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Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How…

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought… (2009)

by Andrew Ross Sorkin

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1,194349,773 (3.88)38
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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
It is like reading longest article in the New York times.about finance and watching CNBC at same time Mr.Sorkin gave probably most detail and at same time extraordinary look at Great Depression II this will be hard to beat both by detail and by amount of drama it is definitely worth all the time and all words and obviously all Book of the Year awards Bravo. ( )
  TORTERAjirka | Feb 9, 2018 |
Fascinating tale of the Wall Street financial crisis, compiled from interviews and documents, by reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin. ( )
  ladyoflorien | Oct 2, 2016 |
Entertaining and educational. I have a much better understanding of what it was that caused the financial system meltdown and why banks were using these financial instruments. The book was a bit character heavy, I really needed an organizational chart in front me while reading - so many CEOs and their financial deputies mentioned throughout the book. ( )
  beebowallace | Jul 1, 2014 |
I feel proud for getting to the end of this, because there were times I didn’t think I was going to make it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. The author explains everything clearly and no one can say this is a story without narrative drive.

In the end, though, I’m not sure whether Sorkin isn’t trying to do too much - a pacy blockbuster and an academically respectable analysis rolled into one - but he manages the balancing act as well as anyone could. His major problem is the incredibly long cast-list, both individuals and institutions. In fairness, there’s a dramatis personae at the beginning, but it’s organised by institution rather than individual, so that, for example, if you forget who Mark Feldman is - a name I chose at random for the purposes of this review - you can’t just look under ‘F’: you have to go through each organisation until you get to ‘JP Morgan Chase’ - and there he is, sixth name down. (And, yes, there is an index, but it’s only reasonably helpful in this regard: ‘Feldman, Mark, AIG final capital search, 340, 379, 384). None of this is helped by the fact that none of the big players on Wall Street are well-known names. The consequence was that it was only by about page 400 that I felt I was getting to really known them all.

The two biggest characters in Too Big To Fail are Dick Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers, and Hank Paulson, Secretary of the US Treasury. Sorkin has a lot of sympathy for Fuld (p539), while Paulson is undoubtedly the closest the book has to a hero. Sorkin’s admiration for Paulson is far from unqualified. “It cannot be denied,” he writes, “that federal officials - including Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner - contributed to the market turmoil through a series of inconsistent decisions. They offered a safety net to Bear Stearns and backstopped Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but allowed Lehman to fall into [bankruptcy], only to rescue AIG soon after. What was the pattern? What were the rules? There didn’t appear to be any, and when investors grew confused … they not surprisingly began to panic” (p539).

Reading this book as a British citizen, I must admit to feeling it told me quite a lot about the US attitude to the UK. At one point, the British are all but given the blame for the fall of Lehman, after HM government refuses, late on, to back the Barclay’s bid for it. “‘He’s (ie, Alistair Darling) not going to do it,’ Paulson told Geithner in amazement. ‘He said he didn’t want to “import our cancer”’” (p350). One wonders how the Bush administration would have reacted, being asked to guarantee a similar project only in reverse?

Oh, and hold on. Rather later in the book, the British help save the day: Goldman Sachs is on its way under, and Mr Darling introduces a partial ban on short-selling in the UK. “But just then, at 1pm, the market - and Goldman’s stock - suddenly turned around, with Goldman rising to $87 a share, then $89. Traders raced through their screens trying to determine what had been responsible for the lift, and discovered that the Financial Services Authority in the UK had announced a thirty-day ban on short selling twenty-nine financial stocks, including Goldman Sachs. It was exactly what Blankfein and Mack had tried to persuade the SEC’s Christopher Cox to do” (p441). Indeed, just about all the main troubled giants on Wall Street have called for some sort of ban on short-selling throughout the book, some of them vociferously, but the US government won’t hear of it. Anyway, Goldman Sachs is retrieved at the eleventh hour by the decisive action of the UK government. How do its employees react? Three cheers for Great Britain? A rousing chorus of God Save the Queen? No, “a young trader found a copy of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ on the internet and broadcast it over the speakers to commemorate the moment. About three dozen traders stood up from their desks, placed their hands over their hearts, and sang aloud, accompanied by high fives and cheers” (p442).

Sheesh, that’s gratitude. But then, as Matt Taibbi apparently wrote in Rolling Stone, Goldman Sachs is “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” (p537). Typical squid gratitude perhaps.

This is a very good account of the Wall Street Crash of 2008. To intending readers, I’d advise putting aside one large chunk of time to read it, rather than lots of little chunks: that way you’re more likely to maintain a handle on the characters and events. And, at 530 pages of small font, you’ve got to be very, very interested in this particular historical event. I wasn’t perhaps enough - but I still managed to finish it anyway. I’m glad I did. ( )
  James_Ward | Dec 27, 2013 |
liking this but it is due!
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Andrew Ross Sorkin's blow-by-blow account of the unfolding of events in the US, when financial titans up to and including Goldman Sachs were days, or even hours, away from running out of liquidity, gives a handy dramatis personae of those inhabiting Wall Street's Jurassic Park, in the manner of a compendious Russian novel
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Ruth Sunderland (Dec 13, 2009)
Sorkin’s prodigious reporting and lively writing put the reader in the room for some of the biggest-dollar conference calls in history. It’s an entertaining, brisk book.
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Size, we are told, is not a crime. But size may, at least, become noxious by reason of the means through which it was attained or the uses to which it is put. - Louis Brandeis
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Prologue: Standing in the kitchen of his Park Avenue apartment, Jamie Dimon poured himself a cup of coffee, hoping it might ease his headache.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670021253, Hardcover)

A real-life thriller about the most tumultuous period in America’s financial history by an acclaimed New York Times Reporter

Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego and greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world’s economy.

“We’ve got to get some foam down on the runway!” a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve of New York, would tell Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, about the catastrophic crash the world’s financial system would experience.

Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail re-creates all the drama and turmoil, revealing never disclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were “too big to fail,” it is a real-life thriller with a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were too big to fail.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:00 -0400)

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Presents a moment-by-moment account of the recent financial collapse that documents state efforts to prevent an economic disaster, offering insight into the pivotal consequences of decisions made throughout the past decade.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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