Lawyers for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission argued Popper was the architect of a program that misled people into pouring their life savings in investments that collapsed with the home market. In all, 1,000 people lost more than $100 million.
Cliff Popper was the human embodiment of everything that was wrong and extreme about the credit bubble era.
He was one of the most successful salesmen of subprime mortgage bond products to the retail investor channel. The Florida-based Popper was putting away a massive amount of toxic paper into the accounts of his retail brokerage clients. He was also flying around the county and teaching other brokers at Brookstreet Securities to do the same. I knew the scumbags at Brookstreet’s Long Island branch; subprime became the new schlock IPO, the latest and greatest method to make promises to customers that were indeed too good to be true.
But the music was playing and everyone was dancing – brokerage firms, brokers, clients etc.
You know the rest…
The bubble burst and all the mortgage products that the retail clients had been sold were blown to pieces. Brookstreet was one of the first Wall Street firms to fold from the crash, leaving it’s brokers homeless, it’s investors broke and it’s husband and wife founder-owners completely in shock. Popper had built and destroyed the joint in a manner of less than two years (he had worked at 18 firms during the course of his 25 year career).
Popper was the quintessential broker – when things were good he was riding high, partying in a luxury box at SunLife Stadium and flying in California porn stars to have sex with for a weekend. And when things went against him, he denied that any of it was his fault (the same “hundred years’ storm excuse that Cayne and Fuld pulled).
And now he has killed himself.
The Miami Herald has the full story, I recommend reading it and remembering the best line from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: “You’re on a roll, kid. Enjoy it ’cause it never lasts.”
Equally fascinating is the story of how Stan Brooks started his firm in 1990 with $16,000, watched it soar to the top of the independent broker-dealer ranks only to then have it implode in a flash. Read that story below: