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"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, t "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.


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"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, t "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.

30 review for All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Along with Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" this is a must-read if you want to understand the recent financial crisis. The authors also did "The Smartest Guys in the Room" about the Enron scandal, and I found that book both enlightening and interesting. The story paints a picture of a true financial bubble. Anyway, maybe I finally understand CDOs and derivatives. Maybe. It's a chilling story, and I found myself horrified many times. The worst was reading about synthetic CDO's, which were like zomb Along with Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" this is a must-read if you want to understand the recent financial crisis. The authors also did "The Smartest Guys in the Room" about the Enron scandal, and I found that book both enlightening and interesting. The story paints a picture of a true financial bubble. Anyway, maybe I finally understand CDOs and derivatives. Maybe. It's a chilling story, and I found myself horrified many times. The worst was reading about synthetic CDO's, which were like zombie derivatives. They were derivatives of derivatives and allowed investors to either go long (betting the product would increase in value) or short (betting it would go down). Unbelievable. The biggest thing I learned was "don't trust anyone." These guys were constantly saying, "everything's all right" when they knew or should have known, it wasn't. And, worse yet, none of this stuff was illegal. It just wasn't regulated. The story jumps around a bit, introducing players and situations in different companies and organizations as it works toward the inevitable crash. Several thoughts from my reading: 1. The whole situation was a "boiled frog" one. It kept building little by little. No one got caught, so they kept doing more and more bad stuff. 2. This was a failure of regulation. Shame on Greenspan, who didn't believe in any regulation, ever. And this is one time Congress should have stepped in, but they were convinced by the financial people that they knew what they were doing. How do you know a financial person is lying? His lips are moving. 3. Bubbles happen. They've been going on since tulips in Holland in the 1700s. This bubble never looks like the last one, so we don't believe they will happen this time. One very important comment was that they happen when "greed overcomes fear." Good point, well illustrated in the book. 4. I kept thinking, "How in the world could the average investor have known what was going to happen?" I do know several people who pulled out just before the crash, but they are in the minority. Most of us lost at least 30% of our savings. I'm heading toward the finish but wanted to share my thoughts. If you really want to know what happened, this is the book to read. Don't worry; it's really interesting as well as informative.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Once upon a time, not so long ago, really -- it was 1999 -- there was a group of three exceedingly smart men whom Time Magazine called The Committee to Save the World. In fact, these three men -- Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin -- seemed to think they were the smartest people in the whole wide world. Together, they had put in place the economic policies of the Clinton Administration, and, boy, did things look rosy then, back in 1999, with a big budget surplus and the Dow Jones av Once upon a time, not so long ago, really -- it was 1999 -- there was a group of three exceedingly smart men whom Time Magazine called The Committee to Save the World. In fact, these three men -- Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin -- seemed to think they were the smartest people in the whole wide world. Together, they had put in place the economic policies of the Clinton Administration, and, boy, did things look rosy then, back in 1999, with a big budget surplus and the Dow Jones averages heading for Neptune! So, here we are, in the closing days of 2010 -- a good time to reassess those three men in light of the economic events of the past three years. The result, of course, is that they don't look so smart anymore. But, guess what? Larry Summers has yet to exit the Obama White House, where he's been the driving force behind this Administration's economic policymaking -- and Robert Rubin is reported to be on the short list to replace him! Of the three men, only Alan Greenspan, now retired as head of the Federal Reserve Bank after serving under Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and two generations of Bushes, has actually apologized after a fashion for his stubborn refusal to face economic facts that were obvious at the time to anyone well versed in finance who wasn't blinded by greed, willful incompetence, stupidity, or right-wing ideology. The other two men? Well, we haven't heard so much as a hint of an admission of responsibility from them. So, what did "The Committee to Save the World" do to lay the foundations for the 2008 financial crisis? As best I can tell, collectively they made three fateful errors: 1. they engineered the repeal of consumer protections put in place during the Great Depression (the Glass-Steagall Act); 2. they routinely deferred to Wall Street when shaping economic policy, paying special attention to the effect of their actions on the bond market (where the really big money is to be found); and 3. they stubbornly refused to recognize the dangers in the alarming growth of the unregulated "derivatives" market. (If you don't understand what a derivative is, don't sweat it. Nobody else does, either, not really.) Not so incidentally, these same three geniuses were also instrumental in fashioning "The Washington Consensus" that guided the work of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and caused tens of millions of people to starve in dozens of developing nations over the last decade and a half. But back to Topic A: the financial crisis. We've identified three of the principal culprits. But, in fairness to Greenspan, Summers, and Rubin, there were many other characters who played leading roles in this still-unfolding tragedy. Some of their actions merely reflected changes set in motion years before. And nobody in any government position, including the Oval Office, calls all the shots. But the buck stops . . . somewhere. When it comes to the public policy that foreshadowed the financial crisis, the committee that "saved" the world bears a lot of the blame. Now about those other leading characters in this modern immorality play. Chief among them, as best I can tell, were a mixed bag of people both in and out of government: * On Wall Street, there were dozens of senior executives at such financial powerhouses as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG, Citibank, and many others whose shared delusion that money is life's greatest good helped set the course for economic ruin. Some of these men (and a very few women) were brilliant and found ways to make lots of money even when conditions were really, really bad. Others were -- well, not to put too fine an edge on things -- downright stupid. Their firms (principally, Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG, and Merrill Lynch) either disappeared entirely in a whirlwind of worthless paper or took refuge under someone else's wing. By contrast, the champion money-maker, Goldman Sachs, racked up billions in profits by victimizing some of its biggest clients. Being Goldman Sachs, of course, none of its partners faced criminal charges, as they clearly would have done in a marketplace guided by reason and fairness. * On Main Street, there were also dozens of co-conspirators. For the most part, these were the people who ran the "non-bank financial companies" like Countrywide and other firms that sold mortgages to people who couldn't possibly afford them. Some were outright crooks running fly-by-night operations, many of them classic bucket-shops, others simply self-deluding or (again that word) stupid. Most of them got filthy rich, though, at least for a time. Dozens should have gone to jail, but did they? What do you think? * Back in our nation's capital, two institutions unfamiliar to most of the American public found themselves in the middle of the maelstrom: the two quasi-private mortgage repositories, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Don't feel sorry for them, though, because, to cop a phrase from an earlier practitioner of misdirection, "mistakes were made." The leadership of both institutions grabbed at opportunities to make a quick buck. They succeeded, for a time, but only until the profits disappeared -- and we taxpayers are now footing the bill to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. * Don't forget George W. Bush. The decider-in-chief may not have played a meaningful role in economic decision-making (if only because it's highly doubtful he had a clue about what was going on). But, dazzled by the argument that the "free market" would regulate the financial sector all by itself, Bush II deliberately appointed to key regulatory positions such world-class ignoramuses as Christopher Cox to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. It wasn't enough that the regulatory agencies' teeth had dulled considerably over the years and that the powers-that-were in the Clinton Administration had refused to sharpen them. No, George W. Bush insisted on appointing financial regulators whose stated intention was not to do their jobs. So, what does all this bloviating have to do with All the Devils Are Here? This is, after all, (ostensibly) a book review. It's simple, really: Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera's superb book brought into high relief the roots of the financial crisis like no other book I've read and made it possible for me to untangle in my mind the complex interrelationships among Wall Street, Main Street, the Fed, and the Treasury Department. In previous months, I'd read Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, The Devil's Casino: Friendship, Betrayal, and the High Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers by Vicky Ward, and others, all of them excellent books. But McLean and Nocera's treatment of the crisis from a long-term perspective, with its roots in the evolution of housing policy as well as greed and excess on Wall Street, put the whole question into perspective. If you're looking for the best way to begin understanding the financial meltdown of 2007-2008 that came close to tanking the global economy, start with All the Devils Are Here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Trudi

    Shakespeare wrote: Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here. I'm going to zombify this sentiment just a tad by saying what I know to be true: There is no more room in Hell, and the Devils now walk the earth. Oh yes...they do. Is there any doubt? Little ones and big ones, all spread out like an infection. And if there's a cure to wiping them off the face of the planet and sending them back to Hell it's yet to be implemented because apparently it takes balls and brains and a pretty reliable mora Shakespeare wrote: Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here. I'm going to zombify this sentiment just a tad by saying what I know to be true: There is no more room in Hell, and the Devils now walk the earth. Oh yes...they do. Is there any doubt? Little ones and big ones, all spread out like an infection. And if there's a cure to wiping them off the face of the planet and sending them back to Hell it's yet to be implemented because apparently it takes balls and brains and a pretty reliable moral compass (all of which are in very short supply at the top where it matters most). Here are a few things I've come to understand and firmly believe: Greed -- for lack of a better word -- is not good. Greed in fact, turns people into out-and-out sociopaths (if they weren't already). Greed makes people cheat and lie and break the law. If the stakes are high enough, greed can and will topple global financial institutions. It can perpetuate a form of terrorism that should leave us quaking in our beds at night because the kind of sickly, lustful, unchecked greed which motivated sub-prime mortgage lending, the deregulation of banks, the stratospheric rise of predatory lending, unregulated derivatives, CDOs and credit default swaps is the kind of greed which cost millions of people their jobs, homes and pensions not just in the United States, but all over the world. We're talking pandemic here. In the interconnected global world market, the reality is these days no one is safe. Everyone is in bed with everyone else, and nobody is wearing a condom. Here's something else -- the "free" market is not self-disciplined or self-regulating. You know why? Because it is an artificial construct made by humans to self-serve humans. It can be manipulated in a thousand million different ways. The "free" market does not exist beyond the domain of the evil that men (and women) do. It is vulnerable to illusion and delusion. It can be infected by greed. And it can crash, splinter, implode and bring the whole world down with it. Unfortunately, sensible solutions to addressing free-market vulnerabilities with things like regulation are seen as ham-stringing, anti-capitalist, anti-American, "liberal" or worst of all smacking of socialism (this is where you're supposed to spit - put-tooey). If anything on god's green earth should be regulated it has to be banks, mortgage lenders and credit rating agencies. These institutions represent a sacred public trust. Gigantic loopholes and unfettered restraint should not be realized upon which greed can flourish and evil deeds thrive -- for a toxic brew of sub-prime contagion to be concocted in the labs of Main St and Wall St USA and shipped to the rest of the world like the deadliest of viruses. But this did happen, and will likely happen again for two reasons: humans have short memories... and all the Devils are still here. With nary a slap on the wrist and HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of untaxed dollars lining their pockets. I could vomit. If you really want to get to the heart of the 2008 financial crisis in America you could do a lot worse than this book. It is a very frank, well-researched assessment filled with cogent arguments and incisive observations -- and all things considered, a rather sane, sensible look at the "how". Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither were the seeds of the financial crisis sewn in a week. It took about a decade, not all that long all things considering. There were those who saw the writing on the wall and did nothing. There were those that tried, and failed. But far outnumbering the naysayers, was a group made up of fervent capitalist ideologues, free-market believers, and most of all Devils with power driven by their unquenchable thirst for cash. It was this group -- spread out across all sorts of institutions -- banks, CRAs, mortgage brokers, insurance companies, Wall Street traders and into the highest reaches of government -- who paved the way for deregulation of banks and for the rise of derivatives, CDOs, and credit default swaps at the heart of which was the immoral practice of extortionist predatory lending and sub-prime mortgages. What you had in fact were sociopaths motivated by greed who with the help of deregulation became medieval alchemists transforming lead into gold. Game players took Product A -- not worth anything -- and turned it into Product B -- now worth everything (and credit agencies were right there, with their hand out, willing and able to give these new products a Triple A score). This was a crucial step to the alchemical process -- Wall Street could securitize but it was the CRAs who legitimized these products with their ratings which made the questionable products safe and secure (and which meant pension plans could now legally buy them). I think the better informed we all are on this subject, the better off we'll be in the long run. We have to start demanding better protection from such dubiously legal economic practices. We have to start demanding transparency and accountability, and more than anything else, we have to start demanding more regulation. Even after the worst has happened (not the least of which was the grotesque yet necessary bailouts), regulation has been slow to come. It's being fought against in a ferocious battle by the same people who fucked us all (pardon my French) the first time and if things don't change will likely fuck us all again. This isn't just an American story about the sins of Wall Street and the complete and utter lack of integrity represented by a Lehman Brothers before its fall -- what happens in America doesn't just stay in America (not anymore). Their economy is its largest export and we are all at the table gobbling it up. If the food is laced with arsenic or Ebola, I for one want to know. Better yet, how about strictly regulating the "food" so that the worst blemish it's going to have is a bit of mold on the edges of the bread. That I can pick off myself and it's not going to kill me. Guess what? Regulation is not going to kill you either. It won't equal death to capitalism or the "free" market. It's simply adding responsible checks and balances into a system that's gotten far too big and complicated for its own good where the lunatics are running the asylum -- dressed in Armani suits and spouting economical equations that us "little people" just can't possibly understand. Fuck you. The last thing I've learned: Nothing is too big to fail so you better have a Plan B. Inside Job (2010) Meltdown: The Secret History of the Global Financial Collapse. All four parts available on YouTube: Part I Part II Part III Part IV

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I re-read this one because I think I’ll be assigning it in my class. I’m worried we forgot about the stupidity, greed, and hubris that led to the crisis (with the gov’t, GSEs and banks all sharing the blame). There are a lot of good financial crisis books out there. I like this one better than most because it focuses on mortgage backed securities and has more about Fannie and Freddie than others. I also love 13 bankers which I assign. So I guess I’m saying everyone should read this book again—es I re-read this one because I think I’ll be assigning it in my class. I’m worried we forgot about the stupidity, greed, and hubris that led to the crisis (with the gov’t, GSEs and banks all sharing the blame). There are a lot of good financial crisis books out there. I like this one better than most because it focuses on mortgage backed securities and has more about Fannie and Freddie than others. I also love 13 bankers which I assign. So I guess I’m saying everyone should read this book again—especially if you’re a gov regulator or work in finance.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    The companies involved in the financial crisis: Countrywide, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Ameriquest, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns, didn't simply sprout horns and tails one night The elements personified in the title are instead a list of financial tools, events, and attitudes that didn't just coalesce but rather evolved in almost predictable though unintended ways. Their growth was part of a monstrous symbiosis. Readers with a non-finance background should not be dismayed by the parade of ever more The companies involved in the financial crisis: Countrywide, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Ameriquest, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns, didn't simply sprout horns and tails one night The elements personified in the title are instead a list of financial tools, events, and attitudes that didn't just coalesce but rather evolved in almost predictable though unintended ways. Their growth was part of a monstrous symbiosis. Readers with a non-finance background should not be dismayed by the parade of ever more complex financial tools described in this book: Tranches, derivatives, collateralized debt obligations (CDO's), CDO's squared, credit enhancements, and credit default swaps. McLean and Nocera direct their explanations at the general reader. However, as with any accounting technique, one can really only begin to understand these instruments within the context of specific numbers and scenarios. The broader picture they paint is of techniques to manage risk. Risk management such as practiced by the “quants” at J.P. Morgan evolves into risk dilution (tranching, and hedging), which leads all too easily to merely the appearance of risk reduction (the role of the ratings agencies, passing risk on to 3rd parties as if it were a hot potato, and ultimately, the inability to even identify where the risk lay in the layers of repackaged shadow securities). It's interesting to learn that when Merrill Lynch was in crisis, several of its board members began requesting tutorials on CDO's. So again, don't be intimidated by the financing terms! The first half of the book deals with these elements in the context of the Savings and Loan crisis, rising interest rates, changing banking legislation, an ideology of non-regulation, and a political agenda of increasing the numbers for home ownership. It is startling to learn that the authors chart the seeds of the crisis 30 years back in time. History, not specific villains, is the focus here. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the interplay between Wall Street and the political clout of Fannie Mae. This segment even peaks with a punchline; we learn what a "fannie pack" is. The second part of the book follows specific “characters”: AIG, Countrywide, Ameriquest and Merrill Lynch. It is striking that the guiding human emotion in these stories was not greed but envy. Companies and leaders feared that their competitors might pull away from the pack, and that fear motivated the drive toward expansion and risk. Despite the fact that the focus is not on blame, it is clear that McLean and Nocera are ardent skeptics of the self-regulation credo the financial community has so long espoused. Greenspan and like-minded economists at the Federal level failed in their duty to protect the public, even when regulators and consumer advocates at the state and local level were pointing to problems. None of these people have yet shown any public remorse for the mistakes that were made. (Somehow, an admission of "Oops" doesn't seem to suffice). The assessment of Goldman Sachs is more problematic. The authors emphacize that Goldman Sachs was despised, not so much for its lack of ethics, as for its success in execution of its game-plan. This book serves as an introduction to a much closer scrutiny of the investment industry. ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE is the first book I have read on the financial crisis. It won't be the last. It is definitely well-written and cohesive, and will encourage readers to delve further.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This is a good survey of the 2007-08 financial meltdown and the events leading up to it. The world of mortgage finance is arcane and to begin with, and it was made even more arcane by Wall Street’s groovy new inventions. Joe Nocera (NY Times business reporter) and Bethany McClean (The Smartest Guys in the Room, Enron..) take on the task of transforming that world into a compelling story and succeed, mostly. My only criticism of the book would be that it never takes a step back from the events to This is a good survey of the 2007-08 financial meltdown and the events leading up to it. The world of mortgage finance is arcane and to begin with, and it was made even more arcane by Wall Street’s groovy new inventions. Joe Nocera (NY Times business reporter) and Bethany McClean (The Smartest Guys in the Room, Enron..) take on the task of transforming that world into a compelling story and succeed, mostly. My only criticism of the book would be that it never takes a step back from the events to take a broader economic or historical view. The reader is left with the sense of doom. How will we ever construct a useful credit system in the US when all the players are corrupt or incompetent? I think a bit of historical context would have been useful here. For one thing, the climax of the story is a classic banking panic as the authors themselves observe. In June 2007 Bear Stearns' creditors tried to get their money all at once, and couldn't. There was no market for the debt. As the author's put it, it was “a classic run on a bank---except those racing to pull their money out weren’t depositors. They were bankers.” Not mentioned is the fact that banking panics on this scale had not been seen in the United States for 80 years. Before that panics were common: 1857, 1873, 1893, 1907, 1929---all years of financial panic followed by economic collapse. Somehow we got the banking sector under control for several decades after that. Maybe we can do it again.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bob Mayer

    I pulled this off the bookshelf to go through again because it seems that we're heading for another one. The 2008 one was the mortgage bundling. What is happening now is car loans are lapsing at an extremely high rate. And many of the rules put in place after 2008 are being tossed out by this administration. The fact former lobbyists are now running agencies that are supposed to police the very industries they lobbied for is not a good sign. It appears we do not learn from history.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Conner

    I must profess at the outset that I have a bit of a nerdy girl-crush on Bethany McClean. She is everything I wish I could be: Intelligent, articulate, well-versed on topics of financial and economic complexity, and a respected journalist. She's also very beautiful, but I am what I am so far as that is concerned. I continue to read as much as I can about the Crisis of 2008. Maybe it's because I am unemployed and grow more and more bitter with each day? Maybe I'd like to be able to rail against Wa I must profess at the outset that I have a bit of a nerdy girl-crush on Bethany McClean. She is everything I wish I could be: Intelligent, articulate, well-versed on topics of financial and economic complexity, and a respected journalist. She's also very beautiful, but I am what I am so far as that is concerned. I continue to read as much as I can about the Crisis of 2008. Maybe it's because I am unemployed and grow more and more bitter with each day? Maybe I'd like to be able to rail against Wall Street with some arguments rooted in substance? There's a little bit of that, but mostly, I'm fascinated, utterly and completely fascinated, by the complexity and outrageousness which went into creating the most disastrous financial disaster of my lifetime. There is more than enough blame to go around for more than one party. Truth be told, it's next to impossible to blame just one party. But the drama's usual players are to be found here: Subprime mortgage, derivatives, lax regulation, greed. Even so, McClean and Nocera do a fine job of revealing a few little known tidbits. For example, how many people know that more than half of the subprime loans given during the lead up to the crisis were not even for first-time home buyers? Most of the loans went to people seeking to purchase second homes or looking to get loans to make improvements on their current homes. Conservatives in denial (and also in the pocket of Wall Street contributors) like to place the blame on "borrowers taking out loans they knew they could not afford." That was a significant problem, but this didn't stop mortgage officers from falsifying applications or slacking on underwriting because they were being told that Wall Street needed more loans to put into the hot new instrument (Collateralized Debt Obligations) making everyone rich. Feed the Beast. This didn't stop mortgage companies from pushing applicants who could have qualified for prime loans into subprime loans. Why? Because subprime loans offered more in the ways of fees and compensation. And then there were the credit ratings agencies agreeing to offer the best ratings to securities they knew were junk. It's hard to refuse the request of the very banks upon whom you are dependent for your survival, isn't it? This book is dense, but well worth the effort. I'm not a finance mind and there was enough history and profile-type writing in this book to make it approachable for an intelligent reader. McClean and Nocera are equal opportunity in that they don't politicize this story. It's easy to want to, but as mentioned, there is plenty of blame to go around for anyone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I've read a number of books on the financial crises and, for a layperson, think I have a pretty good grasp of what exactly happened. However, it never really *clicked* until I read this one. I had the vocabulary but it still seemed abstract. The Big Short was easy to understand but too anecdotal. To Big To Fail was an amazing play-by-play of the actual crisis but pretty scant on the underlying causes. 13 Bankers was somehow forgettable (though in fairness, I read it start to finish on a plane to I've read a number of books on the financial crises and, for a layperson, think I have a pretty good grasp of what exactly happened. However, it never really *clicked* until I read this one. I had the vocabulary but it still seemed abstract. The Big Short was easy to understand but too anecdotal. To Big To Fail was an amazing play-by-play of the actual crisis but pretty scant on the underlying causes. 13 Bankers was somehow forgettable (though in fairness, I read it start to finish on a plane to London). This one *nailed* it. It's not shrill. It's not an anti-Wall Street screed, but it's also not an apologetic. It's soundly argued and well-written, knowing when to get broad and when to focus nearer. Most importantly, it cemented what I knew and made me aware of what I don't understand (I can't quite get my head around synthetic CDO's, as yet). This is an amazing book, and one I imagine I'll return to.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    I liked the book for its comprehensive set up of why the financial crises happened. Could have been written a little more engaginglz for example I thought sorkins too big to fail was much more entertaining,

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erika Johansen

    An incredibly well-ordered explanation of what happened to us all in the mortgage meltdown. As in The Smartest Guys in the Room (also excellent), McLean has a great gift for taking a complex mess of origins of disaster and weaving them into a coherent and compelling narrative that we non-business people can follow. Strongly recommend.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roderick Hart

    The book is subtitled ‘Unmasking The Men Who Bankrupted The World’, which is exactly what the authors try to do. I have seen it referred to as if it were a crime novel with a direct writing style and a gripping narrative. If criminal incompetence is a crime, then much of the activity described is criminal, and the prose is as direct as it can be given the subject. But as a read it is more engrossing than gripping, though we can’t blame the authors for failing to achieve the impossible. They are The book is subtitled ‘Unmasking The Men Who Bankrupted The World’, which is exactly what the authors try to do. I have seen it referred to as if it were a crime novel with a direct writing style and a gripping narrative. If criminal incompetence is a crime, then much of the activity described is criminal, and the prose is as direct as it can be given the subject. But as a read it is more engrossing than gripping, though we can’t blame the authors for failing to achieve the impossible. They are dealing here with information on a large scale and, as far as I can tell, they have done this very well. The cast is large: one hundred main characters are listed, with many others getting a mention while not in the list. There is also an abundance of detail concerning companies, state agencies, financial products and regulation. So while this book may not have you on the edge of your seat, the authors have done an excellent job in accounting for the financial collapse of 2008, the aftershocks of which impoverish us still. They trace the rise of the sub-prime mortgage in the United States, so their starting point is several decades back. In the course of their explanation, several factors stood out for me. The first is the baleful effect of the disconnect between borrower and lender. In the old days, when bankers had banking qualifications, the lender would try to ensure that money lent would be returned. If he failed to do this he would have to answer to his depositors. However, when derivatives appeared on the scene, risk was farmed out to others so the lender was no longer constrained by the ability of the borrower to repay. It was believed by some that complex mathematical risk models were the solution to this problem. Others didn’t care as long as their commissions and bonuses kept coming, knowing full well they would not have to pick up the pieces. The sub-prime mortgage market was a United States phenomenon, so the book covers all the factors involved in its inception and expansion, which ultimately led to the credit crunch. Unfortunately for readers outside the US, much of the narrative involves semi-public agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which have no counterparts in other countries. And there is a strong political element, with endless political lobbying involving all the main institutions, mostly private. Much of this lobbying was amazingly aggressive and some of it downright vicious. Also, since the events described took place in the US there is a strong element of faith in the free market, entailing vigorous opposition to any regulation at all of derivates and other synthetic products. For example, Alan Greenspan believed in the free market, not surprising in someone who, early on, had bought the Ayn Rand line. (I wonder what he made of the ludicrous ‘Shangri La’ section of Atlas Shrugged?) The role of the ratings agencies is exposed, perhaps the easiest factor to explain. Since those who were issuing the bonds paid the agencies for their ratings, the issuers could play one agency off against another in their bid to secure triple A ratings. Worse, it was in the agencies’ financial interest to award good grades to their clients. That way their fees kept rolling in. Also, buyers of bonds came to rely on agency ratings rather than doing their own research. Given the agencies’ record on Enron and WorldCom it is hard to believe that anyone trusted them. Yet after the crash of 2008 the markets still rely on them. Whoever ‘the markets’ may be, they don’t seem to learn from experience. It is now clear to most that financial markets cannot be left to regulate themselves since, when they fail, which they have on many occasions, the majority of us, who were not involved, are left to pick up the tab through our taxes. And still the bankers pocket their bonuses. If this is the reward for failure, what would be the reward for success? A long time ago, capitalism entailed people with money lending it to people who needed it to run businesses. A good case can be made for that still. Much financial activity now concerns buying and selling financial products as an end in itself, benefiting no one but the players and certainly not society at large. Capitalism is under attack from parasites of its own creation. The opinions in this last paragraph, which I had before reading this book, have been reinforced by reading it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    perfectlyGoodInk

    I consider this to be the best book on the financial crisis, edging out Nouriel Roubini's _Crisis Economics_ and significantly better than Michael Lewis's excellent _Big Short_. Roubini excels more at explaining more of the economics in systemic big-picture terms and also laying out reform proposals to prevent the next crisis, but overreaches quite a bit with the latter and reads a bit more like a textbook due to a lack of characters and narrative. Lewis has plenty of narrative, concentrating on I consider this to be the best book on the financial crisis, edging out Nouriel Roubini's _Crisis Economics_ and significantly better than Michael Lewis's excellent _Big Short_. Roubini excels more at explaining more of the economics in systemic big-picture terms and also laying out reform proposals to prevent the next crisis, but overreaches quite a bit with the latter and reads a bit more like a textbook due to a lack of characters and narrative. Lewis has plenty of narrative, concentrating on several individuals with a good view as to what was going on, but is a bit narrowly focused. _All the Devils are Here_ has a decent mix. It has a very comprehensive scale. I've read a significant amount of academic literature on the topic, but this one still filled in the gaps, as I didn't yet have a good grasp of what was going on in the ratings agencies. I also learned a lot more about the role of the GSEs (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) from this book. It also has plenty of vivid characters playing a variety of roles. There are almost too many, and several seem a bit stock in nature, but it still holds together quite well. Despite the topic, it's a rather quick and lively read, and the interaction between Brooksley Born and Bob Rubin is probably the most gripping (and a better treatment than the Frontline special on Born). Unfortunately, neither author is well-versed in economics, so it's a rather short on analysis and has absolutely no reform proposals whatsoever. This is both a pro and con, as it refrains from being overly didactic and/or political (both flaws of Roubini's book), but it also makes for somewhat more superficial coverage. I can see readers leaving with the impression that the crisis was due to bad people doing bad things when there are numerous systemic economic issues at its core, but the book does indeed cover these issues (particularly the conflicts of interest at the ratings agencies) even if it doesn't put them center stage. A bigger flaw is their treatment of the Federal Reserve. This is where I think the authors should have consulted more people with an economics background, as they seem to have the impression that the Fed's role in the economy is largely regulatory when in fact its primary role is to conduct monetary policy -- controlling the money supply. The Fed was the one supplying the excess dollars that inflated the bubble, and this is one of the few points largely agreed upon by economists (even if they disagree on what, if anything, ought to be done to address this). Still, they get it mostly right (having a decent grasp of the importance of incentives and information and how securitization made a mess of things) , and considering the vast scope of the crisis, it is probably nearly impossible to cover everything and still have a readable book. Despite its minor flaws, I consider this book both a must-read and a very enjoyable read as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This is a pretty detailed history of how the 2008 Financial Crisis occurred, recommended by a friend (thanks Brandon!). If you want something a bit simpler and more gripping, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine is simplified and boiled down to the stories of a few people who made money betting the meltdown would happen. That one's good too, but this one has the tracking down of developments and choices over 30+ years that led to exactly what happened. I actually can't think of any signific This is a pretty detailed history of how the 2008 Financial Crisis occurred, recommended by a friend (thanks Brandon!). If you want something a bit simpler and more gripping, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine is simplified and boiled down to the stories of a few people who made money betting the meltdown would happen. That one's good too, but this one has the tracking down of developments and choices over 30+ years that led to exactly what happened. I actually can't think of any significant flaws in the writing or research, so this review is going to be a bit boring because there's nothing to pick at. Bonus points for a mention of Oakland as one of the places where predatory lending and defaults started hitting hard as well as other metro areas. The book covers up to 2010 when it was published; it would have been nice to get a little more coverage of what the Federal government (ineffectively) did to try to help things. The $700 billion TARP program is mentioned, but the later and bigger one isn't. Neither are the first time home buyer credits or the numerous things Congress thought of and shied away from, allowing the crisis to extend further than maybe it had to. But if you're looking for detail about the financial crisis and enjoy "hard nonfiction", this is a great read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mary Jo

    The latest in books regarding the financial crisis. Not much new to be added . It is still amazing to me that no CEO 's, traders, no one from the rating agencies or the regulators are in jail. It is pretty apparent that everyone know what was going on, that fraud was occurring and no one did a thing, Somehow the people losing houses Were the only losers . Goldman Sachs betted against their own clients - and won (or lost less than they should ). The ratings agencies perpetuated fraud, loan orig The latest in books regarding the financial crisis. Not much new to be added . It is still amazing to me that no CEO 's, traders, no one from the rating agencies or the regulators are in jail. It is pretty apparent that everyone know what was going on, that fraud was occurring and no one did a thing, Somehow the people losing houses Were the only losers . Goldman Sachs betted against their own clients - and won (or lost less than they should ). The ratings agencies perpetuated fraud, loan originators "sold" no doc loans, and no one cared if loans were paid back / in some cases the investment companies made more if the loans were " bad ". So all these institutions who produced no tangible product - became the destroyers of the American dream - that this generation would have a better life than their parents. And the poster child for this vulture economics is running for President on how well he understands our culture,

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ayesha Madan

    Incredibly thorough and surprisingly interesting. Makes 'The Big Short' seem like a scratch on the surface, which it in fact is. I read this book because I no longer wanted the inner workings of finance to be an intimidating and unwelcoming topic for me. For the most part this book satisfied that goal, although the way the order of events are recounted were a bit confusing, flipping back and forth in time, and from devil to devil for unstated reasons. Having said this, a few years from now I'll Incredibly thorough and surprisingly interesting. Makes 'The Big Short' seem like a scratch on the surface, which it in fact is. I read this book because I no longer wanted the inner workings of finance to be an intimidating and unwelcoming topic for me. For the most part this book satisfied that goal, although the way the order of events are recounted were a bit confusing, flipping back and forth in time, and from devil to devil for unstated reasons. Having said this, a few years from now I'll likely remember this book more for its easy to understand prose, rather than the minor confusions. This book shows that we all deserve to know more about a twisted world that not only affects us more than we think, but more importantly, feeds off the common man's ignorance. Highly recommend this book to any curious reader.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Cindrich

    Well. Just the fact that I was at all able to understand what was going on as the authors described structured investment vehicles and synthetic CDOs and credit default swaps and piggyback mortgages demonstrates the admirable clarity of their writing. And somehow, as they traced 30 years of gathering disaster in the financial markets (with particular emphasis on the role played by subprime mortgages), they managed to imbue the narrative with tension. Does it sound crazy to say that I actually st Well. Just the fact that I was at all able to understand what was going on as the authors described structured investment vehicles and synthetic CDOs and credit default swaps and piggyback mortgages demonstrates the admirable clarity of their writing. And somehow, as they traced 30 years of gathering disaster in the financial markets (with particular emphasis on the role played by subprime mortgages), they managed to imbue the narrative with tension. Does it sound crazy to say that I actually stayed up late a couple of nights reading because I didn't want to put it down? Definitely hard to feel optimistic upon completion. Moody's! S&P! Regulators! Underwriters! Traders! Fannie! Freddie! Congressmen! The Fed! How you all failed us! It would be nice to flee the markets, I think. Too bad savings accounts offer zippo interest these days.

  18. 4 out of 5

    !Tæmbuŝu

    KOBOBOOKS Reviewed by The Washington Post KOBOBOOKS Reviewed by The Washington Post

  19. 5 out of 5

    db

    I thought I understood what happened, and I did, but I also had no idea of the personalities, unintended consequences, evil and good actors, including citizens and CEOs who brought on the 2007 economic recession. Excellent read -

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    It’s a how-to book, but not the best kind. To accomplish what the businessmen (and occasionally mentioned businesswomen) created, you really had to be in the right place and at the right time. The right place was in a mortgage bank or financial firm, and the right time was the decade or so leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. This is the book on the building of that crisis. The focus is the building blocks of derivative contracts based on mortgages, passing off more and more risk in financia It’s a how-to book, but not the best kind. To accomplish what the businessmen (and occasionally mentioned businesswomen) created, you really had to be in the right place and at the right time. The right place was in a mortgage bank or financial firm, and the right time was the decade or so leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. This is the book on the building of that crisis. The focus is the building blocks of derivative contracts based on mortgages, passing off more and more risk in financial instruments as non-risky investments. The crisis deepens through the first ¾ of the book, with the last quarter of the book describing the subsequent crash and the immediate impacts of the rapid unwinding of those derivatives. I’ve read other books on the financial crisis that seemed more “back end heavy” in terms of focusing on the crisis and the response. This is more on the build-up. And what a story it is. The moral seems to be “do your homework, especially if your assumptions have never been tested”. Well written, engaging, with plenty of anecdotes about powerful (mostly) men with over-sized personalities, and often egos.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jay Connor

    “We fell for our own scam.” This quote from John Breit, the Merrill-Lynch risk manager, captures the core absurdity of the run up to and implosion that was the 2008 financial crisis. Here is a story, so wonderfully recounted in the excellent “All the Devils Are Here,” of our major financial institutions creating a whole range of dubious investment vehicles for their own enrichment. Yet, when these investments, soon labeled “toxic assets,” began to fall like a house of cards, the smart guys were “We fell for our own scam.” This quote from John Breit, the Merrill-Lynch risk manager, captures the core absurdity of the run up to and implosion that was the 2008 financial crisis. Here is a story, so wonderfully recounted in the excellent “All the Devils Are Here,” of our major financial institutions creating a whole range of dubious investment vehicles for their own enrichment. Yet, when these investments, soon labeled “toxic assets,” began to fall like a house of cards, the smart guys were the ones who could move the worst securities off their own books into the hands of their unsuspecting clients. Yes, the Federal Government bailed out the guys whose central strategy was sticking their own customers with as much self-constructed trash as they could peddle. The scam involved securitizing mortgage debt. (Later, as the frenzy was hitting its peak, it would include uncollateralized debt like credit cards and school loans.) But, in its simplest form: securitizing mortgage debt is buying a number of loans on housing, bundling them together using the monthly mortgage payments as “interest,” and selling pieces of the bundle like you would sell a bond or a note. At this point, fairly harmless, right? But here comes the object lesson – a tutorial in the balance between free market and regulation gone amuck. By bundling the mortgages together, the investment banks broke apart the traditional market force of a borrower and lender having a mutual interest in the loan being repaid. As Prentiss Cox, Minnesota Attorney General observed: “It’s not in anyone’s long-term interest for consumers to get loans they can’t pay back.” But, if you gave an incentive of huge fees for the selling of these securitized mortgages, then the market force becomes distorted valuing the number of mortgages to bundle much more highly than the traditional repayment of those mortgages, especially when the party selling the mortgage no longer cares whether it is repaid because they sold the loan to the bundler long before the first payment was due. But surely, a bundle of loans that aren’t being repaid can’t be worth as much as when the loans are being repaid. Right? Not in this scam. The people rating the quality of these loan bundles – Moody’s, Standard & Poors, Fitch – were paid fees by the investment bank bundlers, so it wasn’t in their selfish interest to look too closely at the bundles. The more bundles – i.e., the more mortgages – the more fees to the rating agencies. As one Moody’s employee in an e-mail opined as the scam was unraveling in late 2007, “(they) make us look either incompetent at credit analysis or like we sold our soul to the devil for revenue, or a little bit of both.” A little bit of both, indeed. Without going into the arcane world of tranches, laying off risk, derivatives and counter-parties, in this world of fees trumping reality, all bundles were rated Triple A – the highest quality investment, just like Treasuries. Unlike the supernatural perfect storm, this was the manipulated perfect trifecta! (1) Sellers of the loans – like Countrywide – were incentivized to sell more loans irrespective of chance of repayment. Why else would you sell “no docs” loans, which required no proof of ability to repay? (2) Bundlers of loans – Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers et al – were incentivized by huge fees to make / sell more bundles. (3) The quality control on the bundles, the quasi-regulator ratings agencies, was incentivized to approve more bundles. In fact, there was a race to be easier in your ratings rather than lose market share. Thus, all of the market forces in this free market were aligned. It really was alchemy, though of a deeply perverse sort. With Alan Greenspan, the FED and the Treasury unwilling to do anything to intervene in this “free market,” the eventual implosion was inevitable! In this misguided stance of nonintervention, the authors correctly summarize: “Greenspan was blinded, as ever, by ideology. (Larry) Summers was blinded by his deep-seated need to be viewed as a brilliant man, which in this case meant embracing, uncritically, the complexities of modern finance. As for Rubin, he was blinded by pride.” The result, as concluded by a former Moody’s analyst, “we have encouraged financial institutions to grow in ways that do not directly facilitate or enhance the reason for having a financial system in the first place.” In a free market, financial institutions are charged with providing capital for economic growth. A trillion dollars wasted with no new capital formation, another trillion-plus dollars lost by scammed investors, dramatic unemployment, near-depression economic retrenchment and a home-ownership percentage lower than when all of the manipulation began. Truly, “all the devils are here.” We are still in the dawning of the 21st Century; we have in our control how we will be remembered. As of now, it looks like the time will be labeled: A Epoch of Greed and Hubris. Are we closer to our Caligulas or our Caesars? How we unravel the wrenching reality of more than three trillion dollars wasted in the past ten years, between war and games, will be our measure for future generations. We must have a clearer purpose and vision than simply acting out of our self-centered ideology, need or pride.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pabel Martin

    Another Gem from Bethany McLean Great book that’s thoroughly reported and does an excellent job of walking through the history, run-up, and excesses that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kurtbg

    This books details the actions of the major organizations that contributed to the housing bubble that burst in 2008. Many have the opinion that the financial institutions are hard to regulate and that crises are hard to identify before they happen. After reading this book it seems disingenuous to believe that. If one looks at all the major economic scandals in the past it always come down to three things. 1. Deregulation 2. lack of oversight or enforcement by a scrupulous entity 3. greed. This bo This books details the actions of the major organizations that contributed to the housing bubble that burst in 2008. Many have the opinion that the financial institutions are hard to regulate and that crises are hard to identify before they happen. After reading this book it seems disingenuous to believe that. If one looks at all the major economic scandals in the past it always come down to three things. 1. Deregulation 2. lack of oversight or enforcement by a scrupulous entity 3. greed. This book states that the Federal Reserve Bank (headed by Alan Greenspan at the time) embraced the belief of market discipline which means everyone monitors and regulates themselves for the best of the market. This seems counter-intuitive as the purpose of the market is to generate and compete for wealth. The maxim of "you don't let the foxes run the hen house" seems applicable. So what happened in the housing bubble? the inflection point was the credit rating agencies such as Moody's and Standard and Poor. They provided a service that was a pillar the market relies on - analyzing and stating how much a security was valued in terms of rating - just as stocks and mutual funds are rated. This included mortgage securities which pre-2004 were mainly steady and reliable. The US government had recognized these agencies importance to to the health of the economy. What changed was that the credit rating companies changed from being privately held and generating revenue via subscriptions, to going public and having the clients pay a fee for each rating. The rating agencies revenues leapt. Soon investment vehicles were being created that were full of junk which were getting the highest ratings from rating agencies. Basically, ratings were getting rubber-stamped, which drove an increase in securities being rated. This created a great push to move these securities which drove the housing market to seal loans - hence an increase in predatory lending and faking loan application data (rubber-stamping on that side as well.) Investment banking, banking and brokerage firms kept creating basically junk securities and started to play tricks with them by having securities self-reference in other securities which made it seem like markets were booming. The tentacles spread to insurance companies and bank as other vehicles were used to insure, short, and take on the debt. Mortgage lenders and wall st all made money on fees. Competition in the mortgage lending marketplace meant mirroring the poor lending policies of their competitors, otherwise they would lose business to them. Same thing with Wall st - money was being made, and everyone wanted in. The majority never questioned why there was a spike in housing activity, or the jump in CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) and CDS' (credit default swaps.) It finally came to light that the ratings were false.. The tentacles supporting the fake growth retracted, and the market fell - back to what it was before the bubble started. That was after mortgage lenders failed, a few wall st firms fell or were sold, congressional hearings, company fines, bailouts, and home foreclosures significantly increased. The movie The Big Short based on a book by Michael Lewis covers this, but focuses more on the wall st aspect. This book includes regulatory agencies, the Federal Reserve, mortgage lenders, and wall st. How can one spot major risks in the market based on malfeasance? 1. Look for a spike in fees - that's what the majority of wall st runs on. 2. Look at increased economic activity and what is driving it 3. look at what regulations have been removed or put in place and always follow the money #1-2 are basically "follow the money" checks. If some firm or person is suddenly getting wall st accolades for exceedingly high performance or creating new securities/vehicles for wealth, than there's a high probability it will damage the market at some point. Generally, this disaster shows how the market cannot be relied on to fully maintain discipline as every organization focused on revenue versus stability and risk. The need for an effectively regulated capitalism to maintain stable and legitimate economic institution can hardly be debated. All the economic scandals since Reagan show this. Otherwise, more economic collapses are to be expected with increased impacts to the country, especially as companies have become even bigger to fail.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Converse

    All the Devils are Here is a compendious but anecdotal history of the real estate bubble and financial crisis of the early 2000s in the United States. Unlike some of the other books on the subject, the authors discuss the mortgage originators, such as Countrywide, as well as the Wall Street firms that repackaged the mortages into various sorts of derivatives, such as Goldman Sachs, Lehmann, Bear Sterns and Merrill Lynch (which was bought by Bank of America). The authors also give a good deal of All the Devils are Here is a compendious but anecdotal history of the real estate bubble and financial crisis of the early 2000s in the United States. Unlike some of the other books on the subject, the authors discuss the mortgage originators, such as Countrywide, as well as the Wall Street firms that repackaged the mortages into various sorts of derivatives, such as Goldman Sachs, Lehmann, Bear Sterns and Merrill Lynch (which was bought by Bank of America). The authors also give a good deal of attention to government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that guarenteed mortgages and also bought mortgage bonds. The attention given to mortgage originators, such as Countrywide, indicates that lending standards fell drastically during the bubble, with what appears to be a good deal of simple fraud on the part of the mortgage orignators (indicating on the paperwork that borrowers had higher incomes than they actually did and so forth). I think the most surprising thing I learned about this aspect of the business was that a low percentage of the various sorts of risky mortgages were actually given to buy new homes; mostly these mortgages were refinancings. Thus the rationale for the benefits of, for example sub prime mortgages, that these financial instruments were of considerable use in increasing the proportion of American households who owned their own homes, appears not to be factually correct. The authors also spend a good deal of time on the political activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including their successful attempts to avoid being reined in as unfair competition to private enterprise. The success of the GSEs in this arena was remarkable. The authors also discuss the creation of securities derived from mortgages, beginning with mortgage bonds (originated in the 1980s), collaterialized debt obligations (which are based on mortgage bonds), and credit default swaps (which in regard to real estate are a sort of bet or insurance on the quality of mortgage backed securities). As credit default swaps were a speciality of the insurance conglomerate AIG, there is much discussion of this firm. I was surprised to learn that AIG did not really end its involvement in credit default swaps in 2005, but still had some involvement (as well as the older contracts) going on in years following, though at a lower level. Goldman Sachs emerges as about the ethical equal (not necessarily saying much) of its competitors, despite such notorious actions as helping John Paulson create a derviative security designed to fail, so that Paulson could bet (using a credit default swap) that it would fail. Goldman emerges as a firm similar to the others, but smarter. In particular, Goldman did not believe that triple AAA security ratings should be taken at face value. I said that this book is anecdotal, because one learns so much about the individual trees that a view of the forest is rarely attained. Thus it is hard to judge which factors were most deadly in creating the crisis.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erica McMaster

    It took me 3 times starting this book, and a ton of googling definitions and explanations of financial terms, but it was so worth it. An incredibly eye-opening account of the 2008 financial crisis. It was a lot to get through, but then a lot went on in the decade leading up to Lehman’s collapse. Excellent writing and so much jaw-drop in these pages.

  26. 4 out of 5

    DoctorM

    A look at the Global Financial Meltdown of the Year Eight that begins not in the boardrooms or bond trading pits, but with the growth of the subprime mortgage market, a look at the Meltdown that focuses less on CEOs and corporate culture than on how the far less glamourous world of mortgage origination and mortgage bonds works. McLean and her co-author Joe Nocera look first at Fannie and Freddie Mae, and then at the private-sector firms that came to dominate the world of subprime. "All the Devils A look at the Global Financial Meltdown of the Year Eight that begins not in the boardrooms or bond trading pits, but with the growth of the subprime mortgage market, a look at the Meltdown that focuses less on CEOs and corporate culture than on how the far less glamourous world of mortgage origination and mortgage bonds works. McLean and her co-author Joe Nocera look first at Fannie and Freddie Mae, and then at the private-sector firms that came to dominate the world of subprime. "All the Devils are Here" is well-written, though it doesn't address the underlying cultural issue: the longstanding American belief, accepted by both parties and their economic advisors, that home ownership is a key imperative. Owning a home is a key marker for social mobility, for respectability, for membership in the American middle class. By the 1990s, Americans had fetishised the home into far more than either a place to sleep or even an investment. And no party, no regulator, no president, no Very Serious economist or pundit could ever say that too many people were trying to buy homes, or that apartments were perfectly acceptable for respectable people. Every American child growing up after 1945 was taught a key thing: invest in real estate and housing, that they'd never lose money. And all the synthetic CDOs and MBS credit swaps were regarded as somehow ultimately safe, as tools that didn't need to be closely examined, since home ownership and housing markets were only and ever going up. That belief was something separate from economic analysis or even mere greed for bonuses; it was an item of faith in everything American. McLean and Nocera point out the rampant fraud and blithe disregard for facts and rules among originators like Countrywide or AmeriQuest, certainly. And they point out the free-marketeer disdain for regulation and the relentless drive for market share and fees among the big investment houses. "All the Devils" is worthwhile reading just for those stories. But there is an underlying tale here about cultural attitudes and cultural markers that...just maybe...someone will one day tell.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shravan Venkataraman

    For those who have read The Big Short, Greatest Trade Ever, Money & Power, this book is the connecting link to the 2008 subprime crisis. How Freddie Mac and Fanny May played a pivotal role in selling sub-prime mortgage securities, and how the regulators who were supposed to oversee didn't have a strong hold on the risk and the safety issues of the securities being created, how the rating agencies were bribed or attended to - in order to get higher ratings for securities that consisted of pure ju For those who have read The Big Short, Greatest Trade Ever, Money & Power, this book is the connecting link to the 2008 subprime crisis. How Freddie Mac and Fanny May played a pivotal role in selling sub-prime mortgage securities, and how the regulators who were supposed to oversee didn't have a strong hold on the risk and the safety issues of the securities being created, how the rating agencies were bribed or attended to - in order to get higher ratings for securities that consisted of pure junk, how Goldman Sachs was smart enough to survive through the crisis, but by betting against its own clients, and acting against the interest of its clients, how Lehmann Brothers, Countrywide, AIG, and other players were actually negligent of the risks that they were undertaking, how Goldman played a pivotal role in AIG's downfall, and so on and so forth - all these are covered in this book. At the end of the day, the guy with the largest stick wins. That's the moral of the story. If you are going to look at morals, you won't survive; and if you are going to talk fairness, you will get killed. Welcome to the real world! This is rather a brilliantly woven and surprisingly very very engaging book that connects together the different major players who initiated and aggravated the crisis, that eventually led to the downfall of Lehmann, Bear Stearns, AIG, Countrywide, and the likes. If you've read all those books I'd mentioned here, this book will bring the entire story full circle. Must read for anyone who is interested to learn more about the sub-prime crisis and where it all originated.

  28. 5 out of 5

    sherry haynes

    Great read very detailed, revealing that everyone was to blame for the financial crisis, including the government, big banks and consumers. And the the motivation of all involved was the same, GOOD OLD FASHIONED AMERICAN GREED!!!!!!! Great read very detailed, revealing that everyone was to blame for the financial crisis, including the government, big banks and consumers. And the the motivation of all involved was the same, GOOD OLD FASHIONED AMERICAN GREED!!!!!!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    I've read Michael Lewis' "The Big Short", Broke, U.S.A. by Gary Rivlin, "How the West was Lost" by Dambisa Moyo and now "All The Devils Are Here" by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera. This book was dense: I had to read it in small pieces, and did a lot of back-referencing. The set-up was long and dry. I skipped from Chapter 5 to Chapter 17, and back-tracked to the stuff in-between to make the story move more quickly. Obsessed with trying to understand the financial meltdown, I keep reading these boo I've read Michael Lewis' "The Big Short", Broke, U.S.A. by Gary Rivlin, "How the West was Lost" by Dambisa Moyo and now "All The Devils Are Here" by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera. This book was dense: I had to read it in small pieces, and did a lot of back-referencing. The set-up was long and dry. I skipped from Chapter 5 to Chapter 17, and back-tracked to the stuff in-between to make the story move more quickly. Obsessed with trying to understand the financial meltdown, I keep reading these books in hopes that I will see some light at the end of the tunnel. It's still fuzzy and gray. My take-away from this book is: 1. there was no oversight. No one could figure out or understand what the financial institutions were doing. 2. The "Great American Dream" topped out prior to the meltdown, and the bubble increased home ownership by less than 2%, and after the fall, dropped back to pre-bubble rates. 3. The entire bubble did nothing to increase American productivity. 4. You can't make gold out of lead. (Synthetic CDOs) 5. And the most scary part: The Government and banking industry are trying to recreate the same economy. 6. NO ONE WAS PUNISHED!!!! 7. Buy a house for a roof over your head - and keep it there! For more than 15 years I have wondered what kind of income people had to buy houses for $300K+ in my area just to tear them down to build a McMansion. (small lots, big houses.) Now I know - they make as much as we do, but they leveraged the hell out of their house. (We foolishly made sure we paid ours off early.)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    What surprised me in reading this book wasn't the excessive greed of the Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, or the Goldman Sachs of the world, nor the just-as-excessive greed of the customer-facing lenders who came up with all manner of mortgage offerings to convince Americans to buy a home, nor, finally, the gullibility, lack of fiscal responsibility, etc., of the house-buying consumers. It was the fact that the delusion of the financial services leaders (otherwise quite intelligent people) ran so deep th What surprised me in reading this book wasn't the excessive greed of the Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, or the Goldman Sachs of the world, nor the just-as-excessive greed of the customer-facing lenders who came up with all manner of mortgage offerings to convince Americans to buy a home, nor, finally, the gullibility, lack of fiscal responsibility, etc., of the house-buying consumers. It was the fact that the delusion of the financial services leaders (otherwise quite intelligent people) ran so deep that they consistently ignored the advice of their (also quite intelligent) advisors who finally began to see the likely downfall of the 30 years of lending practices that created the complicated system of fragile codependencies. Fueled primarily by the insatiable desire to make more money, they generally seemed determined to ride the financial ship to the bottom of the ocean, heedlessly running through every warning sign where they may have averted or at least minimized the negative impact of the pending crash. The book provides great detail of the origins of the 2008 financial crisis, explains the development of risk management strategies and financial derivatives, and covers how the American finance sector evolved and expanded until its ultimate crash. If the reader is interested in gaining a better understanding of the factors that led to financial crisis and the motivations and critical decisions made by key personalities, this book will be a great starting point.

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