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Bear-Trap: The Fall of Bear Stearns and the Panic of 2008 Hardcover – September 15, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Ibooks, Inc.; 1st edition (September 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883283639
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883283636
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,176,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"You just can't make this shit up...there has never been a more appropriate description for a situation like the one I lived through beginning on Monday, March 10, 2008. So appropriate did I find the phrase, in fact, that it was the last thing I said to a co-worker, a friend who, because of the time he'd spent on a Navy attack sub, had acquired the nickname of Captain Nemo on the trading floor. And so perfect a summation of our situation was it that the phrase became something of a battle cry for the two of us as the days went by, a sort of inside joke that made the pain of our demise more bearable. And it started on Monday, March 10, 2008, the day that, in my mind, came to be known as the beginning of the end."

About the Author

Bill Bamber, a senior executive at Bear Stearns, had a bird's eye view of just what happened inside Bear's offices and on the trading floor that led to the most sensational financial crisis of our times.

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Customer Reviews

One word - Extraordinary!
D. McEntyre
The grammatical and spelling errors are really off putting.
Jeff Brillo
The book is very well written.
M. G. Clark

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert Heller on September 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My previous one-star review of this book was removed by Amazon, along with another one written by a different reviewer. So keep in mind that AMZN actively removes some reviews.

I am a former (long time ago) Bear employee. While I will give credit (and one star) for the author's good explanations of Wall Street and some of the more exotic products, if you are looking for insight into the causes of the Bear collapse, you won't find them here. Other reviewers have stated correctly that you would be better off reviewing newspaper coverage of the events to learn what happened.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donald M. Fraser on December 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What I found interesting about this book is the complete lack of responsibility or culpability of a typical Wall Street trader in the financial collapse. Bill Bamber claims his firm was a "martyr for the sins of Wall Street" (chapter 10). That Bear Stearns was anything but a house of cards that employees were profiting handsomely off of while placing investor money at great risk is never made a case for. As the information has no depth other than any one else reading a newspaper would have, this book more supports that conclusion than refutes it.
I'd add that investors of Bear Stearns were also very poorly served by the firms employees, a group Bamber has very little sympathy for. Were the firm's employees really the unwitting dupes portrayed or the wizards of Wall Street they would like to think of themselves as?
This book is also poorly edited and redundent, I slogged through it only to justify my review.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By read everything on October 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Nothing new here. If one read the papers, he would be as informed as after finishing the book. Moreover, the author wants us to understand how intellectual he is by presenting historical facts which for the most part are irrelevant. And the whole discourse on being a "tragic hero" is just pitiful. I am not sure where the author is now, but I think he should stick to trading derivatives!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Bil Bamber was a Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns; Andrew Spencer is also the author of Tower of Thieves, AIG. Bamber wrote in the Prologue to this 2008 book, "Because this is a first-hand account of what happened inside the office at 383 Madison Avenue, it's a personal story. And like all personal stories, it's got its own accusations and moments of finger-pointing. One such accusation is that the Secretary of the Treasury actually wanted to see Bear go down. Of course... it's impossible for me to say for certainty that those were his explicit intentions..."

They propose to answer questions such as, "Why was this facility (i.e., Fed bailout) not made available to Bear to prevent its fall in the first place? Why was Bear given to JPMorgan at a fire sale price? Why JPMorgan and not some other bidder?" (Pg. ix) They note ruefully, "if Bear had been given access to the Federal discount window, we could have borrowed money... to keep us afloat, to keep us in business... But the discount window wasn't available ... until after we were declared finished. You can draw your own inferences." (Pg. xiv)

They admit that "just like in 1929, there was too much of a good thing. It couldn't last." (Pg. 19) Bamber concedes that by originally accepting a job at Bear, "I had implicitly gone over to the Bear Stearns way of thinking. I had subscribed to the firm's philosophy of living for the moment." (Pg. 23) Later, he states, "We were drawn to Bear because of the lack of structure, the free-and-loose attitude that prevailed..." (Pg. 187)

They assert that the Fed was only coming to the rescue of banks "after they'd basically assured the demise of Bear Stearns...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on February 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Bamber's objectives are to be excuse Bear Stearns management for the firm's collapse, while telling the story of its collapse. Unfortunately, he instead fills the book with irrelevant material and fails to accomplish either goal.

Bamber contends a 3/10/2008 rumor that Bear Stearns was having liquidity problems started the downward spiral, this was acerbated by short-sellers, and that Treasury Secretary Paulson wanted Bear to fail in retribution for its failing to assist in the LTC bailout ten years prior. Only one week later the firm was negotiating its sale to J.P. Morgan for $2/share.

Bear Stearns, like many others, believed housing prices would continue to go upward, and loaded two of its hedge funds with leveraged AAA and AA tranches of mortgage-backed CDOs, with default insurance provided by CDS. (The leverage was acquired by pledging each layer of CDOs for new borrowing to finance the next layer.) On 7/31/2007 both funds filed for bankruptcy. The declining value of its CDO collateral forced Bear Stearns to unwind the two hedge funds.

Funding for purchasing CDOs came from other Wall Street Banks and their investors - this avoided conflict of interest, double-dipping of fees, and left Bear free of credit concerns. The company only had one person overseeing the $20 billion involved because Bear had little money tied up in them itself; Bamber alleges the problems would not have occurred absent the "Chinese Wall" that existed between the hedge funds and asset traders. (Makes no sense to me.) Both fund managers were charged with fraud - talking the funds up publicly, while dumping their own shares and disparaging them in internal e-mails.

How Bear Stearns got from its 7/31/2007 hedge fund bankruptcy declaration to its 3/17/2008 takeover is not discussed.
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