Synopses & Reviews
"As author of Fatal Risk
. . . I would have found my job much easier if Goldman truly were the real culprit in this saga."
[from "AIG and Goldman Sachs: The Deceptive Blame Game," appearing on TheFinancialInvestigator.com, July 2010]
There certainly has been no dearth of reporting on the causes of the 2008 financial meltdown. Thousands of gallons of ink have been spilled decrying the gross incompetence, if not downright criminality, of mortgage lenders, the wildly excessive risk-taking of Wall Street banks, the cravenness and collusion of the ratings agencies, and the willful ignorance of regulators. Yet absent from the orgy of righteous finger-pointing has been any substantive coverage of AIG, the looming giant in the eye of the tempest—the one company about which it can truly be said that, if it had been allowed to collapse, it would have dragged the entire world financial system down with it.
Fatal Risk is the riveting inside account of how Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, the storied combat veteran and driven entrepreneur, took a motley collection of insurance companies and built them into the world's most innovative and daring financial conglomerate. Made rich and powerful through Greenberg's iron will and vision, AIG was unprepared for his dramatic ouster in 2005. As the company recovered from a bruising regulatory battle, its management did not understand what risks were being taken onto its once mighty balance sheet in the name of a quick buck. As the CDO and real estate markets imploded, AIG's role as the indispensable giant at the corner of Main Street and Wall Street nearly brought down the world financial system.
Perhaps most controversially, investigative reporter Roddy Boyd argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Goldman Sachs, and the billions in collateral calls it made on AIG's Financial Products unit, was not the sole cause of the company's downfall. Drawing upon a host of sources—from Hank Greenberg to senior Goldman executives; current and former AIG leaders and board members; to legendary short-seller Jim Chanos and Federal Reserve officials—Boyd makes a compelling case that AIG's collapse was an inside job. It took several generations of tireless work and measured risk-taking to build AIG into a AAA-rated juggernaut, but it took only a few years of profit and bonus chasing from a handful of previously unknown executives to bring the world's most important company to its knees.
A cautionary tale of corporate hubris and the enthralling, never-before-told story of how an insurance company became a central player in the global financial meltdown, Fatal Risk is must reading for market insiders, investors, business leaders, and anyone who's wondered what really happened in 2008.
Fatal Risk: A Cautionary Tale of AIG's Corporate Suicide by Roddy Boyd has been longlisted for The FT & Goldman Sachs Business Book Of The Year Award 2011
Members of the seven strong judging panel will decide on a shortlist of up to six finalists in the middle of September.
‘If there is a theme that links most of the 14 titles on the longlist..it is their authors’ quest to work out how and why companies, governments and their leaders fail – and how not to go wrong in the future’
"A vivid portrait of the giant insurer at the center of the 2008 financial crisis."
(The Wall Street Journal)
"The best book of the crisis is Fatal Risk. This is a fabulous book - but it deals with complex subjects without shying away from their complexity and it assumes you have enough knowledge and intelligence to cope. . . This is the best book yet written about any specific episode of the crisis. Buy multiple copies. Give them to your friends. They will be grateful too."
"A sober work that appears to have been researched extremely thoroughly. . . more convincing on the mechanics of AIG's Suicide than it is on any of the deeper motivations."
(The Financial Times)
"Through superb reporting, Boyd has written one of the financial crisis genre's most important works."
"As Roddy Boyd demonstrates in his well-written study of AIG's fall, it was the very solidity of the company's credit rating that led it astray. Painstakingly built over the course of 40 years by an army veteran, Hank Greenberg, AIG was the ideal counterparty for Wall Street. . . For some, the demise of AIG was not the suicide described in the book's title, but an act of murder by Goldman. Mr Boyd argues that the investment bank was acting only as any prudent counterparty would. But the author's analysis is unlikely to dent the conviction of conspiracy theorists that AIG was rescued by Hank Paulson, the former Goldman chief executive turned treasury secretary, to prop up Goldman." (The Economist)
"Engaging and balanced account . . . Many books on the financial meltdown that began in 2007 treat AIG as a plot point in a wider drama. Yet valuable lessons can be gleaned from the narrower account that Boyd lays out here -- lessons about the responsibilities of leaders and regulators as well as the hazards of financial engineering. . . The story of AIG's demise has many moving pieces, large and small, which Boyd meshes into a smooth narrative. . . Boyd is good with dialogue and knows how to keep the story going. His reporting is thorough and fair, even when it comes to Timothy F. Geithner's risible assertions that it wasn't the Federal Reserve's job to pop bubbles."
The best book on the financial crisis, and . . . favorite piece of non-fiction work since Michael Lewis' The Big Short. . . The reporting here is incredible."
(Distressed Debt Investing)
"A 10 best finance book.
Does the ongoing financial turmoil leave you scratching your head? Worry not, here's our pick of the finest - and most readable - books about Big Money..."
'Fatal Risk is must reading for market insiders, investors, business leaders, and anyone who's wondered what really happened in 2008.’ (Hereisthecity.com, April 2011).
'researched extremely thoroughly’ (Financial Times, April 2011).
‘…a vivid portrait of the giant insurer at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.’ (Wall Street Journal Europe, April 2011).
‘A cautionary tale of corporate hubris.’ (Ethical Corporation Magazine, May 2011).
‘…Boyd is good with dialogue and knows how to keep the story going’. (Bloomberg.com, June 2011).
Long-listed for the FT & Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2011
The true story of how risk destroys, as told through the ongoing saga of AIG
From the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the subject of the financial crisis has been well covered. However, the story central to the crisis-that of AIG-has until now remained largely untold. Fatal Risk: A Cautionary Tale of AIG's Corporate Suicide tells the inside story of what really went on inside AIG that caused it to choke on risk and nearly brining down the entire economic system. The book
- Reveals inside information available nowhere else, including the personal notes and records of key players such as the former Chairman of AIG, Hank Greenberg
- Takes readers behind the scenes at the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
- Details how an understanding of risk built AIG, but a disdain for government regulators led to a run-in with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer
Fatal Risk is the comprehensive and compelling true story of the company at the center of the financial storm and how it nearly caused the entire economic system to collapse.
Praise for Fatal Risk
"Not surprisingly given his reporting chops, Roddy Boyd has written in Fatal Risk a seminal account of how AIG willfully—and irresponsibly—came to insure much of the risk in the financial world in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Fatal Risk is must reading for anyone who wants to be entertained and to understand."
—William D. Cohan, author, Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World and House of Cards
"Read this book if you want to know how one of the world's largest companies played with risk and got burned."
—Charles Gasparino, anchor, Fox Business Network
"Fatal Risk is as in-depth as any autopsy of AIG will ever be."
—Felix Salmon, columnist, Reuters.com
"Woody Allen once said that his idea of pure Hell was to be buried alive with a life insurance salesman. But for the rest of us, pure Hell almost became being buried alive by the biggest insurance firm on earth. Here's the final reckoning of how that happened, when a bunch of little snowballs started rolling downhill until they gathered themselves together into the biggest insurance conglomerate avalanche on earth: AIG. Roddy Boyd has made this tale must reading for every member of every finance committee in Congress; at least they'd learn how the people of Wall Street really think."
—Christopher Byron, author, Martha Inc.
The inside story of the company at the center of the financial maelstrom and how it brought down the entire economic system
Written by star investigative reporter Roddy Boyd, Fatal Risk is the first book to tell the complete story of AIG's pivotal role in the 2008 financial crisis. Relying on insider information available to no other reporter—including the personal notes and records of key players—he takes you behind the scenes at AIG, Goldman Sachs, and the New York Fed, to shine a light on how the company was run, how the same qualities that made it a global insurance and financial giant led to its downfall, and, ultimately, how its collapse nearly brought about the unraveling of the world financial system.
About the Author
Roddy Boyd is an investigative reporter who has been uncovering financial market shenanigans for more than a decade. Most recently at Fortune magazine, he also worked at the New York Post's business desk, the New York Sun and Institutional Investor News, and has written for Slate's "The Big Money." In addition to founding the financial investigative reporting website TheFinancialInvestigator.com, he has worked on both the buy- and sell-sides of Wall Street.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters.
Chapter 1 The (Noncorrelated) Dream Team.
Chapter 2 Who Dares, Wins.
Chapter 3 The Man with the Plan.
Chapter 4 Changes.
Chapter 5 The Dirt Below.
Chapter 6 War by Another Name.
Chapter 7 The Kids Are Alright.
Chapter 8 In the Shipping Business.
Chapter 9 The Preservation Instinct.
Chapter 10 The Down Staircase.
Chapter 11 Midnight in September.