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Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises Paperback – May 5, 2015

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A Financial Times Best Book of 2014

“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
 
 
 


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

TIMOTHY F. GEITHNER was the seventy-fifth secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and previously served as president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He wrote this book as a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 5, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804138613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804138611
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (461 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I worked with Geithner at the NY Fed. I was a bit player present at many of the meetings and calls described.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the best books about the near depression. A good insight to Bush and Obama. Left me with a lot more respect of what Obama did and how he does work behind the scenes. Also, I was very impressed with the intellect and effectiveness of Obama's staff.....another thing I did not know about. The political posturing was almost non existent when it came to solving the problem!!!! Thanks to Geithner and his staff and all the others involved. What a book!
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It seems to me that there are three overriding issues that need to be discussed when considering the monetary meltdown of 2008. Those questions are: !. What caused the markets to fail? 2: Was government's response to the failure effective? 3. How can future failures be prevented? In "Stress Test", Timothy Geithner sort of addresses all three questions. In his view, a long period of overconfidence about the housing market's ability to deal with risk led to "mania". New and exotic "derivative" security instruments built out of mortgages that had been "sliced and diced" beyond recognition, and then "insured" against any possible loss by AIG gave investors, lenders and regulators a false sense that risk had somehow been eliminated from the mortgage business. As President of the most important regulatory agency in banking, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2003-2009, he downplays his role in encouraging this "manic" period, saying that he was concerned about increasing risk and said so, but his concerns were largely ignored; and since he was only a regulator, and the banks he regulated (like CitiGroup and Chase) were not major players in home mortgages, what else could he do? Right. When I opened the book, I hoped this well-placed guy who was present for the constant regulatory projections that markets were healthy and would continue to grow would provide insight as to how the regulators could have jumped on the lending bandwagon in such a big way; but he doesn't. He does comment that there are too many regulators regulating overlapping industries, and hints that regulators are too close to the industries for which they are responsible, but, beyond that, Geithner seems to be at a loss.Read more ›
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I only read half of "Stress Test." It's a well-written and interesting book, with insider details on the Bear Stearns bailout and the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Since publishing it, the author, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, has gone into the private equity business.

Geithner was one of the top banking regulators in the U.S. in the run up to the financial crisis. As such, he bears much of the blame for the global carnage unleashed by Wall Street, but his book sure doesn't come off as a mea culpa. It is strangely non-reflective (or at least the first half isn't). Though Geithner plainly disliked politicians and fellow regulators, he never gets really angry about the waste and insanity of the U.S. financial system, which allowed a handful of under-regulated banks to pile up amazing levels of leverage in a quest for super-profits. Instead, Geithner tells the comic book story of how he, Ben, and Hank saved the world by restoring "confidence" in the banking system, all the while opposed by "moral hazard fundamentalists" who gagged at the prospect of bailouts for diseased institutions run by glorified sociopaths. His anger seems misdirected, or at least very selective.

The book has a truly risible section where Geithner quotes from a few speeches he gave in the 2000s that had warnings about the dangers of excessive leverage, as if a pro forma "warning" in the 16th paragraph of an anodyne official speech delivered to a crowd of snoozing bankers was tantamount to forceful action to curb out-of-control risk-taking. Geithner was a regulator, for heaven's sake, not a toastmaster.
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The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions (What would have happened - and did - Depression 1.0 )

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.
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