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Customer Review

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another Too Late, "Me Too" Book, February 15, 2010
This review is from: On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System (Hardcover)
Henry Paulson was Secretary of the Treasury during a once-in-a-lifetime economic nightmare. His book opens with a meeting with President Bush regarding Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. His plan is to move fast - replacing their leadership and bail each out with up to $100 billion before they can seek refuge in Congress or the courts. Both common and preferred stockholders will be wiped out. The two together owned or guaranteed $5+ trillion in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, about half the total market. Combined, they had lost $5.5 billion that year, and both had been twice downgraded the prior month. Seemingly everyone owned their paper, and the stock of one had fallen almost 90%.

Paulson reveals that at least one bank CEO (Chuck Prince, Citigroup CEO) recognized the competitive pressures to follow profitable, but risky, practices and asked for more regulation. ("As long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance.") An interesting source and rationale for more regulation.

Readers also learn that despite public assurances to the contrary, G.E.'s Immelt on at least four occasions expressed worries about GE's short-term commercial-paper debt and eventually successfully lobbied for access to special government guarantees for such debt - eventually covering more than $70 billion in GE debt. At the time, GE was the largest U.S. issuer of such short-term debt.

As expected, Paulson strongly defends the government's massive bailout of Wall Street firms, including that of AIG, and thus indirectly, his old firm Goldman Sachs. He also takes pains to explain why he took the actions taken, despite being a 'free market' follower, and contradicts those who see Bush II as lazy and uninquisitive. Unexpectedly, Paulson also reports being put off by V.P. candidate Sarah Palin's attitude of familiarity and lack of familiarity with the issues. He was also unimpressed by candidate McCain and Minority Leader John Boehner.

Bottom-Line: "On the Brink" provides no bombshells - only another chronological accounting that has been covered too many times before.
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