— Todd Sullivan, valueplays.net, April 2010
" ... Ackman’s pursuit of MBIA spanned the two major crises of capitalism of the last decade, from the earlier era of corporate fraud prosecutions epitomized by Enron and its off-balance-sheet special purpose vehicles (SPVs), to the late credit debacle stemming from the collapse of the CDO house of cards."
—The Hedge Fund Law Report, May 2010
From the Inside Flap
Confidence Game is a real-world "Emperor's New Clothes," a tale of widespread delusion and one dissenting voice in the era leading up to the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression. Wall Street appeared to have found the secret for turning everything from risky mortgages to credit card bills into super-safe, triple-A-rated securities. Behind the facade of safety, the financial system had become dangerously fragile. Few had anything to gain from pointing out the risk.
Bill Ackman did. In 2002, the hedge fund manager issued a critical research report on MBIA Inc., the owner of a triple-A-rated bond insurer that played a central role in the financial alchemy on Wall Street. "This company will spiral downward," Ackman warned, and he placed a bet against MBIA that would earn his investors billions of dollars if it did.
The backlash was swift. Ackman was branded a fraud in the press and investigated by Eliot Spitzer and the SEC. Despite the scrutiny, he spent years telling anyone who would listen why MBIA was a catastrophe waiting to happen. With the onset of the credit crisis, the problems exposed turned out to be bigger than MBIA. An unquestioning acceptance of credit ratings, a blind eye to leverage, a dangerous reliance on financial models, and the abandonment of common sense had become part of a deeply flawed financial system. The collapse humbled nearly every large financial institution and plunged the country into recession.
Ackman's story captures an era of delusional confidence, when debt exploded yet risk appeared to vanish. Told by award-winning bond market reporter Christine Richard, Confidence Game is a behind-the-scenes look at how warnings went unheeded as Wall Street careened toward disaster.