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House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and…
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House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street

by William D. Cohan

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Another good book about the recent financial collapse. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 25, 2016 |
Highly detailed account of the rise and fall of Bear Stearns.

Awfully hard to follow for those of us who don't understand the market just because of all the market lingo used, but hey, that's the nature of the book so I can't complain. I just personally couldn't follow a lot of the monetary jargon. Other than that, I think this is one of the most highly day-to-day detail filled books I've ever read: what someone did for morning, for lunch, what games they played. One really gets the feeling of know some of these individuals and that's not necessarily a good thing - it is a tail of corporate greed and the ruthlessness and ambition of some of the BSC members is appalling. The book does a really good job of explaining - in its thoroughness of character detail - why the markets can get so unfathomable and how there is such a disconnect between the haves and the have-nots. One extremely telling point was when the BSC people were complaining about a deal of $2/share when "... the building itself was worth $10/share!" and how they should *at least* get that, don't cha know!. Hmmmm... tell me again about how the 1000s of everyday people who got *at least* the fair market value for their homes when they were foreclosed on - oh yeah, didn't happen. But wow, the compensations, the retirement packages, the perks, the self-righteous "I deserve that!" attitude, the intense ladder climbing - you really really get a good feel of that from this book and you start to understand how corrupt these guys really are. So even though the money stuff got me lost I got a feeling of "knowing" the lives of Wall Street money men (and back then they were almost exclusively men)

I recommend this book but with the warning that it is so highly detailed, it sometimes gets you lost in the day to day minutiae - if that's your thing, this is a great book. ( )
  marshapetry | Feb 6, 2016 |
The level of detail in this book is amazing and probably only of interest to a very few in the world. The reason? So much of what's covered pertains to finance. Cohan covers every single significant event (and even the no-so-significant ones) as they pertained to the collapse of Bear Stearns and much of Wall Street in 2008. If you ever need your family life written, Cohan is more than able to do the job. House of Cards shows clearly how out of touch the men who work on Wall Street really are. They see dollar signs and testosterone as the only measuring sticks in life -it's all the rest which is immaterial.

Barbarians at the Gate still holds the top spot for me as a book that explains the wretched hubris men of finance have. ( )
  RalphLagana | Jan 23, 2016 |
Heard an interview with the author. Interesting detail: Compensation at Bear Stearns was based on a ratio of how much money they made using the least amount of capital. So even when things started to go bad, they were reluctant to take offers of capital from outside. Hence they refusal of the offer from the Saudis to provide them with $10 billion. In hindsight, that certainly looks short-sighted.
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
It took me forever to read this book. It was extremely boring because the men who filled the pages of the book were boring. I wanted a book that would help explain to me the reasons for the huge financial mess that the country and Wall street is in and what I got was a book about a bunch of arrogant fools suffering from testosterone overload. Who do these arrogant idiots think that they are? They deserved what happened to them and it would suit me just fine if they not only lost their jobs, but that they could never get a job in the financial sector again.

Now that I have vented my spleen about what I read in this book I will say that the author wrote a poor book. It is much too long and that is because he had to fill the pages with copious quotes and then copious indexing and notes at the end of the book. I am guessing he had to do so because he wanted to cover his backside in case of lawsuits from the stuffed suits about whom he wrote. In the end the most interesting part of the book is the first section about the ten days leading up to the fall of Bear Stearns and the last chapter of the book. In fact that the most important part of the book is the last paragraph in which the former CEO of Bear Stearns says that all parties involved in the financial sector were responsible for the resulting crises. I disagree with him, but his analysis is the most succinct and pointed in the whole book. After reading this book I think that the crises was caused by a bunch of arrogant men who thought that what goes up keeps going up and will never crash. There if proof throughout the book that the head of Bear Stearns didn't know or understand what the financial derivatives were or how they worked. He was more interested in playing bridge and getting a huge salary and bonuses for doing nothing.

This book is an indictment of Wall Street in the years running up to the 2008-09 crises, and probably of the behavior of Wall Street even today. It is not scintillating reading as the author has a hard time breathing much life into the subject of arrogant windbag men. For that reason it is more likely to make you angry and feel impotent than enlightened. ( )
  benitastrnad | Jan 8, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385528264, Hardcover)

On March 5, 2008, at 10:15 A.M., a hedge fund manager in Florida wrote a post on his investing advice Web site that included a startling statement about Bear Stearns & Co., the nation’s fifth-largest investment bank: “In my book, they are insolvent.”

This seemed a bold and risky statement. Bear Stearns was about to announce profits of $115 million for the first quarter of 2008, had $17.3 billion in cash on hand, and, as the company incessantly boasted, had been a colossally profitable enterprise in the eighty-five years since its founding.

Ten days later, Bear Stearns no longer existed, and the calamitous financial meltdown of 2008 had begun.

How this happened – and why – is the subject of William D. Cohan’s superb and shocking narrative that chronicles the fall of Bear Stearns and the end of the Second Gilded Age on Wall Street. Bear Stearns serves as the Rosetta Stone to explain how a combination of risky bets, corporate political infighting, lax government regulations and truly bad decision-making wrought havoc on the world financial system.

Cohan’s minute-by-minute account of those ten days in March makes for breathless reading, as the bankers at Bear Stearns struggled to contain the cascading series of events that would doom the firm, and as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, New York Federal Reserve Bank President Tim Geithner, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke began to realize the dire consequences for the world economy should the company go bankrupt.

But HOUSE OF CARDS does more than recount the incredible panic of the first stages of the financial meltdown. William D. Cohan beautifully demonstrates why the seemingly invincible Wall Street money machine came crashing down. He chronicles the swashbuckling corporate culture of Bear Stearns, the strangely crucial role competitive bridge played in the company’s fortunes, the brutal internecine battles for power, and the deadly combination of greed and inattention that helps to explain why the company’s leaders ignored the danger lurking in Bear’s huge positions in mortgage-backed securities.

The author deftly portrays larger-than-life personalities like Ace Greenberg, Bear Stearns’ miserly, take-no-prisoners chairman whose memos about re-using paper clips were legendary throughout Wall Street; his profane, colorful rival and eventual heir Jimmy Cayne, whose world-champion-level bridge skills were a lever in his corporate rise and became a symbol of the reasons for the firm’s demise; and Jamie Dimon, the blunt-talking CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who won the astonishing endgame of the saga (the Bear Stearns headquarters alone were worth more than JP Morgan paid for the whole company).

Cohan’s explanation of seemingly arcane subjects like credit default swaps and fixed- income securities is masterful and crystal clear, but it is the high-end dish and powerful narrative drive that makes HOUSE OF CARDS an irresistible read on a par with classics such as LIAR’S POKER and BARBARIANS AT THE GATE.

Written with the novelistic verve and insider knowledge that made THE LAST TYCOONS a bestseller and a prize-winner, HOUSE OF CARDS is a chilling cautionary tale about greed, arrogance, and stupidity in the financial world, and the consequences for all of us.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:37 -0400)

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William D. Cohan's superb and shocking narrative chronicles the fall of Bear Stearns and the end of the Second Gilded Age on Wall Street, explaining how a combination of risky bets, corporate political infighting, lax government regulations and truly bad decision-making wrought havoc on the world financial system.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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