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Chasing Goldman Sachs: How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down . . . and Why They'll Take Us to the Brink Again


Chasing Goldman Sachs: How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down . . . and Why They'll Take Us to the Brink Again Cover

ISBN13: 9780307460110
ISBN10: 0307460118
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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You know what happened during the financial crisis … now it is time to understand why the financial system came so close to falling over the edge of the abyss and why it could happen again. Wall Street has been saved, but it hasn’t been reformed. What is the problem?

Suzanne McGee provides a penetrating look at the forces that transformed Wall Street from its traditional role as a capital-generating and economy-boosting engine into a behemoth operating with only its own short-term interests in mind and with reckless disregard for the broader financial system and those who relied on that system for their well being and prosperity.

Primary among these influences was “Goldman Sachs envy”: the self-delusion on the part of Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers, Stanley O’Neil of Merrill Lynch, and other power brokers (egged on by their shareholders) that taking more risk would enable their companies to make even more money than Goldman Sachs. That hubris—and that narrow-minded focus on maximizing their short-term profits—led them to take extraordinary risks that they couldn’t manage and that later severely damaged, and in some cases destroyed, their businesses, wreaking havoc on the nation’s economy and millions of 401(k)s in the process.

In a world that boasted more hedge funds than Taco Bell outlets, McGee demonstrates how it became ever harder for Wall Street to fulfill its function as the financial system’s version of a power grid, with capital, rather than electricity, flowing through it. But just as a power grid can be strained beyond its capacity, so too can a “financial grid” collapse if its functions are distorted, as happened with Wall Street as it became increasingly self-serving and motivated solely by short-term profits. Through probing analysis, meticulous research, and dozens of interviews with the bankers, traders, research analysts, and investment managers who have been on the front lines of financial booms and busts, McGee provides a practical understanding of our financial “utility,” and how it touches everyone directly as an investor and indirectly through the power—capital—that makes the economy work.

Wall Street is as important to the economy and the overall functioning of our society as our electric and water utilities. But it doesn’t act that way. The financial system has been saved from destruction but as long as the mind-set of “chasing Goldman Sachs” lingers, it will not have been reformed. As banking undergoes its biggest transformation since the 1929 crash and the Great Depression, McGee shows where it stands today and points to where it needs to go next, examining the future of those financial institutions supposedly “too big to fail.”

About the Author

SUZANNE McGEE, is a contributing editor at Barron’s. She has written about the financial markets for the New York Post, Institutional Investor, Portfolio.com, and the Financial Times and is a Loeb Award winner for a multimedia series on consumer culture in China. Earlier in her career she was a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

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Cushla, June 7, 2010 (view all comments by Cushla)
This book should be required reading for all new MBA graduates who're about to start working for an investment bank, and every one who cares about what happens to the financial system and wants to understand how we got to the disaster of 2008. This is the 5th book I've read about the financial crisis this year, and it's one of the best. Whether you are working in financial markets or are someone who skips the business pages because you find them really boring, you'll get a lot out of this book. It's extremely readable, and there isn't the snide tone that comes through in lots of financial crisis reporting.

Throughout, McGee is balanced in her coverage of why decisions were made and what was wrong. The most interesting parts of the book, and the bits that will be new to readers who've already read Too Big to Fail or The Big Short, is the excellent discussion of the private equity boom and the changes that go back 20 years, not the most recent stuff. The chapter on regulatory failure was great, but could have been 5 times as long as it was. The fragmentation of the regulatory agencies and their incentives to placate the companies they regulate in the US have a lot to answer for. I also think there isn't enough in the book about how CDOs have been a good development - there are plenty of Americans who benefited from securitisation of home loans through greater housing affordability. Not everything that comes out of a bubble is bad. But these are minor quibbles.

Disclosure: the author is an online friend, and sent me an early review copy of the book. I tried not to let this affect my review.
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reader richard, June 1, 2010 (view all comments by reader richard)
Not to put too fine a point on it, but does the world *really* need another book about The Meltdown That Ate Our Jobs? Do we *really* have anything left to learn about these greedy so-and-sos whose pursuit of their own profits gifted us with a huge expansion of the Federal debt?

In a word, yes.

Suzanne McGee (a close online acquaintance of mine) assumes that her readers are smart, savvy, and plugged in, so she hits only the highlights of the WHAT about the crisis. Her brief, as the subtitle of the book "How the Masters of the Universe Melted Down Wall Street...and Why They'll Take Us to the Brink Again" makes clear, is analyzing and explaining WHY.

She does this in as honest and non-judmental a way as anyone could. She's not pointing fingers at one person per chapter, she's pointing up the systemic and cultural failings that, quite naturally and seemingly inevitably, led to a culture of no-risk gambling that permeated late twentieth century business. It took until the end of the Aughties for the chickens to come home to roost, but as they always do, they did. And who pays? All of us peons, that's who, which is exactly how the system is set up and remains set up to this day.

Her style is spare, unfussy, and dryly witty. Her story provides its own plot, so I can't say whether she's good at plotting. She knows how to give a telling detail! "'When {the New York Stock} Exchange is public, when people are willing to own it, it's a sign of a stable financial system, argues {a Canadian investment-firm billionaire}, who also owns stakes in publicly traded stock exchanges worldwide, from Europe to Latin America...The kind of push that come from shareholder-investors to become more competitive and efficient is the best way to make sure an organization is as effective as possible, he adds." (p137, ARC edition) This comes in a book that traces "efficiency" as the principal author of the megadisaster of 2008...and does anyone remember May 2010, when the "efiicient" robo-trading powerslide of the Exchange caused systemic fantods?

McGee states, makes, and supports her points throughout this book with a lifetime's reportorial experience and a skeptic's "prove it" attitude. She's done the financially semi-literate a huge and signal service in writing this book. It's a good, involving, and deeply frightening read. Recommended to all who aren't mouth-breathing Fox News watchers.
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Product Details

How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down . . . And Why They'll Take Us to the Brink Again
Mcgee, Suzanne
McGee, Suzanne
Crown Business
Banks & Banking
General Business & Economics
Goldman, Sachs & Co
Financial crises -- United States -- History.
Business-Accounting and Finance
Business-History and Biography
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.6 x 6.35 x 1.4 in 1.55 lb

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Related Subjects

Business » Accounting and Finance
Business » Banking
Business » History and Biographies
Business » Investing
History and Social Science » Politics » General

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