Free Rider: How a Bay St. Whiz Kid Stole and Spent $20 Million

Free Rider

J.L. Reynolds

J.L. Reynolds’s latest book is unlike any other tale of embezzlement and fraud you’ve read. Paced like a mystery novel, Free Rider is the story of the sudden rise and eventual demise of Michael Holoday.

As a young Bay Street broker, Holoday managed to swindle his clients out of an estimated $20 million. Free Rider describes how Holoday, a charming and suave common thief, sweet-talked investors ranging from a retired schoolteacher to one of the richest men in Canada into trusting him with their money.

An award-winning mystery novelist and crime writer, Reynolds chronicles Holoday’s claw to the top — from his childhood growing up the first of four children adopted by the Holodays in Revelstoke, British Columbia, to his pursuit of a commerce degree at University of British Columbia and his humble beginnings as a cash clerk at Midland Doherty, to his triumph as the firm’s number one producer just four years later.

One common thread is woven throughout Free Rider — Holoday is utterly consumed with greed. This greed has an uncontrollable appetite that he can only satisfy with illegal trades, NSF cheques, and cheque kiting. From deceit to deception, the reader learns of Michael’s unbelievable disregard for the devastating emotional and financial impact he has on the people that once trusted him.

In 1996, when it becomes clearly evident that Holoday is a fraud, he is arrested. Stripped of his securities licence, he becomes an independent financial advisor working out of his Forest Hill home, paying neither his mortgage nor his personal debt of more than $5 million. He continued to issue NSF cheques right up until he was sent to jail.

Holoday was convicted on 14 counts, sentenced to more than seven years of prison and required to repay $6 million. Currently serving his sentence, Holoday is eligible for parole in January 2007. Yet even now, no one has an accurate account of the number of clients Holoday took for a “ride”. While Free Rider is a tale of the rise and fall of one of Canada’s most notorious investment whiz kids, it is also an examination of the conflict between the private interest of brokers and investment firms and the public interest of assuring an environment of trust and honesty.

How can the public protect themselves from unethical financial activity? What checks and balances does the investment industry have in place to prevent fraud? How did someone like Michael Holoday get away with so much for so long?

About the author
A director, a writer, a deejay, and a photographer… you could say that John Lawrence Reynolds is quite the man of mystery himself. In addition to being a crime and mystery series novelist since 1974, he has worked as a creative director and vice president of Kelley Advertising & Marketing, a musician, a commercial and film director, a jazz deejay, and an amateur photographer.

Reynolds’ work has been honoured with several awards. The Man Who Murdered God won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel in 1990. In 1992, And Leave Her Dying was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel and won the Author’s Award from the Foundation for the Advancement of English letters. His 1993 mystery novel Gypsy Sins was awarded the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel.

Reynolds is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada and previously served as president. He is also a frequent contributor to Quest, Leisureways, Canadian Living, Toronto Life and the Financial Post.

Reynolds and his wife and two children reside in Burlington, Ontario.

2002 Winner