In Which the Narrator Tiptoes into the World of the Mysterious Mina Meinl
Even now it gives me chills to think of that moment when I heard the name for the first time. The way the words sounded, coming through those teeth. It was a name at the heart of the strangest experience of my life. And yet it sounded so foreign to me—I, who was then so innocent—that I initially thought it was the name of a corporate entity. Mina-Meinl. A company that made industrial machinery, perhaps. An investment vehicle that shipped grain out of the Ukraine. Not a person. Not a woman. Not someone I would ever, ever meet.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Not a what but a who,” Linn explained. “An investor of some kind.”
She explained what was known. During the exam, the accountants had discovered that this woman, Mina Meinl, had been offered co-invest opportunities on all the investments for all of the funds.
I was familiar with the concept of co-invest. Fortinbras Capital Management spent a ton of money looking for good investments—a hotel chain in Abu Dhabi, say, or an office park in Kuala Lumpur, or a string of mines in South Africa. After the Fortinbras funds had invested as much as they wanted, Fortinbras would open up investment to other investors as well.
Sometimes these opportunities were used as favors—a sweetener to get a prospective investor into one of the large funds. All this was fully disclosed, of course, and consistent with their fiduciary obligations. Nevertheless the SEC examined co-invest carefully. The first thing the SEC staff looked for was people who had gotten more than their fair share. According to Linn, the odd thing about Mina Meinl was not how much she got but how little.
“Five million in co-invest blends in,” she said. “Fifty thousand stands out.”
“Who is she?”
“How did this happen?”
My internal investigation antennae were twitching. I specialized in this! I casually said that it sounded like they could use my services.
“Maybe I should call Darrin?” I suggested, referring to the general counsel of Fortinbras.
Linn shook her head. “No need. They decided it’s not material. The SEC didn’t notice it, and the next exam won’t be for a couple of years.”
“Aren’t they trying to figure it out?”
Linn said she didn’t know. She suspected that Darrin had other problems to deal with.
“Mina Meinl,” I said. Saying the name out loud gave me goosebumps.
“The great mystery,” Linn said.
We had to talk about recruiting. I made a few general remarks about process and goals, and she nodded as she checked the messages on her phone, but in fact my mind was just as preoccupied as hers.
A lot had changed. I had a new set of responsibilities, giving me a sense of purpose. We would be hiring a lot of new people, which was a large commitment of resources. And for the people we’d be hiring, it would be life-changing. It was important to make sure the new hires fit in our culture and wanted to do what we had in mind for them. The entire firm depended on its people, and I would be a major contributing factor to the future of the firm.
Looking back, I can see that something else was already growing in me. A seed had been planted and had already taken root. Soon it would sprawl across my mind like fast-growing kudzu, dominating all other foliage with its tangled, smothering vines.
Mina Meinl. The great mystery indeed.
Next: In Which the Narrator Begins to Realize His Deputy Could Destroy His Life-Changing Plans