After work, traders Scilla and Grimes, and Scilla’s brother Jake, over drinks, agree that the market is so overcrowded that only those as aggressive as themselves will survive.
The narrator, an American banker named Zackerman, who provides continuity between the rapid scene shifts, also realizes that the money-dealing world has become cutthroat. A flashback to Zackerman’s New York employer shows how, in an idle conversation, one executive officer dismisses another. Since there has been deregulation of the exchange in England, Zac (as he is known) observes that such Wall Street scenes will now occur in the City, the trading district of London.
At the country home of Scilla’s father, after Scilla, Zac, and others set off on a hunt, Frosby, an old family friend, embittered about losing his trader job, vows to call the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI, the securities investigative unit) about Jake.
Abruptly, Zac telephones Marylou Baines in New York, telling her that Jake is dead, perhaps through a suicide. In various overlapping telephone calls, Zac, investors Jacinta Condor and Nigel Ajibala, and corporate raider Corman consult on appropriate moves to protect themselves. Zac reports that he went to identify the body with Scilla, who reveals that she thinks Jake was murdered and vows to find the murderer. She begins her investigation with her father, who denies any knowledge of Jake’s doings.
Meanwhile, Zac reports to Corman, who is involved in several takeover attempts, including that of Albion. Two flashback scenes show Corman with his associates planning these takeovers. Corman suggests that Marylou Baines might want to buy Albion shares, too, whereupon Zac notifies Jake.
Subsequently, in New York, Marylou and her assistant discuss buying Albion stock. At Albion, the chairman discusses with his white knight (a rescuer of takeover targets) a public relations strategy to fight off the now-obvious takeover attempt. Needing still more shares, Corman orders Etherington and Zac to use any tactic necessary to get them. Corman telephones Marylou, only to learn that she has sold her Albion stock. Furious, Corman threatens her, but, recognizing that the deal cannot be made without her help, calls her back to apologize. Meantime, Scilla has arrived, unnoticed, and has overheard the conversation, including Corman’s statement that Jake was “one of mine.” Blindly, she accuses Corman of Jake’s...
(The entire section is 1173 words.)