The Big Short

by

Michael Lewis

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Ben Hockett is a former trader at Deutsche Bank who works closely with Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai (of Cornwall Capital) to navigate the financial world from an outsider’s perspective and short the subprime mortgage market. Though what Hockett and his partners do is similar to what Steve Eisman’s crew does and what Mike Burry does, Hockett takes it a step further: instead of betting against the worst tranches of bonds, they bet against double-A bonds, which are supposedly safer, but which are in fact built on the same crappy foundation as lower-rated tranches. This move ultimately ends up being very profitable. Like many of his peers, Hockett is a pessimist. He takes things a step further by also being a doomsday prepper, at one point moving his whole family to a remote farm with enough vegetables on it to survive an apocalypse. Despite wanting to live outside normal society, Ben is actually more connected to Wall Street than anyone else in Cornwall Capital, and he is essential in helping them to get an ISDA (a “hunting license” that allows them to be taken seriously and make big trades). He is also calm under pressure and stops the company from losing money when Bear Stearns collapses—all while working remotely from a pub in England. His pessimistic worldview is proven right in the end, although, unlike Eisman, he doesn’t take as much joy in proving others wrong and is mostly concerned with looking out for himself and his family.

Ben Hockett Quotes in The Big Short

The The Big Short quotes below are all either spoken by Ben Hockett or refer to Ben Hockett . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W.W. Norton edition of The Big Short published in 2010.
Prologue Quotes

The willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grown-ups remains a mystery to me to this day.

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), John Gutfreund , Steve Eisman, Ben Hockett
Page Number: xiii
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Every new business is inherently implausible, but Jamie Mai and Charlie Ledley’s idea, in early 2003, for a money management firm bordered on the absurd: a pair of thirty-year-old men with a Schwab account containing $110,000 occupy a shed in the back of a friend’s house in Berkeley, California, and dub themselves Cornwall Capital Management. Neither of them had any reason to believe he had any talent for investing. Both had worked briefly for the New York private equity firm Golub Associates as grunts chained to their desks, but neither had made actual investment decisions.

Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

The trouble, as ever, was finding Wall Street firms willing to deal with them. Their one source of supply, Bear Stearns, suddenly seemed more interested in shooting than in trading with them. Every other firm treated them as a joke. Cornhole Capital. But here, in Las Vegas, luck found them.

Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Charlie Ledley and Ben Hockett returned from Las Vegas on January 30, 2007, convinced that the entire financial system had lost its mind. “I said to my mother, ‘I think we might be facing something like the end of democratic capitalism,’ She just said, ‘Oh, Charlie,’ and seriously suggested I go on lithium.”

Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

It made no sense: The subprime CDO market was ticking along as it had before, and yet the big Wall Street firms suddenly had no use for the investors who had been supplying the machine with raw material—the investors who wanted to buy credit default swaps. “Ostensibly other people were going long, but we were not allowed to go short,” said Charlie.

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai (speaker), Ben Hockett
Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ben Hockett Character Timeline in The Big Short

The timeline below shows where the character Ben Hockett appears in The Big Short. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
...a “second-class citizen” on Wall Street. They seek help from Jamie’s new neighbor in Berkeley, Ben Hockett. (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Ben Hockett is a Deutsche Bank employee who tried to quit his job, but the company... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Ben, Jamie, and Charlie begin trading in such a way that they have a lot of... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
Even with $30 million in capital, Cornwall has a hard time getting an ISDA. Eventually, Ben is able to get them one with Deutsche bank, which usually requires $2 billion in... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
Ben, Charlie, and Jamie research the bond market and conclude that it uses so much confusing... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
The more Ben, Charlie, and Jamie look into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), the more they think the whole... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Wall Street’s Culture of Overconfidence Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
Ben, Charlie, and Jamie hear about a major conference in Las Vegas that will draw every... (full context)
Chapter 6
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Wall Street’s Culture of Overconfidence Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
The next morning, Ben and Charlie walk around in The Venetian, the hotel where the event is being held.... (full context)
Chapter 7
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Charlie and Ben get back from Las Vegas in early 2007 and are convinced that the whole financial... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Wall Street’s Culture of Overconfidence Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
...fall rapidly by early June, but surprisingly, it doesn’t lead to a collapse yet. Charlie, Ben, and Jamie suspect that Wall Street is artificially propping up the prices of CDOs so... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Wall Street’s Culture of Overconfidence Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, announces in July 2007 that the losses from... (full context)
Chapter 8
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Wall Street’s Culture of Overconfidence Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
...made a profit: it includes Greg Lippmann, but it leaves out Eisman, Danny, Charlie, Jamie, Ben, and Vinny, as well as Burry. Burry is frustrated that his investors don’t acknowledge his... (full context)
Chapter 9
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
Ben, currently living in England, is put in charge of reducing Cornwall’s exposure if Bear Stearns... (full context)
Chapter 10
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Wall Street’s Culture of Overconfidence Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
...is also successful, increasing its capital fourfold, but they too have trouble enjoying the victory. Ben and the others wonder where they should put all the money they’ve made in order... (full context)