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Serpent on the Rock: Crime, Betrayal and the Terrible Secrets of Prudential Bache Hardcover – July, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Eichenwald presents an appalling indictment of the firm's managers, who did dozens of deals with a convicted embezzler, spent millions of investors' dollars on lavish trips to places like Cancun and Maui and made cozy arrangements with developers to make themselves rich no matter how their clients fared. By the time readers finish this well-reported tale, they'll want to string Pru[dential]'s managers up by their power ties." -- Newsweek

"Eichenwald's account of the nearly decade-long fraud perpetrated by Prudential Bache Securities is both an entertaining and an important work." -- Publishers Weekly

Kurt Eichenwald, an award-winning financial reporter for The New York Times, tells the explosive story behind Wall Street's most destructive scandal of the 1980s -- the massive securities fraud perpetrated by Prudential Bache.

Serpent on the Rock is a real-life thriller more compelling than anything Grisham has dreamed up. It is a story of kickbacks and payoffs, of shady deals struck in secret with known felons; a story in which half a million people lose enormous sums -- some their life's savings -- and names like Onassis and Bush number among the victims. Since the scandal broke, Prudential Bache has been forced to pay out hundreds of millions in damages and virtually all of the firm's senior executives have been brought under investigation.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (July 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887307205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887307201
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kurt Eichenwald has written about Wall Street for The New York Times since 1987. He began investigating the Prudential scandal in 1989 and, in 1993, took a leave from his daily Market Place column to investigate Prudential Bache full time. His efforts yielded Serpent on the Rock and a Publisher's Award from the Times.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a story that I missed when it first came out -- but I went back to it after reading Eichenwald's new book, The Informant. This is fabulous -- full of twists and turns, a real legal thriller. The new book is better, but this one still kept me up late at night.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Barton VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a reminder of the potential excesses in the financial services space. And this was 20 years ago. Kurt Eichenwald does a great job of writing a "Grisham like" novel - except it is true.

The story revolves around the marketing and sale of limited partnership interests in various Prudential-Bache backed investments, and the rather questionable to downright illegal interactions among general partners, limited partners, investors and lenders. Sounds eerily similar to current news...

The book is a great read, very entertaining, and enlightening given the topic. Makes you wonder what financial product is next, since the cycle appears to continue unabated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Barton VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a reminder of the potential excesses in the financial services space. And this was 20 years ago. Kurt Eichenwald does a great job of writing a "Grisham like" novel - except it is true.

The story revolves around the marketing and sale of limited partnership interests in various Prudential-Bache backed investments, and the rather questionable to downright illegal interactions among general partners, limited partners, investors and lenders. Sounds eerily similar to current news...

The book is a great read, very entertaining, and enlightening given the topic. Makes you wonder what financial product is next, since the cycle appears to continue unabated.
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Format: Hardcover
Kurt Alexander Eichenwald (born 1961), is a contributing editor with Vanity Fair, who has also written Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story, The Informant: A True Story, and 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.

He wrote in the Prologue to this 1995 book, "people in every state and around the world awoed to realize that they had been victims of the most destructive fraud ever perpetrated on investors by Wall Street... the scheme emerged full-blown from the New York headquarters of one of the brokerage industry's lights, an investment firm with a name that conveyed the essence of reliability and trust: Prudential-Bache Securities. The cost of the fraud... was so large it surpasses imagination. More than $8 billion worth of risky partnerships packaged by Prudential-Bache collapsed after they had been falsely sold as safe and secure... The crime was finally visible when, by the thousands, the firm's clients faced the prospect of losing their homes, their retirements, or their children's education... The fraud... brought in more than a billion dollars in profits to the firm, through the fees and commissions paid by the partnership sales." (Pg. 7)

A P-B director, James Darr "was creating a monster. He didn't have any interest in their judgment about deal quality---he just wanted to keep the products coming. There was only so much ... everyone else could do to hold him off. Someday, the deals he pushed through would start falling apart.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was one of those investors who invested in limited partnerships in the early 1980s. In 1981 I invested $3,000 in Consolidated Capital...a limited partnership which was supposed to buy a bunch of apartments, then sell them off in 7 years. In 1983, I invested $2500 in Petro-Lewis.......a limited partnership which was supposed to buy producing oil wells........then sell them again in 7 years.

Back then I was in my mid twenties. I attended an adult ed class on investing taught by the local Edward Jones broker. He pushed these two partnerships on his customers. I researched both of these deals. I found they had good 10 year track records and I decided to invest for the good returns and tax breaks.

What I did not understand when I invested in these two deals was that they were based upon two assumptions. The two assumptions were continued high oil prices and a continuation of the tax breaks for limited partnerships. I also did not understand that if the deals started to go bad, you literally could not sell your investment to anyone else. I also did not understand that the Edward Jones broker got about a 8% commission on my investment.

Just as in Eichenwald's book, both partnerships started out fine and paid the promised dividends. But soon both of them stopped paying dividends. At one point, Petro-Lewis converted from a limited partnership to a stock trading on the American Exchange. Against my Edward Jone's advice, I sold the stock immediately.

Eventually, a secondary market developed for selling limited partnerships. I sold the Consolidated Capital investment to someone in the secondary market. My compounded annual return on the Consolidated Capital was -8.17% and -16.24% on the Petro-Lewis.
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