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Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System [Hardcover]

Robert Pozen , Robert J. Shiller
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 9, 2009 0470499052 978-0470499054 1

Industry luminary Robert Pozen offers his insights on the future of U.S. finance

The recent credit crisis and the resulting bailout program are unprecedented events in the financial industry. While it's important to understand what got us here, it's even more important to consider how we should get out. While there is little question that immediate action was required to stabilize the situation, it is now time to look for a long-term plan to reform the United States financial industry.

That is where Bob Pozen comes in. Perhaps more than anyone in the industry, Pozen commands the respect and attention of the public and private sector. In this timely guide, he outlines his vision for the new financial future and provides actionable advice along the way. To Pozen, there are four high-priority problems that must be addressed, and this book puts them in perspective

  • Analyzes alternative models for government stakes in banks
  • Recommends a new board structure for large financial institutions
  • Examines the importance of broader Fed jurisdiction over systemic risks
  • Proposes a way to revive the securitization of loans

With Too Big to Save, you'll learn the likely future of the finance industry and understand why changes have to be made.

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Editorial Reviews


“For the last two years I've been receiving requests -- email and otherwise -- for a readable, educating book on the financial crisis. And while various books on the crisis have had their merits, no one of them has fit that bill. Until now. Robert Pozen's Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System is the single best source for figuring out what happened. It is the go-to book if you are a non-specialist and want to understand: how credit default swaps work, the significance of Basel II, mark-to-market, how the various Fed bailouts operated, the meaning of the toxic asset plans, and many other matters.”
Tyler Cowen/ September 2009,

"Should be required reading on Capitol Hill."
—Kevin Hall, McClatchy Newspapers

"Pozen’s book offers significantly more than a factual recitation of events leading up to and during the credit crisis. Beyond that, it offers a comprehensive framework for analysis and concrete proposals for appropriate regulatory responses. Broadly, Pozen’s aim is not – or not only – to tell the story of the crisis, but rather to analyze how the crisis can illuminate and inform the appropriate relationship between government and financial markets. Pozen describes specific regulatory innovations intended to keep pace with the speed and complexity of financial innovation. He offers, that is, the analysis sorely lacking in more journalistic accounts of the crisis. In that regard, his book is one of the few in the growing literature arising out of the crisis that should inform any serious discussion of new financial regulation."
—Alisa Greenstein, The Hedge Fund Law Report, October 2009

"Pozen seems to be right (or at least in broad agreement with me) the overwhelming majority of the time. And as you can also see, he makes a lot of recommendations, on everything from accounting standards to insurance regulation. Tyler Cowen is quite right to give the book a rave review."
—Felix Salmon,, November 2009

"This is a book for investors who want to understand the details of our financial landscape, and who also want to consider arguments on restricting mortgage-lending practices, whether financial derivatives and hedge funds should be regulated or the revival of loan securitization, among others." (SmartMoney, November 2009)

“There has not been a more timely and important book written this decade. … In summary, Too Big to Save is comprehensive, rigorous, and descriptive as well as prescriptive. The US economy is too important a global player to be ignored, and Pozen’s analysis in ‘Too Big Too Save’ is too important to not be read. This book is truly a gem and a strongly recommended read.”
—Sean Cameron, The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation ( , November 2009

“The best finance book I've read so far this year (and I've read a slew of them) is Robert C. Pozen's Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System. … I can't think of anybody who has covered such a range of issues so efficiently or so well.” (Brad DeLong, (, November 2009

"TOO BIG TO SAVE? asks and answers the questions weighing on every American's mind...a highly readable and well-paced narrative...a valuable guide to a wide audience of readers, from American voters who felt disenfranchised by the events of September 2008 and are looking for an accessible resource to further inform their perspective, to professionals who seek a single source for an engaging account of the crisis and its implications for businesses today and tomorrow."
—Elizabeth Leonard,, December 2009

"University economists are already teaching courses on the history of the financial crisis of 2008 and the policy responses that followed. Robert Pozen's new book could become required reading."
—Ross Kerber, Reuters, December 2009

"To command the weary reviewer’s attention, any new book on the aberrations of the financial community has to have a clear focus and make a compelling case. In Too Big To Save? Robert Pozen, chairman of mutual fund group MFS Investment Management and a former vice-chairman of Fidelity Investments, pulls off the trick. … The story of excessive risk-taking and leverage is lucidly told and accessible to the layman, with good explanations of securitisation, toxic structured products and the global dimension of the crisis. The policy recommendations are thoughtful and mostly full of good sense."
— John Plender, Financial Times, February 2010

"The first thing one can see from the book is how much of a genius Robert Pozen is. He has a clear grasp on many complex issues facing the US and world economy. Too Big to Save? is probably the best book about financial reform written so far."
—Jacob Wolinksy,, February 2010

"... thorough, intelligent and straightforward ..."
—Jim McTague, Barron's, March 2010

"While there are many books on the financial crisis, too many of them say too much about what went wrong and not enough about how to fix the problem. Bob Pozen's book Too Big to Save? (Wiley, 2009) breaks the mold. It not only analyzes the causes of the crisis with uncommon clarity, but also supplies a compelling road map for reform."
—Stephen J. Hadley, Harvard Business Review, March 2010

"If you’re only going to read one book on the financial crisis, this should be the one."
— Matthew Rees, The American, May 2010

From the Inside Flap

Mortgage defaults, together with excessivedebt and weak regulation, ultimately led to a major financial crisis in the United States in 2008. But how exactly did a steep drop in U.S. housing prices result in a severe financial crisis throughout the world? What did the U.S. government do right and what did it do wrong in responding to this financial crisis? And perhaps most importantly, what actions should be taken in the future to resolve this financial crisis and help prevent others from happening? In Too Big to Save?, Robert Pozen answers these and other key questions as he presents his vision for repairing the U.S. financial system.

Each chapter of this timely book analyzes the impact of the financial crisis on a major part of the U.S. financial system. Pozen first explains the globalization of the financial crisis through the sale of mortgagebacked securities around the world. He suggests how the securitization process should be reformed, including new approaches to credit rating agencies and credit default swaps.

Second, he assesses the impact of the financial crisis on the stock and bond markets. He criticizes the broad government guarantees of bank debt and money market funds, and calls for reinstating the incentives for large debt holders to scrutinize the condition of financial institutions.

Third, he evaluates the federal bailout of financial institutions by buying their stock and toxic assets. He shows how these bailouts constitute "one-way capitalism" whereby taxpayers bear most of the losses but stand to receive little of any potential gains.

Finally, he outlines what can and cannot be achieved realistically through international financial cooperation. For the United States, he proposes a concrete plan to address risks to the entire financial system and strengthen the functional regulation of each segment of the financial services industry.

Too Big to Save? will give you a sound framework to analyze the daily barrage of information about the financial crisis. It offers a blueprint for restoring the financial system without repeating the mistakes of the past.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470499052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470499054
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,010,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert C. Pozen is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was chairman of MFS Investment Management and vice chairman of Fidelity Investments. He served on President Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security and was also secretary of economic affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was associate general counsel of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and was a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Caplin & Drysdale. The author of six books, Pozen lives with his wife in Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Bob Pozen's book, "Too Big to Save: How to Fix the US Financial System" is the most important books on financial reform written to date. The book not only provides an overview of how the US economy entered into a deep recession, but also a comprehensive plan for reform and a return to growth. Filled with original insight, the book clearly explains the failure of our modern capitalist society that has morphed into one-way capitalism that penalizes taxpayers who do not participate in upside gains but are exposed to losses from bailed out financial institutions. The book offers pragmatic advice for policymakers and important guidelines for all readers to understand the nature, causes, and appropriate reforms associated with the current US financial crisis. There has not been a more timely and important book written this decade.

Furthermore, Bob Pozen approaches each potential idea of reform with a well-reasoned perspective on the legal, economic, political, ethical and cultural implications of such reform. Pozen has a unique ability to describe complex phenomona such as the housing boom and bust and explosive growth in the use and complexity of financial derivatives with ease. His grasp of the complex issues is second to none, and his ability to convey these complex ideas in easily understandable, succinct prose is remarkable. Pozen's suggestions for reform - including reducing moral hazard problems, strengthening boards, and improving the regulatory system - present feasible, necessary steps that policymakers must head to improve financial markets and the real economy.

"Too Big to Save" is comprehensive, rigorous, and not only descriptive but also prescriptive. The US economy is too important a global player to be ignored, and Pozen's analysis in "Too Big Too Save" is too important to not be read. This book is truly a gem and a strongly recommended read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to School January 24, 2010
Robert Pozen's "Too Big to Save?" has already received a number of enthusiastic notices on Amazon's pages by readers who know a lot more about economics than I do. And due disclosure mandates that I state that I am related to the author--but both of these disclaimers are in fact recommendations. Like most members of the general public I depend on newspapers for knowledge about topics I don't read in any depth about--I am a novelist and a professor of English, writing at times about architecture, literature, or Biblical scholarship. I have a bank account, some stocks, a few bonds, and in the present recession realized that I could neither trust the media or conventional wisdom to guide my own finances, let alone the choices being made by elected and appointed government officials. In the quickly moving present crisis, every book on the past is almost immediately outdated, but what struck me in the past weeks reading "Too Big to Save?" is how current it is about what is playing out in the headlines right now, and perhaps a few steps ahead. Just how the crisis at AIG came about, how many mistakes were made in its resolution, why Ben Bernanke's present disclaimers ring hollow, and the complications of Executive Pay issues, are not adequately put into context in a narrow column of the New York Times, and certainly not on Web news sites. Robert Pozen's analysis of the crisis however, gives one a shrewd seat at the table of the insiders and makes one boil at the sheer arrogance and bone-headedness of the club that helped cause this crisis. A dozen friends have hammered at me that the dollar is on the way out and that the Euro and the Yen, and China, are the future, but the last chapter of "Too Big to Save?" calls that into question, based on hard statistics. Read more ›
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and insightful November 9, 2009
Too Big to Save is a clear and straightforward account of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. As Pozen states, the book is aimed at intelligent readers, who are not financial experts. The book sets out to answer three key questions: How exactly did a steep drop in U.S. housing prices result in a severe financial crisis throughout the world? What did the U.S. government do right and what did it do wrong in responding to the financial crisis? What actions should be taken in the future to resolve this financial crisis and prevent others from happening?

Pozen accomplishes these goals. The book is easy to read and not only synthesizes the background and history of elements of the financial system (for example, of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of credit default swaps, and of the 2008 Bailout Act), but goes much further. It includes detailed analysis and critique, and concrete policy proposals. Pozen explains complex concepts in a clear and understandable manner. The book is insightful and accomplished. The book also contains a helpful glossary.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit too pat, but good November 29, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There's a tendency in history to ascribe to telesis, which means certain things happen due to innate, inexorable facts. This dates back to the time of Aristotle. Pozen's book is like this: Pozen can explain everything that happened based on a handful of rules: the Fed expanded too quickly, lack of regulation, agency problems (managers getting rich short term at long term shareholder expense), rating agency abuses. But for the violation of these rules we would not have a crisis. Pozen's prescription is better regulation. Perhaps this is all true, but it's a bit too pat. Question: given that crisis are endemic to capitalism, sometimes is it possible that despite the best safeguards, bubbles with form? Not according to Pozen, but a number of reputable economists think so.

Nevertheless, this is a good book because it's well written and easy to read, has original and interesting charts and graphics, is not too long and is thought provoking.

Four stars. If you need however a compendium of viewpoints, some for or against regulation, buy this book (or journal): Critical Review: Volume 21, No. 2-3, 2009, ISSN 0891-3811, "Causes of the Crisis", which has a Who's Who of economists with divergent viewpoints. Very interesting, but it's more technical and harder to follow that this book, but worth it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Book About Securitization, Not Too Big Banks
Pozen had the misfortune to title his book before the Dodd-Frank Act debates made everyone aware of too big to fail banks. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Steve Patrick
5.0 out of 5 stars You Will Learn
Too Big to Save? is a step by step, issue by issue account of the US financial system, how it got into trouble, the issues involved in saving it, and the author's preferences. Read more
Published on August 25, 2010 by Marc Korman
5.0 out of 5 stars Rational Solutions to our Financial System
This is book offers the broadest and most comprehensive perspective to our financial breakdown - in an unbiased way. And then, Mr. Read more
Published on August 24, 2010 by Sammy
5.0 out of 5 stars Expert Robert Pozen offers insights on U.S. finance
Stable, sustainable economic growth requires new approaches to financial regulation. In this insightful book, Robert Pozen explains how speculative securities underwriting, easy... Read more
Published on May 31, 2010 by Rolf Dobelli
5.0 out of 5 stars Barron's 3/1/10 review, page 40, of "Too Big to Fail"- GS & AIG
In part:
"And what about the government's bailout of Goldman Sachs and other creditors of financial giant American International Group? Read more
Published on February 28, 2010 by bowonwing
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Shelf
After having read 2 other books about the financial crisis, causes, and fixes (and how to profit)...this is one book that doesn't have a political agenda in the authors writing. Read more
Published on February 6, 2010 by Kevin B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book on Financial Reform
Robert Pozen writes the best book to date on the problems of our financial system and the ways to fix them. Read more
Published on January 29, 2010 by Jacob Wolinsky
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for writing this book
As a student of law and finance, I've kept a close eye on the economic happenings all through the crisis. Read more
Published on January 20, 2010 by Kirk Cheney
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Exactly What is Needed
Bob Pozen explains, play by play, what happened during the crisis, why it happened, and then specifies corrections to reduce the risk of future financial crises. Read more
Published on January 16, 2010 by Catherine Alaska Burr
1.0 out of 5 stars Are you kidding me?!?!?!
$16.47 for the Kindle version of this book?!?!?! No way! Kindle owners don't pay this ridiculous price for an eBook. Hey Publishers, get a clue, not going to pay more than 9. Read more
Published on January 15, 2010 by Jeff Cahill
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