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Fool's Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 12, 2009


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, May 12, 2009
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141659857X
  • ASIN: B00381B7XC
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,598,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At once a gripping narrative, an education in derivatives, and a most lucid origin-story for the current financial meltdown, it's no surprise the author of this volume is an award-winning Financial Times journalist. Taking readers back to the invention of credit-derivative obligations (CDOs) at J. P. Morgan in 1994, and the subsequent exponential growth of that market, Tett (Saving the Sun) deploys a remarkable sense of pacing, generating real suspense over rapidly inflating debt on bank balance sheets; by the time Lehman Brothers fails, the book has become a bonafide page-turner. Tett explains how credit derivatives seemed a win-win for the financial world, freeing up capital, increasing profits, and diversifying risk, but makes the missteps equally clear as the industry hurtles toward a largely-unforeseen wave of loan defaults (the worst since the Great Depression). Interestingly, J.P. Morgan was one of a handful of banks sufficiently prescient to imagine this "perfect storm" of simultaneous defaults, and so never became over-reliant on CDOs. Ignoring the tacked-on, preachy epilogue (in which Tett advocates her specialty, social anthropology, as a way to avert future such crises), Tett's explosive, illuminating narrative is the one to read for anyone confused by the present financial mess.

Review

"The author excels at recreating this fevered environment. She also deciphers Wall Street mumbo-jumbo in terms that a lay reader...can understand." ---The New York Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

More About the Author

Gillian Tett oversees global coverage of the financial markets for the Financial Times, the world's leading newspaper covering finance and business. In 2007 she was awarded the Wincott prize, the premier British award for financial journalism, for her capital-markets coverage. In 2008, she was named British Business Journalist of the Year. She previously served as the newspaper's deputy head of the Lex column (an agenda-setting column on business and financial topics), Tokyo bureau chief, economic correspondent, and foreign correspondent. She speaks regularly at conferences around the world on finance and global markets. She has a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University. In 2003, she published a book on Japan's banking crisis, Saving the Sun: How Wall Street Mavericks Shook Up Japan's Financial World and Made Billions.

Customer Reviews

This book is a very worthwhile read.
Luc REYNAERT
Tett is clear and entertaining which are excellent attributes for a book about the 2008 financial crisis.
Houman Tamaddon
A highly informative book, well researched and written by Gillian Tett.
Nicholas Warren

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read this book over 3 days (interrupted only by work, playtime with my two toddlers, and sleep), I highly recommend it to anyone who cares about our financial system (be it that you work in finance, or hate financiers that brought us the ruins - just bear in mind they were not the only ones to blame, throw in the regulators, lenders, and borrowers who enjoyed the party, and politicians who took credit for the housing boom). The book is well-written, focused, and surprisingly a page-turner that you don't want to put down once you start reading it.

Having fought the battles in the trenches over the past two years during the ongoing financial crisis, I have a deep appreciation for what Gillian Tett has accomplished in this book. It provides a comprehensive view of one corner of the financial markets - the one that caused so much of the wreckage over the past two years. While it will be a daunting task for any single writer to document the crisis we are still going through (given the multiple contributing factors/actors to this crisis), the author has done a great job producing a contemporary record on the credit derivatives market and its role in fueling the housing bubble leading up to the crisis.

Obviously, the author deliberately chose to exclude some critical episodes of the credit crisis (such as the SocGen trading scandal, the resulting ill-timed massive cut in Fed funds rate leading to the oil shock of 2008 that partially contributed to the inflation scare and added shock to the economy).
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172 of 198 people found the following review helpful By EWC on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I loved the documented history this book provides. It's a treasure trove of dates, quotes and important juxtapositions on the development and unwinding of structured finance. I turned the pages and you will too. But in the end, I was disappointed by the author's superficial understanding of the underlying issues. She wants to argue that the banks used clever innovation to exploit big loopholes in Fed and Basel regulations and to arbitrage ratings but she doesn't have a deep enough understanding to truly explain how this was done. As a result, she ends up contributing to the general populations' great misunderstanding of these markets.

Pages 61 to 64 provide one of many examples. She concludes at the top of page 64, "Banks had typically been forced to hold $800 million in reserves for every $10 billion in corporate loans on their books. Now that could be just $160 million. The CDS concept had pulled off a dance around the Basel rules." Regulators and rating agencies aren't that naive! Three pages earlier she notes that the issuer of credit default insurance had to post $700mm of collateral, held as Treasuries, and that the Fed demanded that the issuer either had to have a triple AAA rating, i.e. the capacity to absorb losses greater than the $700mm it posted as collateral, or else the bank had to post an addition $160mm of reserves with the Fed, over and above the $700mm. The logic of this requirement is obvious, either way, someone, the bank or the insurer, had to post at least $800 of reserves. There is a popular belief that AIG posted no collateral but the truth is that while, it in part did not post liquid collateral, it in fact posted the value of its other businesses as collateral. The Fed, of course, took those businesses as collateral in exchange for posting liquid collateral.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Warren on May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent book, engagingly written, tracing the excesses of the credit derivatives and credit structured products that were a major part of the cause of the current crisis.

This book is NOT a overview of the whole crisis. It is specifically intended to concentrate on the aspect above. It is written for those who are generally financially literate (e.g., typical readers of the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal), not for those who are already knowledgeable in credit derivatives and credit structured products (a more expert reader would want explanations at the level of the books by Janet Tavakoli). However, for the primary audience, more basic explanations of CDSs, Synthetic CDOs, Super Senior tranches, ABX indices, Conduits and SIVs etc -- all the specialised vocabulary that has been in the financial news in the last two years -- are quite sufficient and are more than adequate.

What I particularly liked, in addition to the very readable style, was the clarity of the overriding theme of corruption of the products with undiversified sub-prime mortgage assets, exaccerbated by excesses of leverage and shadow-banking vehicles to hold them; how an intelligent set of ideas was perverted in an environment encouraging greed at the expense of prudent risk-taking.

A highly informative book, well researched and written by Gillian Tett. Strongly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "Truebadour" on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you want to understand the current economic crisis, this book is a fascinating and well written narrative which personalizes the crisis from the JPM point of view. It also suggests and invites serious dialogue about the way by which the banking, regulatory and investment world conduct themselves. If one can extrapolate lessons to broader concerns about human folly related to global social areas, all the better.

Gillian Tett's book Fools Gold covers the current financial crisis from its purported beginning in 1994 to the point at which most of us became aware of the systemic flaws in the global financial systems, with an inside look at the crisis from J.P. Morgan's version of the story.

The book begins by engagingly and sympathetically introducing us to the players on the banking and investment side of the equation; the team of collegiate, young, impassioned and idealistic folks at J.P. Morgan responsible for creating and marketing credit derivatives back in the early 1990's. It loosely follows the team, and more interestingly, follows the firm's evolution through the 1990's (with an admiring nod to Jerry Corrigan's concern regarding risk) and subsequent leaders (with a resounding `hurrah!' to Jamie Dimon and his `hands on' management style) and the industry excesses outside of JPM that, combined with a crisis in confidence in the financial markets, have created the worst financial crisis known since The Great Depression.
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