Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves

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Brand New for 2018: an updated edition featuring a new afterword to mark the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis
 
The brilliantly reported New York Times bestseller that goes behind the scenes of the financial crisis on Wall Street and in Washington to give the definitive account of the crisis, the basis for the HBO film
 
Too Big To Fail is too good to put down. . . . It is the story of the actors in the most extraordinary financial spectacle in 80 years, and it is told brilliantly.” —The Economist
 
In one of the most gripping financial narratives in decades, Andrew Ross Sorkin—a New York Times columnist and one of the country's most respected financial reporters—delivers the first definitive blow-by-blow account of the epochal economic crisis that brought the world to the brink. Through unprecedented access to the players involved, he re-creates all the drama and turmoil of these turbulent days, revealing never-before-disclosed details and recounting how, motivated as often by ego and greed as by fear and self-preservation, the most powerful men and women in finance and politics decided the fate of the world's economy.
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About the author

Andrew Ross Sorkin is the award-winning chief mergers and acquisitions reporter for The New York Times, a columnist, and assistant editor of business and finance news. He is also the editor and founder of DealBook, an online daily financial report. He has won a Gerald Loeb Award, the highest honor in business journalism, and a Society of American Business Editors and Writers Award. In 2007, the World Economic Forum named him a Young Global Leader.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Sep 7, 2010
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Pages
640
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ISBN
9781101443248
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Banks & Banking
Business & Economics / Economic History
History / United States / 21st Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The story of America is a story of dreamers and defaulters.  It is also a story of dramatic financial panics that defined the nation, created its political parties, and forced tens of thousands to escape their creditors to new towns in Texas, Florida, and California.  As far back as 1792, these panics boiled down to one simple question: Would Americans pay their debts—or were we just a nation of deadbeats?

From the merchant William Duer’s attempts to speculate on post–Revolutionary War debt, to an ill-conceived 1815 plan to sell English coats to Americans on credit, to the debt-fueled railroad expansion that precipitated the Panic of 1857, Scott Reynolds Nelson offers a crash course in America’s worst financial disasters—and a concise explanation of the first principles that caused them all. Nelson shows how consumer debt, both at the highest levels of finance and in the everyday lives of citizens, has time and again left us unable to make good. The problem always starts with the chain of banks, brokers, moneylenders, and insurance companies that separate borrowers and lenders.  At a certain point lenders cannot tell good loans from bad—and when chits are called in, lenders frantically try to unload the debts, hide from their own creditors, go into bankruptcy, and lobby state and federal institutions for relief.

With a historian’s keen observations and a storyteller’s nose for character and incident, Nelson captures the entire sweep of America’s financial history in all its utter irrationality: national banks funded by smugglers; fistfights in Congress over the gold standard; and presidential campaigns forged in stinging controversies on the subject of private debt. A Nation of Deadbeats is a fresh, irreverent look at Americans’ addiction to debt and how it has made us what we are today. 
The financial crisis, which originated in developed country financial markets, quickly spread to developing countries. Governments and central banksthough taking many and costly measures were powerless to stop the global economic meltdown, as economies across the globe went into recession. The depth of the financial crisis means that the world economy is in unchartered territory. How do we restore robust growth and prevent another crisis? This book aims to systematically understand current major problems in the financial system, its governance, and in its links to global economic imbalances. It explains how both market actors and regulators behavior, and the prevailing ideology of extreme financial liberalization and deregulation, contributed to the financial crisis. This highly topical book focuses on the transparency and regulatory measures that are necessary to restore confidence in the financial system, to ensure that the financial system performs the roles that it should perform within both developing and developed countries, and to make a recurrence less likely. The book also describes reforms in the global financial architecture that might make the global financial system more stable and more equitable. The book presents sometimes radical, but specific, pragmatic, and politically feasible proposals to try to ensure a more stable, equitable, and growing world economy. Contributions come from both developed and developing countries and are written by leading authorities in their field, including senior nationalas well as internationalpolicy makers, practitioners from the private sector, and leading academics.
We all know that the financial crisis of 2008 came dangerously close to pushing the United States and the world into a depression rivaling that of the 1930s. But what is astonishing—and should make us not just afraid but very afraid—are the shenanigans of the biggest banks since the crisis. Bob Ivry passionately, eloquently, and convincingly details the operatic ineptitude of America's best-compensated executives and the ways the government kowtows to what it mistakenly imagines is their competence and success. Ivry shows that the only thing that has changed since the meltdown is how too-big-to-fail banks and their fellow travelers in Washington have nudged us ever closer to an even bigger economic calamity.
Informed by deep reporting from New York, Washington, and the heartland, The Seven Sins of Wall Street, like no other book, shows how we're all affected by the financial industry's inhumanity. The transgressions of “Wall Street titans” and “masters of the universe” are paid for by real people. In fierce, plain English, Ivry indicts a financial industry that continues to work for the few at the expense of the rest of us. Problems that financiers deemed too complicated to be understood by ordinary folks are shown by Ivry to be financial legerdemain—a smokescreen of complexity and jargon that hide the bankers' nefarious activities.
The Seven Sins of Wall Street is irreverent and timely, an infuriating black comedy. The Great Depression of the 1930s moved the American political system to real reform that kept the finance industry in check. With millions so deeply affected since the crisis of 2008, you'll finish this book asking yourself how it is that so many of the nation's leading financial institutions remain such exasperating problem children.
"Hell is empty, and
all the devils are here."
-Shakespeare, The Tempest

As soon as the financial crisis erupted, the finger-pointing began. Should the blame fall on Wall Street, Main Street, or Pennsylvania Avenue? On greedy traders, misguided regulators, sleazy subprime companies, cowardly legislators, or clueless home buyers?

According to Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, two of America's most acclaimed business journalists, the real answer is all of the above-and more. Many devils helped bring hell to the economy. And the full story, in all of its complexity and detail, is like the legend of the blind men and the elephant. Almost everyone has missed the big picture. Almost no one has put all the pieces together.

All the Devils Are Here goes back several decades to weave the hidden history of the financial crisis in a way no previous book has done. It explores the motivations of everyone from famous CEOs, cabinet secretaries, and politicians to anonymous lenders, borrowers, analysts, and Wall Street traders. It delves into the powerful American mythology of homeownership. And it proves that the crisis ultimately wasn't about finance at all; it was about human nature.

Among the devils you'll meet in vivid detail:

• Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide, who dreamed of spreading homeownership to the masses, only to succumb to the peer pressure-and the outsized profits-of the sleaziest subprime lending.

• Roland Arnall, a respected philanthropist and diplomat, who made his fortune building Ameriquest, a subprime lending empire that relied on blatantly deceptive lending practices.

• Hank Greenberg, who built AIG into a Rube Goldberg contraption with an undeserved triple-A rating, and who ran it so tightly that he was the only one who knew where all the bodies were buried.

• Stan O'Neal of Merrill Lynch, aloof and suspicious, who suffered from "Goldman envy" and drove a proud old firm into the ground by promoting cronies and pushing out his smartest lieutenants.

• Lloyd Blankfein, who helped turn Goldman Sachs from a culture that famously put clients first to one that made clients secondary to its own bottom line.

• Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae, who (like his predecessors) bullied regulators into submission and let his firm drift away from its original, noble mission.

• Brian Clarkson of Moody's, who aggressively pushed to increase his rating agency's market share and stock price, at the cost of its integrity.

• Alan Greenspan, the legendary maestro of the Federal Reserve, who ignored the evidence of a growing housing bubble and turned a blind eye to the lending practices that ultimately brought down Wall Street-and inflicted enormous pain on the country.

Just as McLean's The Smartest Guys in the Room was hailed as the best Enron book on a crowded shelf, so will All the Devils Are Here be remembered for finally making sense of the meltdown and its consequences.

“A riveting account that reaches beyond the market landscape to say something universal about risk and triumph, about hubris and failure.”—The New York Times

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BUSINESSWEEK

In this business classic—now with a new Afterword in which the author draws parallels to the recent financial crisis—Roger Lowenstein captures the gripping roller-coaster ride of Long-Term Capital Management. Drawing on confidential internal memos and interviews with dozens of key players, Lowenstein explains not just how the fund made and lost its money but also how the personalities of Long-Term’s partners, the arrogance of their mathematical certainties, and the culture of Wall Street itself contributed to both their rise and their fall.

When it was founded in 1993, Long-Term was hailed as the most impressive hedge fund in history. But after four years in which the firm dazzled Wall Street as a $100 billion moneymaking juggernaut, it suddenly suffered catastrophic losses that jeopardized not only the biggest banks on Wall Street but the stability of the financial system itself. The dramatic story of Long-Term’s fall is now a chilling harbinger of the crisis that would strike all of Wall Street, from Lehman Brothers to AIG, a decade later. In his new Afterword, Lowenstein shows that LTCM’s implosion should be seen not as a one-off drama but as a template for market meltdowns in an age of instability—and as a wake-up call that Wall Street and government alike tragically ignored.

Praise for When Genius Failed

“[Roger] Lowenstein has written a squalid and fascinating tale of world-class greed and, above all, hubris.”—BusinessWeek

“Compelling . . . The fund was long cloaked in secrecy, making the story of its rise . . . and its ultimate destruction that much more fascinating.”—The Washington Post

“Story-telling journalism at its best.”—The Economist
New York Times Bestseller

One of our wisest and most clear-eyed economic thinkers offers a masterful narrative of the crisis and its lessons.

Many fine books on the financial crisis were first drafts of history—books written to fill the need for immediate understanding. Alan S. Blinder, esteemed Princeton professor, Wall Street Journal columnist, and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, held off, taking the time to understand the crisis and to think his way through to a truly comprehensive and coherent narrative of how the worst economic crisis in postwar American history happened, what the government did to fight it, and what we can do from here—mired as we still are in its wreckage.

With bracing clarity, Blinder shows us how the U.S. financial system, which had grown far too complex for its own good—and too unregulated for the public good—experienced a perfect storm beginning in 2007. Things started unraveling when the much-chronicled housing bubble burst, but the ensuing implosion of what Blinder calls the “bond bubble” was larger and more devastating. Some people think of the financial industry as a sideshow with little relevance to the real economy—where the jobs, factories, and shops are. But finance is more like the circulatory system of the economic body: if the blood stops flowing, the body goes into cardiac arrest. When America’s financial structure crumbled, the damage proved to be not only deep, but wide. It took the crisis for the world to discover, to its horror, just how truly interconnected—and fragile—the global financial system is. Some observers argue that large global forces were the major culprits of the crisis. Blinder disagrees, arguing that the problem started in the U.S. and was pushed abroad, as complex, opaque, and overrated investment products were exported to a hungry world, which was nearly poisoned by them.

The second part of the story explains how American and international government intervention kept us from a total meltdown. Many of the U.S. government’s actions, particularly the Fed’s, were previously unimaginable. And to an amazing—and certainly misunderstood—extent, they worked. The worst did not happen. Blinder offers clear-eyed answers to the questions still before us, even if some of the choices ahead are as divisive as they are unavoidable. After the Music Stopped is an essential history that we cannot afford to forget, because one thing history teaches is that it will happen again.
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