Horcrux

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Myths and legends of the market

The JC’s guide to the foundational mythology of the markets.™

A well-armed credit officer yesterday.[1]

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Horcrux
/hɔːkrʌks/ (n.)

An object in which a warlock, wizard or witch has hidden a fragment of his or her soul in order to later attain immortality. Horcruxes can only be created after committing a supreme act of evil — corporate insolvency, forgetting to register a charge, splitting an infinitive — that kind of thing. Therefore lots were generated in the wake of the global financial crisis, and to this day practitioners of dark arts (eg credit officers) may still invoke them to ward off over-enthusiastic salespeople. A fallow decade passed after the LIBOR horcrux of 2009, but those who thought the age of dark magic was behind us will have been disappointed by 2021, which was a bumper year, spawning two new horcruxes, as we shall see.

Horcruxes in current circulation

In financial services, evil is relative, and we therefore find there to be good horcruxes and bad ones, depending on whether you are of the sell-side or buy-side.

The most famous Horcrux takes the form of an Iron Mountain box stuffed with personal effects and deal bibles. It is the “Lehman”. Since it first emerged in late 2008, the Lehman has been an ever-present weapon in the armoury of those devilish advocates, buy-side legal eagles. Sometimes, for smaller jobs, they might invoke an MF Global. These men and women — buyside counsel, that is — are all of Slytherin:[2] they wield their magical spells in the service of the Dark Lord of the Swaps — yea; he who shall not be named; the very master of the universe himself, against the righteous forces of the First Men, whose heroes one typically finds defending the ramparts of the worshipful company of broker-dealers.

So, for more than a decade, pandaemonium reigned. The dark armies advanced, all but unchecked. They ransacked the shires and, where they encountered any resistance, had only to mention the Lehman horcrux to reduce brave defenders to quivering goose-flesh. Sell-side negotiators were defenceless against such deep magic.

A prophecy is fulfilled

But then a wild-haired prophet[3] came down from the high mountain and stood before the townspeople. “Children of the Forest!” he cried. “I teach you the Superman![4]

“For it is foretold that a new force born of ordinary, mortal, deplorable retail investors, shall rise up out of the swamp to vanquish the Dark Lord of the Swaps. Just remember, you reddit here first!”

The townsfolk laughed and pelted poor Zarathustra with rotten vegetables.

“There they stand,” said he to his heart; “there they laugh: they understand me not; I am not the mouth for these ears.”

But yea, in the year 2021 it came to pass. Of the low-born retail investors emerged a counter-Horcrux of great power: at least as powerful as the Lehman. Advancing buy-sider soldiers were stopped in their tracks; bogged down; beaten off.

“What is this new sorcery?” they cried.

The impasse lasted weeks, opposing forces mired in their trenches; the advancing army stopped but yet no quarter given. For a long winter month they stood, at the point of each other’s spears, unable to advance or retreat. Then, one bright morning, a single, small, brave prime broker clambered out of her trench, stood up and walked calmly into no-man’s land, quite unarmed, waving a white margin lock-up in front of her.

What the hell is she doing?” her comrades cried.

The little negotiator raised the parchment above her head, and tore it into a thousand pieces.

Her comrades quailed. “Someone stop her! This is suicide! They will kill us all!”

And so it seemed they would. As they pulled back the arms of their monstrous trebuchets you could hear the buyside soldiers laugh. “Finish them off, Shorty!” cackled one. “We’ll be having brokers for breakfast in the morning!”

But then the brave little negotiator shrieked at the top of her lungs, “EXPECTO GAMESTOPIBUS!!!” And there, in the sky, a dazzling, luminous, snorting apparition appeared. A great, pearlescent, archer, flinging arrows of burning destruction into the crowded shorts of the buy-side.

“Great Scott! It’s ... Robin Hood!” mouthed the sell-siders, in awe and wonder.

But — and this is true of all archetypical mythologies, readers, so don’t be disheartened — as the timid little sell-side negotiator stood, wide-eyed, the wondrous spell sparkled and crackled in the air, but it did not seem to stop the relentless advance. Eventually it faded away to a dispersing vapour. “Oh — oh dear.” The poor little sell-side negotiator quailed, defenceless out there in front of her ramparts, beyond the safety of her city walls, as, from the darkened forest, monstrous buy-side warriors swaggered towards her.

“Expecto — oh – ahh”

“Expecto what?” snarled the great bearish-man, waving an amulet of smelted vega.

“Um — ah — nothing,” said the little negotiator, in a voice all the more frightful for its frailty.

“Trouble us nae with thy amateur hokey pokey!” The warrior roared. “Yi’ll nae stop the mighty hedgers wi’ a weedy concoction like tha’. Now let’s take that harmless wee lockie and put it back taegither, and we shall pretend this did no’ happen, aye?”

And with that, the ogre scooped up the damp fragments at the negotiator’s feet and, demonstrating a power altogether more terrifying than anything one could do with a broadsword, he waved his great, meaty fingers over the shreds nestling in his palm and they magically knitted themselves back together.

The warrior presented the margin lock-up to the negotiator, tucked it into her collar in the manner of a table napkin and leveled his great, green eyes to peer into hers. “This is yours, I believe. Now, my young friend. What was ye saying about ye standing for nae lockup?”

But where the little sell-sider had been standing was a curlicue of disturbed dust. The hedge-warrior guffawed.

“Come, on Archie,” said he, kicking over the footmarks. “Our work here is done.”

But his comrade — a smaller man, though no less fierce — paused for a moment. There was something in his eyes. Some fear; some forbidden knowledge that, perhaps all was not quite said and done, on this barren combat-ground. That there was more magic, that might intervene in the relations between the hedge-folk and their bankers.

The great bear shook his comrade. “Bill? Bill! Are you awreet man?”

Bill looked around nervously, and knew even then that they would be lucky to see out the night. “Aye, Melvin, aye, tha’ Ah am. Awreet.”

He joined his colleague on the march back to the line of trees, but his velvet cloak, hid trembling hands.

Later that month

The colossal trebuchets imploded. A great wind flattened the buy-side encampments. Sigils burned. The mercenary forces of the Dark Lord scattered to the four corners of the earth.

Back in the village, Zarathustra stood on his rock, observing the smoke on the horizon. He smiled, wistfully.

“One day you will no longer see your loftiness, and your lowliness will be all too clear; your very sublimity will frighten you like a phantom. Then you will cry: ‘the world is a lie!’”

See also

References

  1. Actually this may be an actual undead Lehman employee.
  2. Or, at a pinch, the darker recesses of Ravenclaw: at any rate, there are no Hufflepuffians or Gryffindoran alumni in their throng.
  3. Look, a fellow can dream. okay? About having hair, at any rate.
  4. “Humankind should be overcome. What have you done to overcome it? All creatures hitherto have created something beyond themselves: do you want to be the ebb of this great tide, and return to the animals rather than overcome yourself?” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra