The Big Short

by

Michael Lewis

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Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai Character Analysis

Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai are the co-founders of the “garage band” hedge fund Cornwall Capital, which grows from $110,000 in a shed to over a hundred million after the crash. Jamie’s neighbor in Berkeley is Ben Hockett, who becomes their mentor and helps them navigate the challenges of the financial world. Charlie and Jamie struggle to get their comparatively small firm noticed by the big dogs of Wall Street, but with Ben’s help, they’re able to secure an ISDA (a license that lets them make big deals, including millions in dollars of credit default swaps). Though Charlie and Jamie act independently from Eisman’s team and Mike Burry, their story follows a similar trajectory, with Charlie gathering intel about the housing markets at the very same Vegas convention where Eisman meets Wing Chau. The unique part about Charlie and Jamie’s investing philosophy is that they build their company through “event-driven” investing, where they try to identify long-shot bets that have good potential for a massive payoff, often by taking a more pessimistic view than other people in the market. Charlie and Jamie are often on the verge of getting in over their heads—when the markets crash, they are in danger of going down with Bear Stearns—but thanks in part to Ben’s guiding influence, they ultimately end up turning a huge profit. Like many other people profiled in the book, Charlie and Jamie are uneasy with the circumstances that caused their success, with Charlie suffering migraines as he sees the full devastation of what’s happening to other people during the financial crisis.

Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai Quotes in The Big Short

The The Big Short quotes below are all either spoken by Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai or refer to Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai . 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.
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:
Chapter 10 Quotes

But the biggest lag of all was right here, on the streets. How long would it take before the people walking back and forth in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral figured out what had just happened to them?

Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Big Short PDF

Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai Character Timeline in The Big Short

The timeline below shows where the character Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai 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
In 2003, Jamie Mai and Charlie Ledley are two 30-year-old men from Berkeley, California who form a company... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Jamie and Charlie decide to look for inefficiencies in the market and they come across the... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Jamie and Charlie research Capital One. They decide to buy options on the stock, meaning they... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
Jamie and Charlie use the same technique to make money with lots of other companies and... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
Despite multiple attempts to contact Ace Greenberg, the most Jamie and Charlie ever get is a 30-second meeting with him before being led out. As... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Pessimism vs. Optimism Theme Icon
...quit his job, but the company kept him on by allowing him to work remotely. Jamie and Charlie keep asking Ben questions about Wall Street before finally convincing him to quit... (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 little... (full context)
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Needless Complexity Theme Icon
...uses his industry connections. The ISDA is tilted heavily in Deutsche Bank’s favor, but Ben, Charlie, and Jamie are excited about being able to buy credit default swaps from Greg Lippmann—even... (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 terminology... (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 system... (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 bigshot... (full context)
Chapter 6
Outsiders vs. Conformists  Theme Icon
Wall Street’s Culture of Overconfidence Theme Icon
The Problems with Capitalism  Theme Icon
Meanwhile, at a Las Vegas shooting range called The Gun Store, Charlie is the first to arrive for the Bear Stearns event. It later becomes clear to... (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
The next morning, Ben and Charlie walk around in The Venetian, the hotel where the event is being held. They try... (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... (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
...are theoretically going long on the bonds, they are hesitant to sell more short positions. Charlie thinks the big firms might be slowly becoming aware of the impending disaster. (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
...to 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... (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
...coming and 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... (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
...wonder where they should put all the money they’ve made in order to preserve it. Charlie starts getting migraines. (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
On September 18, 2008, even the pessimistic Charlie Ledley is surprised. The losses that major Wall Street firms are reporting are way beyond... (full context)