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The Blood Bankers: Tales from the Global Underground Economy Paperback – June 30, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

An attorney, former chief economist for McKinsey & Co., and vice president for strategy for IBM/Lotus, James S. Henry is also an investigative journalist who has written for many publications, including The New Republic, New York Times, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, and many other magazines and newspapers. One of the original "Nader Raiders," he is founder and managing director of the Sag Harbor Group (, a strategy consulting firm with a special focus on technology strategy and business development. He has managed projects on a wide variety of competitive strategy issues for many global companies, including AT&T, GE, GM, IBM/ Lotus, Merrill Lynch, and the Samsung Group. He also serves as an advisor and board member of, a nonprofit that focuses on bringing the benefits of e-commerce to developing countries, and an advisor to Ashoka, a "reverse Peace Corps" that sponsors more than 1500 fellows working on social and environmental issues in 30 developing countries. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, a member of the New York Bar, and received a master's degree in economics from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (June 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560257156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560257158
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James S. Henry is a leading economist, attorney, and investigative journalist who has written extensively about global banking, debt crises, tax havens and economic development.

In the corporate world, Mr. Henry served as Chief Economist, McKinsey & Co. (NYC global h.q.); VP Strategy, IBM/Lotus Development Corporation (Cambridge), Manager, Business Development, the Chairman's Office (Jack Welch), GE (Fairfield), and senior consultant Monitor Group,the international consulting firm.

As Managing Director of Sag Harbor Group, a strategy consulting firm, his clients have included such outstanding enterprises as ABB, Allen & Co., AT&T, AT Kearney, Calvert Fund, Ce-mex, ChinaTrust, the Scotland Yard/FBI Task Force on Caribbean Havens, IBM/Lotus, Intel, Interwise, Lucent, Merrill Lynch, South Africa Telecom, Rockefeller Foundation, the Swedish Power Board, TransAlta, UBS Warburg, Volvo, and Monitor Company.

Mr. Henry has served as a founder and partner of a private equity firm based in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Board Member,, a technology company that provides e-commerce services for artisans in developing countries; Board Member, Flooz.Com; advisor to Ashoka, the "reverse Peace Corps;" Board Member, Long Island University's Global College; Project Director, Transnational Corruption, The New School's World Policy Institute (NYC); Board Member, Tax Justice Network - US and Tax Justice International; and Senior Advisor, Oxfam GB (impact of tax havens on development).In 2008 he tried his hand at electoral politics, running for Town Supervisor of Southampton, New York, on the Democratic Party and Working Family Party tickets, losing by 53 votes in an overwhelmingly-Republican district. With a strong commitment to mentoring young people in the emerging field of investigative economics, in 2009 he served as an INSPIRE fellow at The Institute for Global Leadership, Tufts University (2008-09), and as the "Edward R. Murrow Fellow" at the Fletcher School, leading a graduate-level seminar on the global economic crisis.

A member of the NY Bar, he has served as a pro bono cooperating attorney for the NYCLU on First Amendment issues, and as Vice President, New York Civil Liberties Union - Suffolk County.

Mr. Henry's articles and citations have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The Nation, The Conference Board, The Washington Post, US News, Manhattan Inc., Harpers, The Washington Monthly, Fortune, Business Week, Newsweek, Time, The Tax Lawyer, Jornal do Brasil, The Manila Chronicle, La Nacion, El Financiero, and Slate.

Several recent examples of Mr. Henry's articles are (1) Assault of the Pirate Bank-ers," The Nation, July 22, 2008 (; "Make Fannie and Freddie Go Green," The Nation, July 24, 2008 (; (3)"Socialism for Bankers, Savage Capitalism for Everyone Else?," The Nation, September 22, 2008,; (4) "Invest in Innovation," (with Jim Manzi), The Nation, October 30, 2008,; and (5) "The Pseudo-Stimulus," The Nation, February 3, 2009, and "Too Big Not to Fail," The Nation, February 23, 2009.

Mr. Henry's books include, with Paul Starr and Ray Bonner, The Discarded Army - A Study of the Veterans Administration and Vietnam Veterans. (NY: Charterhouse, 1976); Banqueros y Lavadolares. (Bogota: Tercer Mundo, 1996); The Internet's Impact on Financial Services. (NY: AT Kearney, 1999); Prof. Richard Caves, ed., The Economics of Competition (Boston: Prentice Hall,1988); The Blood Bankers (NY: Avalon/ Nation's Books, 2003, 2005), the first comprehensive history of the Third World debt crisis; and Pirate Bankers. (NY: forthcoming), a book about the origins of the current financial crisis.

His path-breaking essay on Third World debt relief is featured in Steve Hiatt, ed., A Game As Old as Empire. (SF: Barrett-Koehler, March 2007), Chapter V: "The Mythology of Debt Relief," the first attempt to add how much debt relief First World governments and banks have actually provided to developing countries since the 1970s. Mr. Henry also edits SubmergingMarkets.Com(tm), an "occasional blog" devoted to first-hand investigations and political economy.

Mr. Henry's unique, first-person approach to investigative economics, and his exper-tise in global and "offshore" banking, have taken him to more than 50 developing countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Malawi, Mexico, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, the Sudan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

Mr. Henry's on-the-ground investigations produced documentary evidence of inter-national drug deals that was instrumental in the 1992 conviction of Panama's Manuel Noriega. He assisted the Government of Paraguay to recover hundreds of $millions of assets stolen by General Alfredo Stroessner and his cronies. Mr. Henry was in Tiananmen Square in May 1989, helping to produce an English-language newspaper. He has pursued investigations of the Mexican drug cartel, corruption in the Russian privatization program, the Central American wood mafia, drug trafficking in Brazil, R. Allen Stanford's Bank of Antigua, "Angola-gate," and the use of offshore ha-vens like the Isle of Man to shelter big-ticket US tax evaders. Mr. Henry also succeeded in exposing the crucial role of the Philippines Central Bank and First World banks in enriching former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family; and in breaking up a major Brazilian cocaine smuggling ring that had bribed a Brazilian President, leading to the first Brazilian Parliamentary Commission (CPI) on drug trafficking. Mr. Henry has testified many times before the US Congress on economic policy issues, and is a frequent speaker at forums on taxation and development.

He has also appeared frequently as an on-air commentator on economic and legal issues for Al Jazeera/ English, and as a reporter and "investigative producer" for several documentary films, including "Land Famine in Honduras" (1984),"Noriega" (ABC News, 1991); "UnBoliviable" (2007), a documentary about Evo Morales by Donald Ranvaud, producer of "City of God" and "Constant Gardener;" and "Cuba Libre (2009)," a film by Alessandra Silvestri about the Cuban embargo.

Mr. Henry is an honors graduate of Harvard College (Magna Cum Laude, Social Studies '72; Detur Prize; Phi Beta Kappa, National Merit Scholar, Chairman, Institute of Politics, Student Advisory Committee); Harvard Law School (J.D., Honors, 1976); Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (MS, Economics, 1978; ABD - dissertation); a Danforth Fellow; a "Nader Raider;" and a member of the New York Bar '78. He has a working knowledge of Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French. He is an "Adirondack 46R," and a avid tennis player, biker, sailor, oarsman, and photographer. Born and raised in Minnesota, he and his two children make their homes in New York City and Sag Harbor.

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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By R. J. C. Roeber on February 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We have heard much about the crisis of third world debt and what to do about it from liberal ("forgive the debt") and right-wing ("bankrupt the suckers") commentators. James Henry asks a more fundamental question, where did the money go? Why is there so little to show for the more than $2.7 trillion of debt, aid, and investment made available to the developing world since the 1970s? One answer is that it was not spent but stolen and wasted, maybe as little as one-third of it ending up on the ground. Much of the rest has gone to provide the political elites of recipient countries with retirement homes in pleasant places.
Henry, a lawyer and economist by training and an investigative journalist by avocation, has been working on this story since the late 1980s. He travelled to more than 50 countries in pursuit of it and his book contains original, first-hand accounts of decades of unscrupulous financial behavior in the Philippines, Brazil, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Mexico.
What started off as an economist's enquiry into the paradox of third world debt has ended up as an indictment of the first world corporations that helped to create it. Henry tells how many of the world's leading banks and financial groups have, often with the complicity of their governments and supranational institutions, created and fuelled the new high-growth global markets for dirty debt, capital flight, money laundering, tax evasion, corruption, illicit weapons traffic, and other new transnational forms of dubious economic activity.
This is an essential book. Corruption is the scandal of third world debt. Attempts to relieve it must include the means to prevent its happening again.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By RClark on January 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm a Latin American scholar. Henry's well-written book manages to get below the surface, and deliver some amazing new revelations about Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, in particular. I was also interested to find out exactly where Paraguay's General Stroessner, the Phillipines' Marcos, Pakistan's Bhutto, Zaire's Mobutu, and quite a few other Third World thugs kept their foreign loot -- and not only in Switzerland! Not easy reading, but it will definitely change your perspective on the global economy....
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Matt Clifford on May 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"The Blood Bankers" is an important contribution to our understanding of global financial instability. Most often, liberalized (legitimate) capital markets, international trade, state power, and international regulatory institutions are cited as the causes of destabilization. However, J. Henry allows us to look behind these forces and bodies to see how the liberalization of the global economy has unleashed illicit and/ or immoral financial forces, often acting through otherwise legitimate enterprises. Thus, "The Blood Bankers" gives us another level of understanding and critique of the agents of globalization. Without understanding the underground players, it would be impossible to fully understand the instability of modern international markets.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By mo wechsler on May 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Blood Bankers sets out to answer the question, "What has happened that over the last 30 years the industrialized countries of the world have loaned $3 trillion ($3,000,000,000,000) -ostensibly for the benefit of the underdeveloped countries of the world- and, without question, the latter are substantially worse off than they were 30 years ago?" Very often the effects that he reports are not marginal failures, but catastrophic results, that he rigorously illustrates in the book. Worse, the failures are not a collection of accidents, scattered ethical failures, or the like.
Jim's book is a treasure of facts and speculative plots for any citizen of the world seriously concerned with exploring and then grounding his or her ethical claims for a different global convivencia - way of being together and engaging with the others in our daily lives-. The book brings, through a rich and engaging set of well-researched stories, a context for understanding the role played by a system of major institutions in crafting the failures and financial scandals that often appear as scattered and disconnected news in the media. He draws a clear picture of a sustained pattern of behaviors, practices, interpretations, institutionalized systems and ways of thinking and working that are embedded in worldwide economic institutions, investment banks, governments, the great construction companies of the world, major equipments vendors, that create exactly the right situation for growing the behaviors that bring and sustain these results.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By christine andrews on December 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Blood Bankers:Tales from the Global Underground Economy is a non-fiction financial thriller/whodunit that illuminates the sordid, self-serving, elitist international money trail and the greedy creatures who travel shamelessly on it. Mr. Henry courageously lifts the veil of monetary indecency and carefully guarded fiscal secrecy as he takes the reader on an insider's guided tour of global corruption and greed. Truth is indeed, stranger than fiction and The Blood Bankers is a shocking account of unbridled greed, run wild in plain sight around the world. It features a virtual perp walk of duplicitous international bankers, beyond-corrupt politicans and heads of state, and a whole supporting cast of money launderers, corporate con men and underworld predators. If you're ready to lose your intellectual virginity, read this book. The world will never look the same.
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