Synopses & Reviews
The No-Loss Illusion
Confidence Game—the inside story of how an investor made more than $1 billion betting against the flaws that toppled the financial system—is a window into all that went wrong on Wall Street.
"Christine Richard's Confidence Game is an insightful, timely, and fascinating high-speed drive into the often difficult-to-penetrate world of short sellers, with its particular focus on Bill Ackman and his campaign against monoline insurance giant MBIA."
—Scott B. MacDonald, Senior Managing Director, Aladdin Capital LLC and coauthor of Separating Fools from Their Money
"How to head off the next crash? Listen to the dissidents now. Christine Richard's deeply researched and deftly written account of Bill Ackman's high-stakes struggle with a leading pillar of a now-collapsed system is the right book at the right time, and a mesmerizing read."
—Dean Starkman, Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review business section
"Bill Ackman's battle with MBIA will be remembered as one of the great epics of Wall Street history, and no one followed the story more closely than Christine Richard."
—Bethany McLean, coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room
"Finally, a financial crisis book with a hero. It's a compelling morality tale of how one man uncovered a massive fraud and then fought tenaciously to show the world he was right. Richard weaves the threads of complex financial shenanigans into a page-turning narrative. Ackman emerges as the Don Quixote of financial markets: you will root for him and a happy ending."
—Frank Partnoy, author of F.I.A.S.C.O., Infectious Greed, and The Match King
"Confidence Game is a lesson for all investors on the value of independent and exhaustive research. It's also a riveting story."
—Todd Sullivan, creator of valueplays.net and a regular contributor to the Stocktwits blog network and Seeking Alpha
"This a riveting account of a tenacious investor, incompetent/apathetic regulators & analysts and a company that hid information, deceived investors and used every connection it had in its attempts to silence him. At points this reads like a John Grisham novel … except it actually happened. For me, this is the best of the ‘melt down’ books to date … hands down."
— Todd Sullivan, valueplays.net, April 2010
" ... Ackman’s pursuit of MBIA spanned the two major crises of capitalism of the last decade, from the earlier era of corporate fraud prosecutions epitomized by Enron and its off-balance-sheet special purpose vehicles (SPVs), to the late credit debacle stemming from the collapse of the CDO house of cards."
—The Hedge Fund Law Report, May 2010
An expose on the delusion, greed, and arrogance that led to America's credit crisis
The collapse of America's credit markets in 2008 is quite possibly the biggest financial disaster in U.S. history. Confidence Game: How a Hedge Fund Manager Called Wall Street's Bluff is the story of Bill Ackman's six-year campaign to warn that the $2.5 trillion bond insurance business was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Branded a fraud by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, and investigated by Eliot Spitzer and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ackman later made his investors more than $1 billion when bond insurers kicked off the collapse of the credit markets.
- Unravels the story of the credit crisis through an engaging and human drama
- Draws on unprecedented access to one of Wall Street's best-known investors
- Shows how excessive leverage, dangerous financial models, and a blind reliance on triple-A credit ratings sent Wall Street careening toward disaster
Confidence Game is a real world "Emperor's New Clothes," a tale of widespread delusion, and one dissenting voice in the era leading up to the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression.
The Warning and the Winnings
Confidence Game is a real-world "Emperor's New Clothes," a tale of widespread delusion and one dissenting voice in the era leading up to the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression. Wall Street appeared to have found the secret for turning everything from risky mortgages to credit card bills into super-safe, triple-A-rated securities. Behind the facade of safety, the financial system had become dangerously fragile. Few had anything to gain from pointing out the risk.
Bill Ackman did. In 2002, the hedge fund manager issued a critical research report on MBIA Inc., the owner of a triple-A-rated bond insurer that played a central role in the financial alchemy on Wall Street. "This company will spiral downward," Ackman warned, and he placed a bet against MBIA that would earn his investors billions of dollars if it did.
The backlash was swift. Ackman was branded a fraud in the press and investigated by Eliot Spitzer and the SEC. Despite the scrutiny, he spent years telling anyone who would listen why MBIA was a catastrophe waiting to happen. With the onset of the credit crisis, the problems exposed turned out to be bigger than MBIA. An unquestioning acceptance of credit ratings, a blind eye to leverage, a dangerous reliance on financial models, and the abandonment of common sense had become part of a deeply flawed financial system. The collapse humbled nearly every large financial institution and plunged the country into recession.
Ackman's story captures an era of delusional confidence, when debt exploded yet risk appeared to vanish. Told by award-winning bond market reporter Christine Richard, Confidence Game is a behind-the-scenes look at how warnings went unheeded as Wall Street careened toward disaster.
About the Author
Christine S. Richard has covered financial markets in Washington, Hong Kong, Singapore, and New York. Her work on the bond insurers received awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the Deadline Club, the Newswoman's Club of New York, the New York Press Club, the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Her articles were included in a series on the municipal bond market that was nominated by Bloomberg News in 2007 for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Frenchtown, New Jersey, with her husband and their daughter.
Table of Contents
1 The Meeting.
2 The Short Seller.
3 The Question.
5 The Worst That Could Happen.
6 The Trouble With Triple-A.
7 Unanswered Questions.
8 Crimes And Cockroaches.
9 Turning The Tables.
11 The Black Hole.
12 The Court Of Public Opinion.
13 The Insurance Charade.
14 When Crack Houses Become Collateral.
15 Storm Warnings.
16 An Uncertain Spring.
17 Apocalypse Now.
18 Parting The Curtain.
19 Ratings Revisited.
20 The Panic Begins.
21 Catastrophe And Revenge.
22 Time Runs Out.
24 Judgment Day.
25 The Nuclear Threat.