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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 Hardcover – June 15, 2010

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Business journalist McGee paints Wall Street as a utility with capital flowing through the system like an electric power grid, noting why it almost failed. She describes the pressure on the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 to bail out Wall Street firms, why Wall Street was called an “abstraction,” and how Wall Street morphed from an intermediary (raising capital) into a casino. Goldman Sachs was the master of its universe, generating average return on equity of 25.4 percent in the decade before the financial crisis, compared with 15 percent annually for four other firms during the same period. Other firms' CEOs chased Goldman Sachs, considering it their model for boosting their own personal wealth and keeping shareholders happy. The author reports, “When left to their own devices, financial services firms . . . will focus almost monomaniacally on what is in their own best interest, seeking out ways to take earn sichigher returns and recruit top talent by paying the most lavish bonuses and offering the most enticing perks. . . . They cannot help themselves.” Excellent book. --Mary Whaley


"...masterful...exceptionally lucid, well-written"--Washington Post

“…must-read on the venerable Wall Street firm [Goldman Sachs].”— Dow Jones’ FINS
“A disturbing account of how Goldman Sachs Group Inc. became a seductively successful Pied Piper, luring rival banks down a path to destruction.”— Bloomberg
“McGee’s book is full of entertaining and enlightening material.” — Financial Times  

“McGee has taken it upon herself to make the case less through assertion or argument than through anecdote and appeal to authority.” — New York Times Book Review
“…a great look at a current event for the general reader.”— Library Journal

“Excellent book.” — Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307460118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307460110
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,347,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In "Chasing Goldman Sachs", financial journalist Suzanne McGee takes us through the changes in the financial industry over the past few decades that transformed Wall Street "from quasi-utility to...profit-maximizing behemoth" whose appetite for leverage and risk nearly destroyed itself and played a key role in the continuing global financial crisis. The book's subtitle -"How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down...and Why They'll Take Us to the Brink Again"- is perhaps hyperbolic, and I was pleased to find that McGee's analysis is more balanced and considered than that title might suggest.

First, the history: McGee explains how and why investment banks began to drift away from their core function of enabling capital to flow through the economy in the 1970s, leading to the pursuit of maximum profits irrespective of systemic risk in the 2000s. This includes the evolution of mortgage-backed securities, the deregulation of fixed commission structures, the transformation of banks from private partnerships into publicly traded companies, and refocusing their increasingly complex products to serve hedge funds rather than traditional investment firms. Goldman Sachs was the best and the brightest, which other banks tried madly to emulate, often without sufficient talent or risk management to do so.

Then, the financial crisis: McGee dedicates a chapter each to the "greed, recklessness, and negligence" that combined to create the "perfect storm" that almost brought the global economy to a halt and necessitated an infusion of $250 billion of taxpayer-sponsored liquidity. She explains the history of the executive compensation system whose incentive structures unfortunately encouraged "excessive risk-taking and shortsighted behavior.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charles de Trenck on July 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to a book updater about Goldman related issues and the Financial Crisis, though I understood flicking through the book quickly before catching a plane that it would only touch Goldman at the periphery, and that it would be more about how the financial crisis was created by the likes of Merrill Lynch and so many other bulge bracket banks trying to emulate Goldman's performances (ie, high ROEs). What I found though, as I sat down to read and mark-up the book, was more of a generic recap of the Crisis. Looking later through the footnotes I realized this book relied mostly on mainstream accounts. The book is good for people who were not addicted to financial blogs and the few good articles (and there are some good ones I found and listed in prior reviews) out there before, during and after the crisis. And it is ok in terms of offering some sort of reference function.

I certainly don't disagree with the blame meted out at some of the senior bank executives, sometimes referred to as banksters in the blogosphere. On the whole the book is readable and good as a summary. But the book also proved a little too soft and general on developments at the big banks during the Financial Crisis, and a bit too hopeful that the Obama Administration could/can bring about any changes (ie, implementation of the oft repeated Volcker Rule).

Parts of the book were quite readable. Other parts tended to repetition and news recaps. During one of my many breaks reading the book, I happened over to a bookshelf of partly read books, and found new interest in Where Are the Customers' Yachts? The book was written around 1940 (based on experiences of 1929) and has many truisms reminding us of what many brokers [bankers, etc] do for a living.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Richard Derus on June 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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 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.
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