The roots of the mortgage bubble and the story of the Wall Street collapse-and the government's unprecedented response-from our most trusted business journalist.
The End of Wall Street is a blow-by-blow account of America's biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression. Drawing on 180 interviews, including sit-downs with top government officials and Wall Street CEOs, Lowenstein tells, with grace, wit, and razor-sharp understanding, the full story of the end of Wall Street as we knew it. Displaying the qualities that made When Genius Failed a timeless classic of Wall Street-his sixth sense for narrative drama and his unmatched ability to tell complicated financial stories in ways that resonate with the ordinary reader-Roger Lowenstein weaves a financial, economic, and sociological thriller that indicts America for succumbing to the siren song of easy debt and speculative mortgages.
The End of Wall Street is rife with historical lessons and bursting with fast-paced action. Lowenstein introduces his story with precisely etched, laser like profiles of Angelo Mozilo, the Johnny Appleseed of subprime mortgages who spreads toxic loans across the landscape like wild crabapples, and moves to a damning explication of how rating agencies helped gift wrap faulty loans in the guise of triple-A paper and a take down of the academic formulas that-once again- proved the ruin of investors and banks. Lowenstein excels with a series of searing profiles of banking CEOs, such as the ferretlike Dick Fuld of Lehman and the bloodless Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, and of government officials from the restless, deal-obsessed Hank Paulson and the over matched Tim Geithner to the cerebral academic Ben Bernanke, who sought to avoid a repeat of the one crisis he spent a lifetime trying to understand-the Great Depression.
Finally, we come to understand the majesty of Lowenstein's theme of liquidity and capital, which explains the origins of the crisis and that positions the collapse of 2008 as the greatest ever of Wall Street's unlearned lessons. The End of Wall Street will be essential reading as we work to identify the lessons of the market failure and start to rebuild.
Lowenstein (When Genius Failed) offers an overview of the causes and consequences of the financial crisis that rises above the glut of similarly themed books with its juicy behind-the-scenes detail and thoughtful analysis. He sets out to prove that the current financial difficulties began long before the summer of 2008, and long before the failure of Lehman Brothers. He begins with the history of Fannie Mae and the rise of mortgage-based securities and a dangerously burgeoning housing bubble, and hits the high points of the 2008-2009 news cycles, including Washington Mutual's unwise loan strategies, the panic following Bear Stearns's near-demise, a rash of foreclosures, TARP, and the woes of Citigroup. The insider knowledge lends flavor and context to many of these stories--a ranting Jim Cramer, Ben Bernanke's loss of confidence, and Alan Greenspan's astonishing 2008 testimony to Congress. Lowenstein's strong knowledge of the source material and flair for the dramatic--and doomsday title--should draw readers who still wonder what went wrong and how. (Apr.)
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April 05, 2010
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