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Ruse

Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street

Ruse Buy Now
Format Paperback Ebook Audiobook
ISBN 978-1-58642-316-2 978-1-58642-317-9 978-1-58642-330-8
Published Feb 22, 2022
Imprint Steerforth Press
Category Biography & Memoir

“Kerbeck’s juicy memoir tells riveting tales [with] the thrill of a spy novel. . . Kerbeck bares all of his wild business secrets within the world of corporate espionage” —Foreword Reviews

“Robert Kerbeck has mastered the art of social engineering, or what he calls ‘rusing’, and taken it to a whole new level.” —Frank Abagnale, author of Catch Me If You Can

B-list actor, A-list corporate spy

In the world of high finance, multibillion-dollar Wall Street banks greedily guard their secrets. Enter Robert Kerbeck, a working actor who made his real money lying on the phone, charming people into revealing their employers’ most valuable information. In this exhilarating memoir that will appeal to fans of The Wolf of Wall Street and Catch Me If You Can, unsuspecting receptionists, assistants, and bigshot executives all fall victim to “the Ruse.”

After college, Kerbeck rushed to New York to try to make it as an actor. But to support himself, he’d need a survival job, and before he knew it, while his pals were waiting tables, he began his apprenticeship as a corporate spy.

As his acting career started to take off, he found himself hobnobbing with Hollywood luminaries: drinking with Paul Newman, taking J.Lo to a Dodgers game, touring E.R. sets with George Clooney. He even worked with O.J. Simpson the week before he became America’s most notorious double murderer.

Before long, however, his once promising acting career slowed while the corporate espionage business took off. The ruse job was supposed to have been temporary, but Kerbeck became one of the world’s best practitioners of this deceptive—and illegal—trade. His income jumped from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year.

Until the inevitable crash…

Kerbeck shares the lies he told, the celebrities he screwed (and those who screwed him), the cons he ran, and the money he made—and lost—along the way.

Praise

Robert Kerbeck flopped as an actor. But, as a corporate spy, he gave Oscar-worthy performances.”

--Michael Kaplan, New York Post

A story almost too good to be true with no shortage of wild stories, Kerbeck winds every detail into an engaging, entertaining memoir.

--Shondaland

The book is gripping as it chronicles Kerbeck’s disdain for working at his family’s car business, his quiet acting career, and his descent into his moves against big businesses. The details of his sleuthing work are meticulous, but the book still maintains the thrill of a spy novel. Celebrity name-drops add flair to this tale of calculated crimes"

--Foreword Reviews

With enjoyable, au currant language, and a sharp ear for dialogue, Kerbeck’s astounding story is fraught with tension, written in a voice both confident and accessible throughout an insider’s memoir so finely wrought, it reads somewhere between a heart-pounding thriller and an intriguing, finely tuned spy novel."

--New York Journal of Books

Excerpt

Prologue

A few years ago, after she got divorced, Zoe tried to initiate a little flirtation. I was game. Among other things, that kind of rapport would help grease the wheels when I needed help with something.

“Are you single?” she’d asked.

“I am at the moment.”

“Do you ever visit Dallas?”

“No,” I said. “Working in Compliance, I only get to travel to state capitals to meet with regulators. Austin is as close as I get.”

“My daughter has a softball tournament in Austin this weekend. Are you going to still be there Friday? You could stay on. It would be fun to finally meet you.”

“I wish. But I’m out of here tonight as soon as we file these docs, then on to the next capital for more of the same.”

“Darn it,” she said. “Maybe next time.”

“For sure.”

Zoe didn’t stay single long. Once she remarried, our chats focused on my miserable, lonely days traveling around trying to please uptight state regulators. Zoe often reminded me that my life shouldn’t all be about work, and she does it again now after my reassurance that we’ve got a lot of collaboration ahead of us.

“I hope I’ll be around long enough to see you getting out there more,” Zoe says.

“You and me both,” I say, and my tone cues her that we need to get to the real purpose of my call.

“What do you need, Kev?”

I sigh something along the lines of this-may-be-painful-but-we’re-in-it-together and give her the name of a senior executive. I need to know his entire organization from top to bottom, every name all the way down to the junior analyst level, plus each individual’s location and cell phone number. I need to understand the reporting lines — the company’s organizational chart — so I can highlight who’s in charge of what and who the heavy hitters are. Zoe knows I’m off-site and don’t have access to any of this information at the moment.

“Wow,” she says as she pulls up the name on the bank’s internal database. “He has over two hundred people in his group. This is going to take forever.”

I worry Zoe is going to tell me that she has her own job to do and doesn’t have time for this, that she may be dead by the time she gives me everything I need.

Instead, she says, “You ready?”

I smile to myself and nod, pen in hand. “Go for it.”

Zoe reads me all the names and titles, tells me who each person reports to, who has teams, and who is on each team. She gives me precise descriptions of what each team does and offers each individual’s cell number and physical location. My hand cramps as I scribble everything down. By the time she finishes, more than an hour has passed. I thank her earnestly.

“I’ve gotta take a break after that,” Zoe says. “I’m exhausted.”

“You deserve one,” I say.

She deserves more than that. An expensive dinner on me or, hell, an all-expenses-paid vacation to Hawaii. But I can’t do that. I certainly can’t physically go see her in Dallas. I have to keep things professional. Zoe knows that what I do is critical for our multibillion-dollar company to continue doing what it does, so she provides what I ask of her, over and over, year after year, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with her job. Even though it eats up hours of her time. Even though she is not authorized to give me any of that information.

And, most important, even though every single thing she knows about me, and everything I’ve ever told her, is a lie.

My name is not Kevin, and I don’t work in Compliance.

I am not an employee of Zoe’s company, let alone an executive.

I’ve never met a state regulator, uptight or otherwise.

I am not sitting in an antiseptic office in a blocky municipal building in Austin. I’ve got my feet up on my desk in the converted toolshed that is my home office in Malibu. The sign on the door says, big daddy’s surf shop, though I’ve always just called it the shack. Shirtless, in board shorts and flip-flops, I gaze out at the Pacific and breathe in its familiar salty musk while I casually manipulate her.

About the Author

Robert Kerbeck

Robert Kerbeck is the founder of the Malibu Writers Circle and his essays and short stories have been featured in numerous magazines and literary journals, including Narratively, Cimarron Review and Los Angeles Magazine. His short story, “Reconnected”, was adapted into an award-winning film and has appeared at film festivals worldwide. He is a lifetime member of The Actors Studio and an award-winning actor. He is also the author of Malibu Burning: The Real Story Behind LA’s Most Devastating Wildfire.