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The debauchery of high finance

Cocaine and clubbing in Industry

The BBC’s Industry, which returned to our screens this week, depicts the “debauched lives of London bankers” in all their grotesque glory, says Geraint Anderson in the I newspaper. As someone who used to work in that world, I’m pleased to confirm that all the cliches are true: we “spent most of our money on champagne, strippers and cocaine, and we foolishly wasted the rest”.

On one hedonistic trip to Las Vegas, I tried to euphemistically ask our chauffeur about securing some cocaine. He kept demanding clarification, so I finally blurted out: “Look, I need some cocaine, alright?” He turned around with a smile. “Why didn’t you just say?” he replied, handing over an eighth of an ounce. On the same jolly, two of my hedge fund clients were robbed by sex workers. They had to buy exact replicas of their Rolexes to avoid explaining their loss “to their poor wives back home”.

Perhaps the “most despicable” example of banking excess I ever witnessed was a “champagne-off”. It was at some appalling club in London, and two tables of rival financiers kept buying bigger bottles of champagne to compete with the other. This began with a Jeroboam (“a mere three litres of champers and no more than £800”) and worked its way up to a Nebuchadnezzar (15 litres, £6,000). At which point, the music stopped and the bottle was wheeled out by four “slaves” to the tune of The Imperial March from Star Wars. “I will take that scene to my deathbed.”