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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get this book if you want to understand Wall Street antics, July 14, 2003
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This review is from: Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets (Hardcover)
This book is an absolute must read if you want to understand Wall Street shenanigans. Partnoy has done a phenomenal job of demystifying the world of swaps, derivatives and other exotic financial instruments. Even better, he shows how investment banker antics have affected Main Street inhabitants including yourself. How did Orange County and so many other municipalities get so deeply in trouble? The author explains.
I have a Ph.D in business and many finance courses under my belt, but I never quite understood the systemic dangers of the 'financial innovation' that is sweeping our markets. Now that I have, I will sleep much less well at night.
Partnoy describes the evolution of exotic instruments and the characters involved in this evolution. How CS First Boston made securites of virtually any type of debt, Salomon pioneered the CMO and so on. He details the specific wrongdoings of companies like Enron, Global Crossing and WorldCom. He shows you the enabling role played by gatekeepers like accounting firms, law firms, analysts and credit rating agencies.
Even more important, he shows you exactly how the collusion happened and why. He gives you both an aerial view of the markets and a down-in-the-trenches description. I often wondered why, in efficient markets, participants voluntarily involved themselves in such convoluted transactions that had high costs in terms of record-keeping and fees. The answer, as Partnoy shows, is that virtually all of these arrangements permit some set of parties to subvert law or regulation or both. This is true domestically and internationally.
He graphically describes how lobbying keeps regulators at bay and the venality and ineffectuality of politicians. The chairperson of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, for example, exempted important parts of Enron's business from regulation and, just weeks later, joined Enron' board. There are many such stories that show exactly how self-serving our legislators and regulatory guardians are.
My quibbles are minor. While Partnoy is clear, his language is colorless. Perhaps his legal background has something to do with this. Given the strength of his material and the depth of his research, he could have made this book a popular bestseller if he had used more forceful colloquial expression.
Also, he does not talk at all about the role of technology in this evolving mess. Greedy, incredibly smart bankers have always been with us. What has permitted them to have this huge impact now is the ability of computers to churn massive amounts of data, pick out the faintest of patterns and keep records of incredibly complex transactions involving dozens of parties over vast stretches of time.
This said, this is the best book I have yet come across that explains how and why large scale financial malfeasance happens. And why it is hardly ever punished. You will understand why the perpetrators of Enron, Global Crossing, Adelphia, WorldCom, Sunbeam and so many others will walk and hold on to their vast gains. Start praying that there is justice beyond our courts.
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4.6 out of 5 stars (37 customer reviews)
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Srikumar S. Rao
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Location: Commack, NY USA

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