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The Seven Sins of Wall Street: Big Banks, Their Washington Lackeys, and the Next Financial Crisisby Bob Ivry
Synopses & Reviews
We all know that the financial crisis of 2008 came dangerously close to pushing the United States and the world into a depression rivaling that of the 1930s. But what is astonishingand#151;and should make us not just afraid but very afraidand#151;are the shenanigans of the biggest banks since the crisis. Bob Ivry passionately, eloquently, and convincingly details the operatic ineptitude of America's best-compensated executives and the ways the government kowtows to what it mistakenly imagines is their competence and success. Ivry shows that the only thing that has changed since the meltdown is how too-big-to-fail banks and their fellow travelers in Washington have nudged us ever closer to an even bigger economic calamity.
Informed by deep reporting from New York, Washington, and the heartland, The Seven Sins of Wall Street, like no other book, shows how weand#8217;re all affected by the financial industryand#8217;s inhumanity. The transgressions of and#147;Wall Street titansand#8221; and and#147;masters of the universeand#8221; are paid for by real people. In fierce, plain English, Ivry indicts a financial industry that continues to work for the few at the expense of the rest of us. Problems that financiers deemed too complicated to be understood by ordinary folks are shown by Ivry to be financial legerdemainand#151;a smokescreen of complexity and jargon that hide the bankersand#8217; nefarious activities.
The Seven Sins of Wall Street is irreverent and timely, an infuriating black comedy. The Great Depression of the 1930s moved the American political system to real reform that kept the finance industry in check. With millions so deeply affected since the crisis of 2008, youand#8217;ll finish this book asking yourself how it is that so many of the nationand#8217;s leading financial institutions remain such exasperating problem children.
"Size, secrecy, pride, greed, impunity, complexity, and immunity from adequate regulation: these are journalist Ivry's cardinal sins of Wall Street. Ivry believes that U.S. banks have been allowed to swell into financial behemoths considered 'too big to fail,' entitling them to cheap money and massive government bailouts. Big banks have prospered in the wake of the Great Recession. JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo had $5.2 trillion in assets on their books at the end of 2006; in 2012 they had $7.8 trillion. Meanwhile, ordinary Americans (unemployed, underpaid, and foreclosed upon) continue to suffer. Over several chapters, Ivry effectively contrasts the fate of a single mother foreclosed out of her Memphis home with that of a Wall Street trader who maintains multiple mansions that go unoccupied. Florid reportage of events override explanations of complex financial topics, sacrificing clarity and balance along the way, such as when Ivry compares the controversy surrounding derivatives to 'the plot outline for a Billy Wilder film noir.' Contrary to the title, the next financial crisis is never fully explored, except in a foreboding sense of impending doom should things not change. While well-informed proponents of the Occupy Wall Street movement will likely enjoy this emotionally-charged expose, ultimately it tell only one side of the story. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
My daughter called me from school one day and said, Dad, what's a financial crisis?' And without trying to be funny, I said, It's something that happens every five to seven years.”
—Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, January 13, 2010
We called it a financial crisis, but what happened in 2008 was really a leveraged buyout of the United States. What the political-financial types did in the months and years after the crisis was engineer a closed loop that never touched the muddy ground or rippled the clothing of an actual person. Wall Street would originate the mortgages and Washington would buy them.
While it's undoubtedly true that many, many Americans had a hand in pushing the U.S. economy to the brink of ruin in 2008, only the bankers and their algorithm-obsessed shadows got or stayed rich with the help of their government in the years following. There was nothing in the rulebook to prohibit Washington from funneling cash to strapped homeowners rather than flush banks. But in the loop-de-loop of Acela Alley, strapped homeowners didn't exist.
The legacy of the financial crisis, however, isn't stronger banks. It's a weaker country. We've paid a price beyond dollars for rescuing the behemoth financial institutions. That's because the biggest boys got even bigger. Before the crisis, at the end of 2006, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo had $5.2 trillion of assets on their books. In 2012, they had $7.8 trillion. That's a 50 percent increase. In 2012, Wells Fargo by itself wrote one of every three residential mortgages in America. Theres no denying that banks have gotten so big that if they cough in New York, financiers feel the breeze in Singapore.
About the Author
Bob Ivry is an investigative reporter for Bloomberg News whose articles have won the 2009 George Polk Award, a 2008 Gerald Loeb award, a 2012 special citation from the Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Award jury at Harvard's Kennedy School, the Society of Professional Journalists 2012 Public Service in Online Journalism award, the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Freedom of Information prize, the 2010 Hillman Prize, three New York Press Club Awards, two National Headliner awards and three awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. BusinessInsider.com recently named @bobivry one of "The 101 Finance People You Have to Follow on Twitter."
A graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Ivry has been a regular contributor to Esquire, Popular Science, Maxim, Self and the Washington Post Book World, and has published short fiction in Esquire and Ploughshares. Before joining Bloomberg, Ivry worked for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Examiner and The Record of Hackensack, NJ, where he also won awards for criticism and news feature reporting.Ivry lives in New York City.
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