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Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America

by

Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The intimate, fly-on-the wall tale of the decline and fall of an America icon

 

With one notable exception, the firms that make up what we know as Wall Street have always been part of an inbred, insular culture that most people only vaguely understand. The exception was Merrill Lynch, a firm that revolutionized the stock market by bringing Wall Street to Main Street, setting up offices in far-flung cities and towns long ignored by the giants of finance. With its “thundering herd” of financial advisers, perhaps no other business, whether in financial services or elsewhere, so epitomized the American spirit. Merrill Lynch was not only “bullish on America,” it was a big reason why so many average Americans were able to grow wealthy by investing in the stock market. 

Merrill Lynch was an icon. Its sudden decline, collapse, and sale to Bank of America was a shock. How did it happen? Why did it happen? And what does this story of greed, hubris, and incompetence tell us about the culture of Wall Street that continues to this day even though it came close to destroying the American economy? A culture in which the CEO of a firm losing $28 billion pushes hard to be paid a $25 million bonus. A culture in which two Merrill Lynch executives are guaranteed bonuses of $30 million and $40 million for four months’ work, even while the firm is struggling to reduce its losses by firing thousands of employees.

Based on unparalleled sources at both Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, Greg Farrell’s Crash of the Titans is a Shakespearean saga of three flawed masters of the universe. E. Stanley O’Neal, whose inspiring rise from the segregated South to the corner office of Merrill Lynch—where he engineered a successful turnaround—was undone by his belief that a smooth-talking salesman could handle one of the most difficult jobs on Wall Street. Because he enjoyed O’Neal’s support, this executive was allowed to build up an astonishing $30 billion position in CDOs on the firm’s balance sheet, at a time when all other Wall Street firms were desperately trying to exit the business. After O’Neal comes John Thain, the cerebral, MIT-educated technocrat whose rescue of the New York Stock Exchange earned him the nickname “Super Thain.” He was hired to save Merrill Lynch in late 2007, but his belief that the markets would rebound led him to underestimate the depth of Merrill’s problems. Finally, we meet Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, a street fighter raised barely above the poverty line in rural Georgia, whose “my way or the highway” management style suffers fools more easily than potential rivals, and who made a $50 billion commitment over a September weekend to buy a business he really didn’t understand, thus jeopardizing his own institution. 

The merger itself turns out to be a bizarre combination of cultures that blend like oil and water, where slick Wall Street bankers suddenly find themselves reporting to a cast of characters straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies. BofA’s inbred culture, which perceived New York banks its enemies, was based on loyalty and a good-ol’-boy network in which competence played second fiddle to blind obedience.

Crash of the Titans is a financial thriller that puts you in the theater as the historic events of the financial crisis unfold and people responsible for billion of dollars of other people’s money gamble recklessly to enhance their power and their paychecks or to save their own skins. Its wealth of never-before-revealed information and focus on two icons of corporate America make it the book that puts together all the pieces of the Wall Street disaster.

Synopsis:

In this authoritative account, "Financial Times" reporter Farrell delivers the riveting story of how the decline and fall of Merrill Lynch crippled Bank of America and nearly destroyed America's financial system.

Synopsis:

“Farrell’s account is eminently readable and convincing.” —Salon.com

 

“Farrell weaves his facts into a story…piling detail upon detail to sketch the inner workings of Merrill Lynch, which he calls the Wall Street firm that made it possible for average Americans to reap handsome returns in the stock market.”  USA Today

Crash of the Titan’s is the “…financial crisis' answer to Game Change—John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's tattle-filled best-seller about the 2008 Presidential election—Farrell shows that…seemingly trivial matters became the obsessions of Wall Street executives as the subprime contagion spread.” -BusinessWeek

About the Author

GREG FARRELL is a correspondent for the Financial Times. In January 2009, he broke the news that Merrill Lynch had paid out its 2008 bonuses a month ahead of schedule, in December, even though Merrill was in the process of losing $28 billion for the year, and Bank of America needed an extra $20 billion in taxpayer funds to complete its acquisition of the firm. That story sparked an investigation by New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo. Greg is a past winner of the American Business Press’s Jesse Neal Award for investigative reporting and a recipient of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship for business journalism. He earned a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307717863
Subtitle:
Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America
Author:
Farrell, Greg
Publisher:
Crown Business
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Business & Economics
Subject:
Finance
Subject:
Economic Conditions
Subject:
Banks & Banking
Subject:
Business-Accounting and Finance
Publication Date:
20101102
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
9.54 x 6.6 x 1.74 in 1.725 lb

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Related Subjects

Business » Accounting and Finance
Business » Banking
Business » General
Business » Management
History and Social Science » Economics » General

Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America Used Hardcover
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Product details 480 pages Crown Business - English 9780307717863 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In this authoritative account, "Financial Times" reporter Farrell delivers the riveting story of how the decline and fall of Merrill Lynch crippled Bank of America and nearly destroyed America's financial system.
"Synopsis" by , “Farrell’s account is eminently readable and convincing.” —Salon.com

 

“Farrell weaves his facts into a story…piling detail upon detail to sketch the inner workings of Merrill Lynch, which he calls the Wall Street firm that made it possible for average Americans to reap handsome returns in the stock market.”  USA Today

Crash of the Titan’s is the “…financial crisis' answer to Game Change—John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's tattle-filled best-seller about the 2008 Presidential election—Farrell shows that…seemingly trivial matters became the obsessions of Wall Street executives as the subprime contagion spread.” -BusinessWeek

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