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Circle of Greed: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Lawyer Who Brought Corporate America to Its Knees Hardcover – March 2, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“John Grisham would have to struggle to invent a character as brilliant and unethical as Bill Lerach. It is a credit to the reporting talents of Patrick Dillon and Carl M. Cannon that, in “Circle of Greed,” they capture the felon-lawyer in all his charm and ruthlessness. Along the way they show how the plaintiffs' bar has transformed the process of class actions into big business.”
Wall Street Journal

“[A] revelatory yarn . . . In “Circle of Greed,” the authors do justice to their subject and have produced a book that proves the adage that truth can be stranger than fiction.”
Washington Times
“Mr. Dillon and Mr. Cannon have written the type of book that, like “Den of Thieves” and “Smartest Guys in the Room,” helps to explain an era.”
— NYTimes.com/DealBook
“In Circle of Greed , this compelling narrative becomes an irresistible metaphor for the hubris at the heart of capitalism . . . Lerach is lucky to have Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Patrick Dillon and Carl Cannon as his chroniclers. They tell his tale with an authority and depth that comes from having followed his career since the late 1970s. . .  Amid the entertaining knockabout and big personalities, the authors raise important questions about how the rule of law should work in a capitalist democracy.”
Financial Times
 “[R]iveting . . . Telling this complex story is a tricky business, but Circle of Greed is up to the task: it is impressively researched and well paced, and offers reporting, not editorializing, leaving the reader to form his or her own judgments.”
Washington Monthly

"A well-reported, densely written saga" --Kirkus Reviews

"In modern corporate America, the swashbuckling captains of industry have long been the primary characters exposed in the public storytelling. But now, Patrick Dillon and Carl Cannon have stripped away the veneer of a lawyer who made his name as the business world’s chief adversary, Bill Lerach. In Circle of Greed, Dillon and Cannon present a painstakingly researched and entertaining tale of a legal dynamo who seemed able to root out any corporate crime, but then became enmeshed in frauds of his own. Lerach had it all, then lost it all because of his own greed and arrogance. In this thrilling book, Dillon and Cannon have unwound the character of this perplexing man, presenting a cautionary tale that is must-reading for anyone interested in business or the law."

--Kurt Eichenwald, author of The Informant and Conspiracy of Fools

About the Author

Patrick Dillon has won many journalism awards including a share of the Pulitzer Prize- and is the author of the acclaimed Lost at Sea.  The executive editor of California magazine, he was formerly editor in chief of Forbes ASAP, a writer for the Christian Science Monitor, and an editor and columnist at the San Jose Mercury News.  He lives in San Francisco, California.
Carl M. Cannon is the deputy editor of politicsdaily.com and coauthor of Reagan's Disciple: George W. Bush's Troubled Quest for a Presidential Legacy.  He has won numerous awards, including a share of the Pulitzer Prize in 1989, and the prestigious Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting of the Presidency.  He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767929942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767929943
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Davis on April 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Circle of Greed provides a fascinating account of the rise and fall one of the most famous--or infamous--class action lawyers, Bill Lerach. The book has many fine qualities. First, it is very interesting reading. Lerach has lived a colorful life, and Dillon and Cannon tell a heck of a story.

Second, because Lerach was so prominent in prosecuting class actions, the book provides a concise history of many of the most important cases of fraud in the financial industry over the last several decades, a history that could not be more timely. Dillon and Cannon do a wonderful job of explaining in clear and accessible terms some of the shenanigans in which corporate America has engaged. Those descriptions by themselves justify the price of the book.

Third, Circle of Greed offers a balanced account of class actions and their virtues and vices as a means of achieving justice. Lerach himself appears as a complicated character: a true believer who was so committed to his cause--and to winning--that he was willing to bend and even break the rules, leading to his incarceration.

As a law professor, I teach about and study class actions and complex litigation. Over the years I have learned that people's ideological commitments tend to shape their views of class action litigation rather than the other way around. As a result, Circle of Greed is likely to be a Rorschach test. Those who hate class actions may object that Dillon and Cannon fail to condemn Lerach in clear enough terms. Those who are enamored with class actions may think Dillon and Cannon were too tough on Lerach--or should have chosen a more sympathetic subject, a class action lawyer who acted more ethically. But those who read Circle of Greed with an open mind may learn a little bit about one man's story, as well as a bit about the strengths and weaknesses of class litigation. Dillon and Cannon just provide the facts. The reader has to decide what to do with them.
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Format: Hardcover
I found the book compelling and timely - given today's social, political and economic climates. Cannon and Dillon have created an amazing and very readable account of the inner workings of class-action suits within the legal system, the formation of questionable political, legal, and corporate liaisons, the lack-luster SEC, investigative work, and cheating. The unfolding revelations within the text are both troubling and fascinating at the same time. The authors clearly reveal there is not much of a delineation between narcissistic, brilliant people and stupidity. Lerach is a conumdrum; and his world of law is clearly full of moral and ethical contradictions. Kuddos to the authors for providing such a wonderfully detailed account of Lerach's world and giving greater insight into the socio-political inadequacies that have become a part of this nation's conscience.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A tremendous book. A gripping page-turner that every reader will enjoy - even people without a background or specific interest in politics or law. Objectively and thoroughly reported, the authors make complex subjects understandable and present the tale of a larger-than-life character in a tale that someone will certainly turn into a blockbuster movie.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is interesting journalism about a character who is bigger than life. Bill Lerach is a brilliant individual whose creative theories and ruthless execution made his an enemy of many companies. The authors decided to tell a story and they told a fascinating one with unbelievable characters. The story really is similar to others in 1990 who started out with an effective business plan and then overdid and destroyed themselves. In many ways Lerach was not different than the Enron folks who he clearly hated. He was so caught up in the need to make money or to be powerful that he felt the normal rules of law did not apply to him. He cheated to get cases. It is unclear from the book whether he thought he could do a better job or that he was manic.

Like so many people like him he either never had a moral compass or he lost it. In any event, he became a disgrace to the bar through his tactics.

My issue with this book is that there is no effort to consider the real issues seriously. I was hoping there would have been an more in depth consideration of Lerach's contribution to general welfare. Also I missed any analysis by the authors of why they felt he acted as he did. i do not believe that the authors made the case that people like Lerach reduce corporate fraud. I think because they destroy respect for the system they give the abusers the ability to say the law is not fair so I am not doing anything wrong by abusing it. Like Lerach explaining why he bought plaintiffs. The lack of such an effort did not reduce the pleasure of reading this book I just felt cheated that I did not get to understand Bill better.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you enjoy well-written non-fiction about interesting characters and their foibles in the business/legal world, certainly add 'Circle of Greed' to your reading list. Bill Lerach's personality, actions and place in history are certainly worthy of a serious book like this one. The authors Cannon and Dillon maintain a compelling narrative flow while relating an enormous volume of impeccably-researched information- some of it arcane- which is no small feat.

If, however, you are looking for an excellent business-legal world character study/history book/thriller that is simultaneously a textbook on securities law and class action lawsuits, a precise survey of commute times in the Cleveland metropolitan area and completely devoid of any conventional narrative language, this may not be the book for you.
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