Brokerage Days: My Years At Dewey, Cheatam, and Howe

“This is a brokerage firm, there is no code of ethics,” I said to my sister many years ago when I was a stock and bond broker. She had phoned me to get a copy of our code of ethics because she was working for a not-for-profit think tank where people thought about ethics. Hilariously, it was in Washington, DC.

I spent five years as a stock and bond broker when I was a younger man. Many unusual things went on. With your indulgence, I will recount some tales from my years in the “stock and bondage” business as we often called it. The firm I worked for is still a going concern so I have given it the fictitious name of Dewey, Cheatam and Howe, a venerable joke on Wall Street. If you can’t figure out what it means then pronounce it slowly.

Many people blog about Wall Street and the financial world. Most of them don’t know what they are talking about. But don’t worry, this isn’t going to become a financial blog. That would be boring for me and you. This is a peek behind the scenes at the retail brokerage business. It will confirm your deepest suspicions. Why? There is an old saying on Wall Street: “the firm made money, the broker made money, two out of three isn’t bad.”

Although things had changed quite a bit by the time I became a stockbroker in 1983, it isn’t a glamorous job. Brokers in a saloon with spittoons in the background will give you a good idea of the dignity of this profession then and now. Stock Brokers Reading the Ticker, c. 1899.

[Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Photography Institute.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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