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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

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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: #1,311,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I certainly agree with many of the points.
Charles de Trenck
I rarely ever read business/finance-type books but if more of them were like this one, I probably would read more of them.
Just a very,very broad overview but it lacked details.
crocodile andy

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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steve Burns TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Author Suzanne McGee has done a great job in this book showing her readers how investment banks obsessive pursuit to beat Goldman Sachs' return on equity lead to the financial crises. The author explains that Wall Street's core function is as an intermediary financial utility providing investors with ways to invest their capital in sound businesses. Unfortunately Wall Street morphed into being a self-serving, risk-taking machine for generating profits. These out sized profits helped inflate the stocks of the businesses in the financial sector and provided billions in bonuses for executives and traders that help make these profits. Investment banks drifted form making profits by serving clients and more from trading and investing for their own accounts along with creating innovative investments with little regard to the risk profiles of these new creatins. The madness really went to a new level with the huge profits that came from creating CDOs from bundled mortgages. The banks really gave way to the fiduciary responsibilities it had to its clients and just focused on profits which led to huge amounts of risk for themselves and their clients which eventually led to meltdown of 2008 and 2009. Risk managers at these firms were silenced or shown the door as the money making machines cranked up to full throttle.
The reality is that the business of Wall Street isn't innovating, or creating some flashy new product to boost its own profits; it's providing the wherewithal for corporate innovation. Whenever financial innovation-the kind Wall Street indulges in-ends by making capital less available to corporate innovators, that is when you know Wall Street has drifted too far from its mission. This lock down of available capital is what caused the credit markets to lock up during the crises.
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