The escort indicator: Wall Street is booming again

The economics of prostitution
The economics of prostitution   

When speaking about escorts, Charlie Sheen once said, "I don't pay them for sex, I pay them to leave." And, like Sheen, a lot of Wall Street guys don't need to pay for sex either, but they'd rather.

"When I'm looking for a wife, I don't call an escort; so, when I'm looking for sex, I don't call a civilian," Jay, a senior sales trader, told me.

So, why do some Wall Street guys love calling hookers? There are four basic reasons: 1) quality, 2) confidentiality 3) ease and 4) They can let their freak flags fly.

"You can do things you'd never ask your girlfriend to do," Jay added. "A lot of the younger guys on my desk like to boast they don't have to pay for sex. But they don't get it. It's like a business deal. And both parties are happy."

Prostitution
Steve Reed | Stone | Getty Images

"Chelsea" moved to Manhattan 10 years ago from Canada specifically to be an escort. She's about to celebrate her 30th birthday. "After I was done with school, this was my plan. And I'll do it until I'm done doing it." She charges $1,000 an hour for her services and has a lot of interaction with traders.

"It's the market here in New York so that's what you're dealing with — Wall Street guys," Chelsea said. "They've got money and they want sex."

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When Chelsea moved to the city, the stock market was rising — but not all of her customers were. "I worked for an agency back then. Most of the calls were from coked-up traders. They couldn't get it up half the time, so I'd just sit there naked and do blow with them. It wasn't hard …" she laughed. Chelsea eventually got tired of giving part of her earnings to the agency and now works independently.

At her rate, Chelsea only works about five times a week and brings in over $200,000 a year. By contrast, other escorts charge just $400 an hour, focusing instead on a high-volume business.

"It's all about building a client base," Chelsea said. "I really don't have to market myself anymore."

During the financial collapse, things got a little slow for Chelsea and her friends, but since then, profits have been booming again. The markets have an indirect effect on the escort industry.

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"Business has been good," Chelsea said. "I can tell you firsthand that bonus season was great this year. Sometimes my guys like to talk about their jobs and stuff. They all got paid this January and February and then spent their money."

I spoke with a couple of Chelsea's friends who are also escorts and they all agreed. "The job description is part escort and part therapist," "Sierra" said. "So it's just good to know what's going on with the markets." Sierra is Chelsea's friend and business partner. Sometimes they go out on calls together.

During my 15 years working on Wall Street, I saw my share of people partaking in this service. I wouldn't say it was commonplace, but it definitely wasn't uncommon place either. I copped to some of this behavior in my book. And, I can say it's a lot easier to make a call to an escort service with a wad of cash in one pocket and a bag of blow in the other.

"Finance guys are my best and worst customers," Chelsea continued. "When I get a new client, it's 50/50 on whether or not he works on Wall Street. The younger guys want you to be there 15 minutes ago and usually just want to party. They're super aggressive and terrible in bed." Chelsea also said that some of her older clientele from Wall Street are very respectful and she works twice as hard for them. "It's all about making a connection with them."

"Most of them are Type A — big egos," Chelsea said of her Wall Street clients. "But when I get them naked, they're just as vulnerable as the rest of the guys."

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Chelsea doesn't take financial advice from clients but says she already has a few hundred thousand dollars saved up in some mutual funds for retirement.

"Some of them talk about their jobs and the markets," she said. "They very often open up and talk about real stuff like their kids or wives. Or what drama they're dealing with at work. I just listen."

I also spoke with "Holly," an escort from Vancouver who flies into New York City for her clientele. "I'm here every couple of months," she said. She and I decided to meet for a quick dinner before one of her appointments when she was in town. "I've got a retirement date — it's November of this year." She'll be 29 and has over $100,000 saved. After we ordered an appetizer I asked her about working with Wall Street guys. "I see them occasionally, but they're no better or worse than anyone else."

Holly charges $1,000 an hour with a two-hour minimum for her services and spends countless hours flying from city to city. "Last time I was in town, a Wall Street guy canceled on me last minute and then next morning he showed up and paid me anyway."

Among the several women I spoke with, it seems, escorts and Wall Street have a love / hate relationship. They do love the fact that their phone continues to ring, but sometimes hate the person on the other end of the call. While I realize it's impossible to debate the morality of this topic one way or the other without factoring in all of the other harm that might occur from this industry, it's really just like the stock market. It's all about supply and demand.

Commentary by Turney Duff, a former trader at the hedge fund Galleon Group. Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, "The Buy Side," and is currently working on his second book, a Wall Street novel. He is also featured on the CNBC show, "The Filthy Rich Guide." Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.

Note: Names of the women quoted in this article have been changed to protect their identities.

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