Synopses & Reviews
They were a band of outsiders unable to get jobs with New York's gilded financial establishment. They would go on to corner the world's multitrillion-dollar oil market, reaping unimaginable riches while bringing the economy to its knees.
Meet the self-anointed kings of the New York Mercantile Exchange. In some ways, they are everything you would expect them to be: a secretive, members-only club of men and women who live lavish lifestyles; cavort with politicians, strippers, and celebrities; and blissfully jacked up oil prices to nearly $150 a barrel while profiting off the misery of the working class. In other ways, they are nothing you can imagine: many come from working-class families themselves. The progeny of Jewish, Irish, and Italian immigrants who escaped war-torn Europe, they take pride in flagrantly spurning Wall Street.
Under the thumb of an all-powerful international oil cartel, the energy market had long eluded the grasp of America's hungry capitalists. Neither the oil royalty of Houston nor the titans of Wall Street had ever succeeded in fully wresting away control. But facing extinction, the rough-and-tumble traders of Nymex—led by the reluctant son of a producemerchant—went after this Goliath and won, creating the world's first free oil market and minting billions in the process. Their stunning journey from poverty to prosperity belies the brutal and violent history that is their legacy.
For the first time, The Asylum unmasks the oil market's self-described "inmates" in all their unscripted and dysfunctional glory: the happily married father from Long Island whose lust for money and power was exceeded only by his taste for cruel pranks; the Italian kung fu-fighting gasoline trader whose ferocity in the trading pits earned him countless millions; the cheerful Nazi hunter who traded quietly by day and ambushed Nazi sympathizers by night; and the Irish-born femme fatale who outsmarted all but one of the exchange's chairmen—the Hungarian emigre who, try as he might, could do nothing to rein in the oil market's unruly inhabitants.
From the treacherous boardroom schemes to the hookers and blow of the trading pits; from the repeat terrorist attacks and FBI stings to the grand alliances and outrageous fortunes that brought the global economy to the brink, The Asylum ventures deep into the belly of the beast, revealing how raw ambition and the endless quest for wealth can change the very nature of both man and market.
Showcasing seven years of research and hundreds of hours of interviews, Leah McGrath Goodman reveals what really happened behind the scenes as oil prices topped out and what choice the traders ultimately made when forced to choose between their longtime brotherhood and their precious oil monopoly.
What should be a quasi public utility—the market exchange where oil and gas are traded—is actually a madhouse of vice vendettas and corrupt crypto capitalism according to this breathless account of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Finance journalist Goodman traces NYMEX's transformation since the 1960s from an obscure market specializing in potato futures to a colossus with a stranglehold on the sale of the world's energy. Goodman explores the lurid culture of NYMEX traders scruffy hustlers who shriek and swear and pummel each other over deals and bring guns drugs and hookers right into the trading pit. It's an entertaining scene but Goodman's account is hobbled by the strictures of the business epic which require her to devote inordinate space to NYMEX's boardroom politics and the posturing of its chairmen. This is one of the year's most colorful business histories but the larger importance of NYMEX remains elusive; the author paints it sometimes as a force for price transparency and stability sometimes as a dangerously ill regulated cesspool of speculative scams and occult market manipulations that are more insinuated than demonstrated. Photos. (Mar.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"What should be a quasi-public utility the market exchange where oil and gas are traded is actually a madhouse of vice, vendettas, and corrupt crypto-capitalism, according to this breathless account of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Finance journalist Goodman traces NYMEX's transformation since the 1960s from an obscure market specializing in potato futures to a colossus with a stranglehold on the sale of the world's energy. Goodman explores the lurid culture of NYMEX traders, scruffy hustlers who shriek and swear and pummel each other over deals, and bring guns, drugs, and hookers right into the trading pit. It's an entertaining scene, but Goodman's account is hobbled by the strictures of the business epic, which require her to devote inordinate space to NYMEX's boardroom politics and the posturing of its chairmen. This is one of the year's most colorful business histories, but the larger importance of NYMEX remains elusive; the author paints it sometimes as a force for price transparency and stability, sometimes as a dangerously ill-regulated cesspool of speculative scams and occult market manipulations that are more insinuated than demonstrated. Photos. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
“Goodman reveals a rough-and-tumble group with little formal education, who dress down, answer to no one, and are tougher than marines. Activities at the exchange are rife with cheating and overindulgence in drugs, prostitutes, and illegal gambling…Biting and infuriating, with even a ‘Deep Throat in the scoop.” Booklist
“Goodman wrote about Nymex for the Wall Street Journal before expanding her knowledge into a book...The inside look at a mostly closed institution is enlightening. Goodmans details about the infighting within Nymex membership are astounding, mainly because the members dont seem to realize they are destroying their path to wealth.” Kirkus
“A rollicking, fast-paced, decades-long tale of a marketplace that sprang out of a potato futures market...When the instability of supply and relentless demand drives up price levels and volatility, these traders do very well indeed. And when that happens, the partying really kicks into high gear.” National Resources Defense Council
“A riveting tale of greed gone mad. Goodman nails the culture... A great ride for market fans…” BusinessWeek
“Welcome to a bet-on-anything, testosterone-drenched world…written with tremendous verve and insight.” AR (Absolute Return + Alpha)
“In the complex world of the energy markets where pit trading is a blue-collar profession, Goodman captures the grit and spirit of the floor and the personalities in the board room... Her depiction of the players and the place to ring true.” Reuters
“A seriously informative and amusing look into the oil trading pits.” Huffington Post
“Finance journalist Goodman traces Nymexs transformation into a colossus with a stranglehold on the sale of the worlds energy. Goodman explores the lurid culture of Nymex traders, scruffy hustlers who shriek, swear and bring guns, drugs, and hookers right into the trading pit…One of the years most colorful business histories.” Publishers Weekly
“Goodmans book ultimately concludes that the price of oil is determined less by OPEC, and more by a few hundred speculators in Manhattan who are exempted from regulation by means of several loopholes.” Tom Kloza, OPIS
is a stunning exposé by a seasoned Wall Street journalist that once and for all reveals the truth behind Americas oil addiction in all its unscripted and dysfunctional glory.
In the tradition of Too Big to Fail and Liars Poker, author Leah McGrath Goodman tells the amazing-but-true story of a band of struggling, hardscrabble traders who, after enduring decades of scorn from New Yorks stuffy financial establishment, overcame more than a century of failure, infighting, and brinksmanship to build the worlds reigning oil empire—entirely by accident.
About the Author
An award-winning investigative journalist, Leah McGrath Goodman has written for Forbes, Fortune, Financial Times, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and Barron's in New York and London. A member of The London Speaker Bureau and writer-at-large for Institutional Investor, she splits her time between New York, the U.K., and her home in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she is a contributor for The Commons.