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The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins Hardcover – September 18, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Named an Inc. Magazine Top 5 Business book of 2012

"You'd think that after destroying the world's economy with dodgy trades and double-dealing, at least somebody (other than the taxpayer) who was responsible might get thrown in jail. But you'd think wrong because Wall Street essentially "owns" both political parties, thereby making accountability impossible."

Inc. Magazine

Washington Man

"He transformed himself from public servant to rich lobbyist. When the financial crisis hit, he remembered who he was."

George Packer, New Yorker

"The great mystery story in American politics these days is why, over the course of two presidential administrations (one from each party), there’s been no serious federal criminal investigation of Wall Street during a period of what appears to be epic corruption. People on the outside have speculated and come up with dozens of possible reasons, some plausible, some tending toward the conspiratorial – but there have been very few who’ve come at the issue from the inside. We get one of those rare inside accounts in The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins…. [T]hose interested in understanding the mindset of the people who should be leading the anti-corruption charge ought to read this book. It’s the weird lack of concern that shines through…On the outside we can only deduce the mindset from actions and non-actions, but Connaughton’s actually seen it, and with the book you get to see it too. It’s scary and definitely worth a read."

Matt Taibbi, Rolling

"You want the real skinny on HFT and the SEC? Read The Payoff. This guy [Jeff Connaughton] worked with Sen Kaufman, our champ!"

Jim Cramer, via Twitter

"If you feel like justice was thwarted during the financial crisis, if you feel like the market’s been rigged for the insiders and there’s no check on it, you’ve got an ally in Jeff Connaughton….[The Payoff is] an insider’s guide to what’s gone wrong in Washington, by somebody who made millions as a professional insider."

Paul Vigna, Wall Street Journal

"Anyone interested in how Washington works will find The Payoff impossible to put down."

Paul Barrett, Business Week

"Connaughton shares new details from the Brown-Kaufman crusade, which will be gripping to anyone interested in taming overgrown banks. But the book’s most important contribution, I think, is to tell the story of corporate influence over financial policymaking dating back several decades. You can pretty much feel the acid gushing into your stomach as you read it…. I can’t recommend the book enough."

Noam Scheiber,

"If you want to know how this all happened, how it got so bad and has not become better, author Jeff Connaughton explains it in his new book, “The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.” On top of everything else, the American middle class is being systematically robbed by the corruption of Washington, namely by Wall Street. This corrupt nexus of money and power is why the economy collapsed, why it isn’t getting better, and why the middle class is fighting for its life."

Richard Parker, McClatchy Newspapers

"Weak U.S. legal oversight puts burden on compliance pros to protect their firms, author says."

Reuters, 9/4/12

"A must read if you’re interested in the corrupting influence of lobbyists, the revolving door between Wall Street and those that govern and regulate the financial services industry, and how huge, and ultimately untraceable, amounts of money grease the wheels of government at every step."

Francine McKenna,

"Mr. Connaughton is a fascinating witness and raconteur because he has been through the revolving door several times: in between work in the Senate and the Clinton White House, he spent 12 years in one of Washington’s top lobbying firms. This author has really lived in and understood the Wall Street-Washington corridor. The book is partly about his education — and ultimate disappointment, most of all with the Obama administration but definitely with both parties."

Simon Johnson, Economix blog

"This is the most honest book I’ve read about Washington in years – it really tells it like it is."

Andrew Cockburn, Co-Producer, American Casino

"Kaufman’s chief of staff at the time, Jeff Connaughton, was even more scathing toward the Obama Administration. Attorney General Eric Holder, he noted, ‘said in his swearing-in that he would make it a priority. We thought we were making sure that they were doing the right thing, and they said all the right things in hearings, and nothing happened. I feel gamed by it."

George Packer, The New Yorker

"It is in fact one of the best books on how corporate criminals manipulate the system to get away with their crimes."

Editor, Corporate Crime Reporter

“Jeff is one of the smartest guys on the Hill and is particularly strong on issues surrounding Wall Street and the regulatory system . . . he takes apart the oft-stated mantra that what Wall Street firms did during and after the crisis was maybe unethical, but not illegal.”
—Matt Taibbi,, December 20, 2011

“For a compelling account of how the financial lobby works, both in general and in this instance, look for a forthcoming book by Jeff Connaughton.”
—Simon Johnson, co-author of WHITE HOUSE BURNING,
the New York Times “Economix,” May 10, 2012

"[T]here is a new powerful voice who knows how big banks really work and who is willing to tell the truth in great and convincing detail. Jeff Connaughton - a former senior political adviser who has worked both for and against powerful Wall Street interests over the years -- has just published a page-turning memoir that is also a damning critique of how Wall Street operates, the political capture of Washington, and our collective failure to reform finance in the past four years. The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins, is the perfect antidote to disinformation put about by global megabanks and their friends."
-- Simon Johnson, "One Man Against the Wall Street Lobby," Huffington Post, 8/25/12

"It is in fact one of the best books on how corporate criminals manipulate the system to get away with their crimes."
-- Editor, "Payoff in the Pit of Plutocracy," Corporate Crime Reporter, 8/23/12.

From the Inside Flap

In January 2009, Ted Kaufman, longtime aide to Vice President Joe Biden, was appointed to fill Biden’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Former Biden staffer and top DC lobbyist Jeff Connaughton joined Kaufman as his chief of staff. Frustrated with the systemic failures that led to a devastating financial crisis, together they led the charge in challenging both Congress and the Obama administration to rein in the excesses of Wall Street.

THE PAYOFF examines a culture of power elites in our nation’s capital that is slouching toward plutocracy, an alarming tale of reformers with the best of intentions running headlong into institutional failure and influence-peddling politics. It’s the story of a twenty-month struggle to hold Wall Street executives accountable for securities fraud, to stop stock manipulation by high-frequency traders, and to break up too-big-to-fail megabanks. In this book, we experience a U.S. senator’s vigorous crusade against Wall Street’s irresponsible risk-taking that destabilized the American economy. Through times of triumph and disheartening defeats, rarely witnessed from within our country’s legislative body, we encounter inertia, behind-the-scenes maneuvering, and outright reluctance by the Obama administration, the Justice Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to treat Wall Street crimes with the urgency they deserve. Even Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s enforcement division, when asked about federal judges rebuking the SEC for levying paltry fines, said to Kaufman: “I’m not losing any sleep over it.” Meanwhile, the Republican Party remains staunchly opposed to significant financial reform, primarily to wring fundraising dollars from the same Wall Street players who’d raised millions to elect Barack Obama president.

Connaughton, a former lawyer in the Clinton White House, illuminates the pivotal moments and key decisions in the fight for financial reform that have gone largely unreported. His take-no-prisoners, nonpartisan account chronicles the reasons why Wall Street’s worst offenses were left unpunished, why Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was merely window dressing, why our stock markets are broken, and why it’s likely the 2008 Wall Street–driven debacle will happen again.

Finally, in an incisive self-critique, Connaughton reviews the arc of his own career—from an idealistic Biden acolyte to a money-driven Professional Democrat to Washington critic and commentator—and spells out why all Americans should stand united against crony capitalism.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Prospecta Press (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935212966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935212966
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By J. Arnone on October 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Wall Street crash of 1929 - 1933 that precipitated and exacerbated the Great Depression led to a series of stringent financial regulations. The S&L crisis of the 1980s resulted in the prosecutions of hundreds of executives. What has been called the Great Recession of 2008 has, 4 years later, resulted in neither regulations nor prosecutions, despite a self-professed reformist president being elected in 2008 by an electorate demanding reforms. In Jeff Connaughton's new book, The Payoff - Why Wall Street Always Wins, we get an insider's perspective as to why even common-sense, highly popular reforms aren't enacted: "In Washington, only the Wall Street lobby is concerned about fraud investigations. And their concern is to prevent them."

For more than 2 decades, Connaughton spent time in Washington as part of the Permanent Class, both within government and as a lobbyist. Tying himself to Senator (and now Vice President) Joe Biden, he used that relationship to make millions as a lobbyist. While technically a Democrat, as a lobbyist Connaughton was indifferent to the politics of his clients. "The rest of the country may be divided into red and blue, but DC is green, and cheerfully so."

When Biden became Vice President, his senate seat was filled by Ted Kaufman, who immediately declared that he wasn't going to seek a 2nd term. "I later learned from reporters that Wall Street was frustrated that they couldn't find a way to harness Ted, because he wasn't running for re-election" said Connaughton, brought on board as Kaufman's Chief of Staff. Both Kaufman and Connaughton vowed that they'd spend their two years "fighting for accountability for the financial ensure there would never be another one.
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Charles on September 9, 2012
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Jeff Coagnaughton who worked for Joe Biden but doesn't like him much went to war against Wall Street corruption in Washington, effectuated by a lobbying monstrosity known "the blob", with an "untouchable" Senator ( itself a political fluke) and survived to tell the fascinating tale of how things really work in that sick city. Told by a person who clearly is no saint as his money to be independent enough to write such a book came from lobbying, that past makes his knowledge credible. This is a must read for anyone interested iin reforming our politics and making Wall Street responsible and somewhat respectable again. The book is gutsy and hard hitting.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Morrison on August 29, 2012
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This was a most enjoyable, as well as a very informative read. The author came across as extremely credible and simply told his experiences in Washington as they actually happened. His insights into both the lobbying and legislative processes were very keen and he relates them very well to the reader. I came away with a much better understanding of the power of Wall Street and the money center banks and how they use it in subtle but effective ways to achieve their objectives. As the author has now retired from "Washington" he is able to tell like it is without worrying about offending anyone. To me, that is the real value of this book as it provides a highly unique perspective in a most objective manner.

This was one of those books that I just couldn't stop reading until I finished it. It really holds one's attention, as well as being highly entertaining, a combination which is very much to my liking. In addition, it moves along at a very quick pace and provides a wealth of knowledge about how "Washington" really works behind the scenes. I highly recommend it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Andrew M. Cockburn on September 21, 2012
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When Wall Street crashed in 2008 and took the rest of the economy with it, Americans understood very clearly that there was a problem, and looked to their elected representatives to fix it. That's what's meant to happen in a democracy. But nothing did happen. This book tells you why, because Jeff Connaughton reports from the belly of the beast. This is the book that explains how Wall Street dictated the precise degree of "reform" it was prepared to accept from Congress: zero. As a senior Senate staffer, Connaughton watched the disaster unfold, powerless to stop it. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to know how the bankers effortlessly crushed reform, complete with unsparing portraits of politicians like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd who, when told to jump, asked only "how high?"
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By smallwaters on November 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Some of the high profile endorsers of this book used the loose storyline that the author came to Washington an idealistic young man, intent on serving the public, and was then swept up in the money culture of D.C.

If you read the book closely, it is possible to arrive at a different interpretation.

And that would be this: from day one Connaughton was always about his career, and he eagerly used his connection with Joe Biden to shinny up the Washington career ladder. There's no real evidence his affiliation with Biden was born of any deep ideological or philosophical conviction: rather, he seems excited by the proximity to power and dynamism that Biden represents. Nonetheless, it's a testament to his talent and brains that he was able to parlay this into becoming a successful, highly paid lobbyist.

While he uses this book, in part, to take a potshot at Biden, it's not clear whether this is a result of some kind of epiphany or just disappointment that he hasn't been brought into Biden's 'inner circle'. He seems to want to suggest that it's the former. He's very careful not to let the book become a simple attack on Biden.

Connaughton does make an attempt to own -- to a degree -- the part he played in Washington's exploding culture of revolving-door lawyer-lobbyists. There is some redemption to be had there, although at times he seems almost as interested in trumpeting his own success.

He also seems to posit that he and Sen. Kaufman are sophisticated, financially and/or from an investment standpoint. He describes President Obama and Vice President Biden as "financially illiterate". No argument there. But it is almost as though, by inference, he and Senator Kaufman are financially sophisticated.
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