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The Devil's Derivatives: The Untold Story of the Slick Traders and Hapless Regulators Who Almost Blew Up Wall Street . . . and Are Ready to Do It Again Hardcover – July 12, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The book has an expert guide in author Nicholas Dunbar, a financial journalist who covered derivatives for the trade press long before they caught the public's attention.” “The book written in a punchy prose that is easy to understand, is a triumphant romp through a decade of financial mismanagement. A must-read.” - The National

The Devil’s Derivatives” presents an intriguing and original analysis of the problems that Wall Street has been spreading to the world.” – Midwest Book Review

“… well written and will grab the interest of financial professionals before the first time they have to turn a page.” “Dunbar's great at taking the long view of things, and you won't find a better explanation, anywhere, of why banks shouldn't mark their assets to market.” - Reuters

“Even Warren Buffett could not have stated the case more simply.” – Absolute Return magazine

“… a well-researched account of the forces and events that led to the implosion of the financial system three years ago.” – The Irish Times

“Nicholas Dunbar follows the first rule of good journalism: talk to everybody. He has interviewed not only the leading players in the derivatives industry, but has also followed many key actors whose stories have never appeared in print—until now. As this book makes clear, the dark side of financial innovation is just getting darker, and it is only a matter of time before we suffer another derivatives fiasco.” — Frank Partnoy, George E. Barrett Professor of Law and Finance, University of San Diego School of Law

“Nicholas Dunbar offers an insider’s perspective into the complex and risky world of derivatives. The Devil’s Derivatives is a compelling book, one that takes clear aim at the risk-takers on Wall Street who contributed to both our economy’s growth and decline. Dunbar is a fine writer who combines a deep knowledge of finance with a great knack for storytelling.” — Edward Chancellor, author, Crunch Time for Credit and Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation

The Devil’s Derivatives is a bold book written by a hardnosed journalist with a stiff backbone. With guts and nerve, Nick Dunbar investigates the gamblers and speculators who contributed to the latest financial crisis. At last, a book on the subject that shows true grit.” — Jules Kroll, founder of Kroll Inc., and Chairman and cofounder of K2 Global Consulting

About the Author

Nicholas Dunbar is one of the most respected financial journalists in the United Kingdom, covering complex derivatives and risk management. He is the author of Inventing Money: The Story of Long-Term Capital Management and a columnist for Reuters. In 2007, he won the State Street award for institutional financial journalism.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; First Edition first Printing edition (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422177815
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422177815
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nicholas Dunbar grew up in London and trained as a physicist at Manchester, Cambridge and Harvard universities. He was inspired to become a financial journalist by university friends who took their mathematical skills from academia onto the trading floors of investment banks.

From 1998 until 2009, Dunbar was technical editor of Risk magazine, a specialist derivatives publication. In 2005, he launched Life & Pensions, a sister publication to Risk aimed at the insurance and pensions industry.

During this time, Dunbar wrote a series of exclusive stories on derivatives blow-ups which cemented his reputation as an investigative journalist, and in 2007 he won the State Street award for institutional financial journalism. He has also written a column called 'Risky Finance' for the financial commentary service Reuters Breakingviews and currently works for Bloomberg.

In 1999, Dunbar wrote his first book, Inventing Money: the story of Long-Term Capital Management and the legends behind it (Wiley, 2000). The Devil's Derivatives is his second book. For further information visit www.nickdunbar.net

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Christian Gross on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I received this book as a reviewer. Since I am a market participant (algo-trader) I know all too well what Mr Dunbar is talking about. It is not a personality blow by blow account like the Big Short or The Sellout. I am glad for that. It is more like Traders, Guns, and Money, but a modern accounting of where the derivatives trend has gone. On that I was very appreciative as a market participant I want to know where things are going.

If there is a bugaboo with this book, its that it is too short with its 250 pages! I would have loved more information! But hey that's me. I thought the Appendix with the timeline was a fantastic touch!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By B. Crosby on October 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This pretty much explains everything from a highly qualified industry journalist who was right in the middle of the derivatives storm. The only criticism I have is that, even with my Economics degree, I was still confused by some of the financial instruments like credit default swaps, CDO's, SPV's. I think the journalist is so used to talking to insiders he forgets that the average American needs much more explanation for what a SPV or credit default swap is and how it works in simple terms. The whole point is that you shouldn't need a Masters in Financial Engineering to understand how derivatives work and how dangerous they are. I know an airplane traveling at 500 MPH flying into a building is dangerous without knowing everything about aeronautics and chemistry and physics. I'd like an epilogue that goes more into detail of Frank-Dodds and explains how nothing much has really changed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Radu H on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a technical book easy to read. Even if it gets a bit complicated sometimes, the devil is in the details. "Devil's Derivatives" captures a story of greed and shifting blame, o story of markets manipulation and pure egocentric capitalism. I liked it so much, that I made a review on my investing blog at [...]. And yes, it is visionary, since the last chapter ponders on the bond governments and on Greece...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By guti9211 on September 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A bit arcane as is the financial sleight of hand it discusses, but a unique insight into how it all went wrong.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very few do, but Mr Dunbar has the chops to write about this topic. I expected a lot from this book. He explains things well. I wish he would eschew the usual hype - the breathless - 300Trillion of interest-rate swaps! So-what? for every change in rates, someone makes and someone else looses and equivalent amount. no market takes long to go from 'hedging' to speculating. whether rates or credit derivatives. the issue worth discussing is concentration or liquidity. now, that is something to be alarmed about. I wish there was a more in-depth analysis of whether the regulators were aware or not that one outfit (AIG) had singularly sold protection (long risk) against the street. akin to what LTCM had done when they had bet the farm on the on and off-the-run treasury spreads reverting to normal - AGAINST the street. now that we have trade repositories, has that problem been ameliorated. THAT would be interesting. There is enough CNBC quality reporting in the world. You are better than that Mr Dunbar
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Format: Hardcover
Not as indepth as Inventing Money but this book was great esp after Michael Lewis' Big short & Das' traders guns & money when you wanted to learn more about cdo/cds market & GS's involvement in the nature of 2008 market correction.This book also presents a more complicated explanation of cds short vs Big Short book which was too simplistic & designed for be read by the general public.

One should read E-conned in conjunction with this book to get a fuller picture of the fixed income derivative market & the trades set up by the sell-side from 2004-08.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The second half on subprime mortgages, ABS and ABS CDO were trapped in accounts of personalities than the big picture. The first half was exceptionally good on synthetic CDO and the Basle accord formulation. Many insider view and not that many books would dare to say derivatives sales are 'rent seeking' outright.
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Format: Hardcover
This book does a great job of expanding a reader's foundational understanding of market functions and derivatives, specifically how they applied to modern financial markets. I enjoyed his discussion on capital requirements and special purpose entities, as well as his anecdotes of the pre-crisis investment banking life style.
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