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Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 12, 2014
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"The Most Wanted Man in China" by Fang Lizhi
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“He’s written a really good book — we might as well get that out of the way, as so much else about Timothy F. Geithner remains unsettled… There’s hardly a moment in Geithner’s story when the reader feels he is being anything but straightforward — a near-superhuman feat for someone who spent so much time in public life defending himself from careless and dishonest personal attacks. The decisions he made are easier to criticize than they are to improve upon. I doubt many readers will put his book down and think the man did anything but his best. On his feet he might have stammered and wavered. That in itself was always a sign he was unusually brave.” –Michael Lewis, New York Times Book Review
“An intimate take on the financial crisis… gripping… conveys in visceral terms just how precarious things were during the crisis, just how frightened many first responders were, and just what an achievement it was to avert a major depression… [Geithner] demonstrates that he can discuss economics in an accessible fashion, making the situation the country faced in 2008 and 2009 tactile, comprehensible—and harrowing—to the lay reader. Along the way, he also gives us a telling portrait of himself.” –New York Times
“A how-to manual for anyone faced with a financial crisis… Mr Geithner was known for his brutal candor, and as an author, he does not disappoint.” —The Economist
“A fascinating memoir about life in the maelstrom of the financial crisis… Earlier books have described much of what happened that September, but Geithner was present for all the frantic meetings, the thousands of phone calls — and in the case of Lehman, the failure to find a buyer that could keep it alive. New problems cropped up almost weekly, if not daily. He explains each in easy-to-understand language and what the issues were that shaped the responses… There could be another crisis someday, of course, but what Geithner and his colleagues did has made one far less likely.” –USA Today
“Sharply worded and candid memoir.” —Financial Times
“Geithner does an admirable job of explaining the origins and complexities of the crisis for the average person. But there’s enough detail and retrospective lessons-learned to make it valuable for students of financial history….fast-paced and colorful….Stress Test goes beyond other crisis books.” –Los Angeles Times
“Throughout Stress Test, one gains a deep appreciation for the heart-pumping decisions made by Geithner and his colleagues from 2007 through 2012. And he makes a compelling case that overhwelming force is necessary in crisis, and that the measures taken by the Fed and two successive administrations prevented even more pain for ordinary Americans.” –WashingtonPost.com
“An unsparing insider’s account of the financial crisis from the former Secretary of the Treasury, unpacking the hard decisions and terrible trade-offs that devastated the economy but staved off a deep, lasting depression.” —TIME.com
“The central irony of Stress Test, the new memoir by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, is that a guy who was accused of being a lousy communicator while in office has penned a book that is such a good read…I’ve now read four or five of these first drafts of the history of the Great Recession, and I believe Stress Test represents the biggest contribution of the bunch.” —Bill Gates
“Sensational . . . Tim’s book will forever be the definitive work on what causes financial panics and what must be done to stem them when they occur.” —Warren Buffett
“Very few important subjects in American history have been the subject of as much disinformation and deliberate distortion as the events surrounding the financial crisis that broke in 2008. Tim Geithner’s candid, clear-headed, and refreshingly self-effacing account of his role in formulating the federal government’s response is a very welcome antidote. Geithner’s book is a triple threat: it is first-rate economic history, insightful political science, and, most important, a cogent exposition of the importance of adhering to the policies adopted in the aftermath of the crisis if we are to succeed in diminishing the likelihood of any recurrence.” —Barney Frank
“Stress Test is an absolutely compelling account of the financial crisis, written in a clear, graceful style with striking honesty at every step along the way. Timothy Geithner brings a complex story to life with telling anecdotes and personal reflections.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin
“This is a lucid, fascinating, and extremely important book. Every American should read it. Geithner does something unusual: he engages in substance. With both insight and humility, plus a good dose of wry humor, he explains what really happened during the financial crisis. No matter your political persuasion, you will find this book educational, enlightening, and interesting.” —Walter Isaacson
“The country owes Tim Geithner great appreciation for his role in overcoming the financial crisis of 2008. He has now indebted it further with writing a thoughtful, very readable and informative account of the conduct of policy at the edge of disaster.” —Henry A. Kissinger
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Top Customer Reviews
I imagine most ratings will reflect their predisposition to the actions taken by the Fed and Treasury during the crisis. I did not come here to debate those.
I merely came to state that the book is an honest account of how Tim and the rest of us thought during the events described. This is what he believed, and what we believed. I cannot comment on the accounts from Treasury, though they correspond with what I annecdotally heard at the time.
And, Geithner still seems shell shocked. He does a much better job framing the crisis in the book than in real time. But he still doesn't do an a sufficient job of conveying the crushing impact of market panic. It was the kind of fear that you can smell.
His major error is not emphasizing just how small the differences are between market based traditional bankruptcy, bailouts, and nationalization. With nationalization, the owners/shareholders are wiped out as well as some of the bondholders. In traditional bankruptcy, the owners/shareholders are wiped out and bondholders are usually wiped out or take a serious haircut. With partial nationalization (bailouts) including TARP and other guarantee programs, shareholders were either totally wiped out or lost 90% of their investment in the weakest banks. The shareholders of the stronger banks suffered dilution of their ownership through TARP fees, mandatory warrants, and Treasury imposed capital raises.
1/4 to 1/3 of the largest financial firms were effectively nationalized. The owners/shareholders were wiped out. The ONLY difference was the treatment of bond holders, who did better under the TARP and other backstop programs. And these bondholders weren't hedge funds or investment bankers. Hedge funds wouldn't touch low yield bank debt. It was owned by Pension Funds, bond mutual funds, ordinary people and institutions that look more like the president of your local branch bank then anyone on Wall Street.
Partial nationalization. If you don't believe it, ask Ralph Nader.Read more ›
To judge the merits of Tim Geithner’s crises reflections in “Stress Test,” six Breakingviews columnists digested different pieces of the book in a short amount of time. Like the regulators who often lacked broader context, the assessments vary. Yet there’s also consensus it’s a useful tome for the financial library.
Whatever critics say, Tim Geithner can’t be accused of having a narrow outlook or partisan blinkers. He grew up in Africa, India and Thailand as well as back home in the United States. He enrolled at preppy Dartmouth and signed up to learn Chinese. His mother is a “bleeding-heart liberal,” his father a lifelong Republican, and Geithner himself now a registered independent. He describes his background as privileged, but not rich.
He accepts in self-deprecating fashion that he gained a reputation as a fan of financial bailouts, despite the “moral hazard” precedent they created. But Geithner’s interest in finance and economics came late, after a more geopolitical focus at graduate school and Henry Kissinger’s consulting firm. It was fired up partly by Larry Summers, whom Geithner met in 1992, four years into his first stint at the Treasury Department, working on trade. Summers, later treasury secretary, “had earned a reputation for brilliance, if not for concealing it.”
Exposure to the faltering Japanese economy, a crisis in Mexico and another in Asian financial markets also helped shape Geithner’s worldview. Even as the U.S. economy went from strength to strength in the later 1990s his main recollection, he says, is “how scary it was, how little we knew.” And that was before he went to work at crisis central, the International Monetary Fund.Read more ›
But then there's a lot that's problematic, ranging from wrong on the issues to just plain cringe-worthy. One central complaint is that Geithner spends a huge portion of the book trying to defend himself and burnish his reputation, which was surely battered while he served. His central theme is that mistakes were made, but we were doing the best we could. Nobody could have seen what was coming. And by the way, bailing out Wall Street and the banks was a necessary step. The alternatives would have been worse.
At least as to nobody saw this coming, that’s complete nonsense. There was a small but significant number of people who warned that the subprime explosion of the mid 2000s was a disaster waiting to happen, and that it had the potential to bring down the whole economy. But because those voices were quite contrary to the consensus opinion at the time, they were shouted down as fear mongers.
Geithner is obviously bright and he was clearly ambitious. He climbed very far and very fast, in part by cultivating senior people who could help boost his career. Although he doesn’t describe himself this way, I have the sense that as a student and young exec, he was something of a teacher’s pet.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great book. The writing is clear and the story keeps moving. The author's humility and wit is evident throughout the book. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Robert E. Litan
Pragmatism and willingness to take the political bullet won out over ideology and "old testament" moralism. We therefore avoided a Great-er Depression. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Maureen A. Hayes
Good insight behind the headlines as I remember them. Some points appeared to be self-justification but nobody really knew what would result from large institutions went down.Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
This book is pretty informative, but it's also boring and repetitive. He repeats the same reasons for all of the decisions he made. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Ansatz
Brilliant book about the financial crisis and masterfully written. An enjoyable read.Published 15 days ago by Jane Eye
Thanks to the team that saved us from falling off the precipice of financial ruin. There are times when big government is necessary and this book gives us a good example of that.Published 16 days ago by FDB
This was a good read to get Timothy Geithner's view of the financial Crisis. I learned a lot around what goes into major events and how players are evaluated to get some of the... Read morePublished 19 days ago by topluck
Amazing insight into the people pulling the strings during the devastating financial crisis of 2008. Read morePublished 1 month ago
Very interesting and revealing perspective on the response to financial meltdown. Geithner makes it very clear that moral hazard is only relevant for mortgage borrowers in over... Read morePublished 1 month ago by The Clover