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The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis Hardcover – October 26, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Hudson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who now covers business and finance for the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, delivers a chilling account of the subprime-loan scandal, which nearly brought down the U.S. and global economies. Starting at ground zero of the scandal—Orange County, California (“Con men hate snow,” one Wall Street Journal reporter put it)—Hudson runs his exposé through its principal players: big-time lenders like Roland Arnall and Russ and Becky Jedinak, juiced-up salespeople who worked for such dubious lenders, Wall Street brokerage houses that supercharged the loans, politicians who weakened once-tough lending laws, and finally, most tragically, the victims themselves. As appalling as it is informative, Hudson’s tale, which hasn’t ended by a long shot, should find a large readership. --Alan Moores


"Magnificently and heartbreakingly told. . . . What I appreciated most about this tremendous, well-documented book is that it shows vividly that really filthy, face-to-face fraud and hard-sell bullying are the original ingredients, the required counters, in the increasingly abstract financial instruments that brought the economy down around our ears."--The Boston Globe

"Whereas much of the reporting of the economic meltdown has been focused on Wall Street, Hudson has a talent for describing what was happening on the ground. He takes us on a tour of the financial carnival tent pitched by subprime factories like Ameriquest… Did some people borrow beyond their means? Certainly. But as Hudson demonstrates, the public was no match for an industry that lived off deceit fueled by Wall Street."—Time Magazine

"As engagingly written as Michael Lewis’ The Big Short (which chronicles the struggles the winners endured during the last bubble), as caustic and trenchant in its analysis of the dotty economic theories that underpin our bubble economy as Yves Smith’s ECONned; and at least as cogent of the big-picture power politics as Simon Johnson’s 13 Bankers, The Monster also does what those books don’t: It reveals the inner lives of both the victims and the perpetrators of predatory lending."—Baltimore City Paper

"Hudson’s book is a guide to the worst excesses of the mortgage business . . . [and offers] a deeper, truer understanding of the many-headed subprime monster. . . . [The Monster] succeeds by entertaining us with behind-the-scenes moments and personal stories from people trading their ethics for all-expenses-paid trips to Hawaii." —The Seattle Times

"Terrifically readable. . . . Hudson gives readers piercing insight into the booze, broads and cocaine that fueled the buccaneers in the mortgage game. . . . Though I thought myself too old to be shocked, the revelations here shocked me. Read it and weep."—Chico News & Review

"Michael W. Hudson’s book-length investigative journalism piece on the subprime meltdown, The Monster, is both a brilliant example of skeptical business journalism done right, and a brilliant example of the storyteller's art… Hudson’s book is a model for excellent investigative journalism. It’s a book that should be required reading for anyone who says that the economic crisis was caused by greedy mortgage-takers who spent too loosely with their credit cards."—

"Essential reading for anyone concerned with the mortgage crisis."—Library Journal

"A chilling account of the subprime-loan scandal. . . . As appalling as it is informative, Hudson’s tale, which hasn’t ended by a long shot, should find a large readership."—Booklist

"Hudson is a master of context, supplying the pre-1990s history within the mortgage-lending business, Wall Street and the government-regulation realm. A knowledgeable, clearly written exposé."—Kirkus Reviews

"Mike Hudson is a terrific journalist and an even more engaging writer. The Monster is as captivating as it is deep, not 5,000 feet but 10,000. The book is a down-to-the-bone account of the genesis of the financial crisis and paints a visceral picture of the structural deficiencies in our financial system. Lehman Brothers failure is 10x Enron and 100x Long Term Capital Management. We cannot afford not to learn from the valuable lessons in this book."--Lawrence G. McDonald, co-author of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense

Buy this book because Mike Hudson is a terrific reporter.  Buy it because Hudson tells a vital and underreported story that somehow most every other journalist seemed to miss.  But mainly you should buy and devour The Monster because it’s a great read, a page turner in the fashion of the best true-crime non-fiction.-- Gary Rivlin, author of The Plot to Get Bill Gates and Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc--How the Working Poor Became Big Business

"The Monster reads like chilling and compelling fiction. But the facts are true and the story is all too real. Millions of Americans were ripped off by devious people in pursuit of ever more profit, but that is not the biggest scandal. Amazingly, we have still not fixed the underlying problems of incentives, attitudes, and beliefs in our financial system. If we continue to shy away from real reform, American families are doomed to run repeatedly through some version of this awful cycle."—Simon Johnson, coauthor of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown

"How did we get in this mess? Michael W. Hudson’s The Monster is a haunting, horrifying account of corporate skullduggery -- from the unregulated bucketshops of California to the hallowed halls of Lehman Brothers. No other book or article I have read so clearly identifies the human weaknesses and institutional frailties that created the worst financial scandal in American history. Hudson was one of the first investigative reporters on this story and he is still the best at tracking a nationwide collapse down to its first forged signature."—Elizabeth Mitchell, former executive editor of George Magazine and author of W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty





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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090468
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Hudson's two decades of work on mortgage and banking fraud has prompted critics to call him the reporter "who beat the world on subprime abuses," the "guru of all things predatory lending" and "the Woodward/Bernstein of the mortgage crisis."

Hudson is currently a senior editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. He worked previously as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the Roanoke (Va.) Times. He has also written for Forbes, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and Mother Jones.

His work has won many honors, including a George Polk Award for magazine reporting, a John Hancock Award for business journalism, an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, a SPJ/Sigma Delta Chi Award and accolades from the National Press Club, the White House Correspondents' Association, the American Bar Association, New York Press Club and the New York State Society of CPAs.

He edited the award-winning book Merchants of Misery and appeared in the documentary film Maxed Out. His latest book, THE MONSTER: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis, was named 2010 Book of the Year by Baltimore City Paper and called "essential reading for anyone concerned with the mortgage crisis" by Library Journal.

His 2011 series of stories for the Center for Public Integrity, "The Great Mortgage Cover-Up," was selected to appear in Columbia University Press's Best Business Writing 2012.

Twitter: @michaelwhudson

Customer Reviews

An interesting read throughout.
Book Shark
Hudson does a great job of describing how Brokers, Mortgage Lenders & Wall Street firms deceived both customers & investors.
J. Gwinn
I finished this book in as angry a mood as I have ever been - you will too, if you have any sense of justice or shame.
The gun cleaner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Michael Emmett Brady on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author has done an excellent job in demonstrating that the major subprime lenders,the great majority being concentrated in or near Orange County ,California,such as R Arnall's Ameriquest and A Mazilo's Countrywide,were engaged in a pattern ,repeated over and over again thousands of times,of deliberate misrepresentation,forgery and fraud.The goal was to misinform potential buyers seeking fixed rate loans so that they could be manipulated and maneuvered into signing variable rate adjustable loans with initial ,low ,teaser rates that would then increase dramatically after 2-5 years.The basic sales pitch was the old " bait and switch " gambit.

The author demonstrates that the major subprime lenders especially targeted older,elderly,single, black women with low incomes who owned their homes outright and /or had low fixed rate mortgages on their homes ,but who were either in poor health and/or seeking loans to upgrade /fix up their homes.The author provides numerous case studies demonstrating precisely how these black women were tricked and manipulated into agreeing to adjustable rate loans that dramatically increased their monthly payments over time.The same initial customer would then be victimized over and over again by affiliated subprime lenders who would claim that they could reduce the monthly mortgage payment .

The author shows how these firms were directly connected to the major Wall Street investment banks,especially Lehman Brothers.He then traces the securitization practices of the commercial banking industry and shows how the loans were spread and sold worldwide.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By MT57 on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This was a strong book. Strong in the sense of well documented and researched, and strong in vivid detail and tone. The author says he has been covering predatory lending since the early 90's and I can believe it. He has many anecdotes, many stories of individuals being defrauded, and many interviews of persons who worked for predatory lenders. This is the first writing of any kind I can find to enable me to understand predatory lending, as opposed to just dumb subprime lending. This understanding arose when the author cited statistics that show 99.75% of these lenders' loans were not to purchase a house but to people who already owned a house. The book conveys in very strong detail the ways in which First Alliance and Ameriquest "preyed" on elderly, minority, sometimes incompetent homeowners and tricked them into putting their homes at risk for loans that were unnecessary, more expensive than called for and in many cases based on fraudulent documentation. There is no doubt that these are stories of outright criminal behavior and many more people should have been prosecuted for what they did (the owner of First Alliance and Ameriquest has died). Mr Hudson depicts thoroughly the business model of predatory lending, their hiring and training and sales practices, their advertising budgets and their lobbying prowess (he absolutely impales Deval Patrick, ACORN and many other organizations as being bought off by the predatory lenders). He provides real insight when he demonstrates that the owners of these businesses appear to take it for granted that they will only be in business for a few years.Read more ›
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Eggcrate on November 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The previous reviewers have done a good job of explaining basically what The Monster is all about. However, I would like to highlight why the book presents a unique challenge to academic economic theory, particularly as it applies to public policy.

The foundation stone of Neo-Classical economics is that market participants are inherently rational, are capable of "discovering" the best available deals, and will quickly put destructive market participants out of business. This is the Revealed Truth of Milton Freidman, the bonkers Objectivist philosophy of the beyond bonkers Ayn Rand, the rigid simple mindedness of the economics texts by Gregrory Mankiw and the Harvard kids who have been force fed this abstracted, idealized, establishmentarian slop....

Micheal Hudson never explicitly sets out to torpedo theoretic economics, he simply sets forth the way a set of perverse incentives, aided and abetted by an utterly dysfunctional regulatory apparatus, could make an absolute, unrecoverable hash of the Ivy League worldview... one in which all markets naturally seek the most efficient (and in Friedmanite orthodoxy) most moral allocation of assets and talent.

Hudson instead shows a nested structure of economic actors that behave more like criminalized, methamphetamine soaked, reckless, soulless swine. It is abundantly clear that "incentive structures" can, quite easily, produce outcomes that have a high degree of local rationality, i.e. individuals maximizing their gains, while at the same time have a higher degree of systemic irrationality.... i.e. stuffing grossly fraudulent paper into the securitization system in wholesale quantities with zero regard for the ultimate consequences. Such as imploding the credit markets...

Frankly, Hudson's book should be a mandatory text in every introductory economics class taught in this country, because it dispositively proves that the Neo-Classical/Washington Consensus model is a broken model.
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