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Den of Thieves Paperback – September 1, 1992

4.3 out of 5 stars 160 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This 29-week PW bestseller, a QPB main selection, tells of the rise and fall during the 1980s of the biggest insider trading ring in Wall Street history. Updated in paperback. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Martin Siegel, and Dennis Levine will long be remembered for the Wall Street insider trading scandals of the 1980s. Stewart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Jour nal reporter who covered the various scandals, has used his reportage as well as an exhaustive culling of court documents, testimony, and interviews with all of the participants to fashion an authoritative account of what happened. Stewart has done a thorough job in assembling the facts and has made connections that may surprise some readers. For example, Milken, the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond king who convinced many savings institutions and insurance companies to buy these bonds in large quantities, may have indirectly contributed not only to the bailout of various thrifts but also to the insolvency of some insurance companies. While this is a well-researched and highly readable work, there is such an abundance of financial details that a glossary of terms and related Wall Street jargon would have been helpful. This minor caveat aside, Stewart's contemporary morality tale is recommended for all business collections in public, special, and academic libraries. (Index not seen.) Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/91.
- Richard Drezen, Merrill Lynch Lib. , New York
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 587 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067179227X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671792275
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Den of Thieves is a snapshot of human nature showing its seemy side. Stewart's book has a cast of characters you couldn't believe if it were a work of fiction. The most brilliant thing about "Den of Thieves" is the range of villians in the book; no two come to their law-breaking in the same manner or embrace it to the same degree. All of them find temptation (usually in the form of large heaps of easy money) too hard to resist.

Stewart avoids the temptation to paint all of his law-breakers with the same brush and just focus in on the nuts and bolts of the story's timeline. Instead, he allows you to meet each individual and see how they became embroiled in Wall Street's worst scandal since the 1930s. You see some of the simple unrepentant scumbags you'd expect (Levine most closely fits the bill), but mostly you see more complex people. Milken comes off as a truly broken person who was never completely connected to reality in the same way most of us are. Most of the players come off as ordinary people who, on their own, would have cruised through their careers in uneventful fashion if not presented with a tempting, lawless option by a more proactive criminal. Each of the perpetrators has their own level of comfort with their involvement in the insider trading scheme. Some are so uncomfortable that they get out of the scheme on their own, some cry over the money they can't bring themselves to stop taking, and of course some just think they are God's gift to the financial world.

You also get to see how law enforcement can work in a situation like this - sometimes it isn't very pretty. You come to realize that regulators and public prosecutors are imperfect people in imperfect situations, subject to their own set of desires, temptations and problems.
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Format: Paperback
The 1980's were known as the "Greed Decade" but, for many, the true excesses of that greed were never fully known or are now only a distant memory. James Stewart's book, "Den of Thieves" provides a comprehensive, fascinating and readable look at the insider trading scandals of the 1980's which brought words like
arbitrageur and LBO into the mainstream and people like Boesky and Milken household names.
Stewart begins by looking at the rise of some of Wall Street's highest fliers and, in many cases, providing exhaustive details of how the prevailing mantra of "greed is good" led them to orchestrate their own downfall. The audacity of many of these people is almost breathtaking, as is the wealth they accumulated. Stewart moves on to detail the process by which the government, in the form of the SEC and then-US Attorney Rudy Giuliani, brought this house of cards tumbling down. The various players in the game are portrayed with varying degrees of sympathy. However, the government authorities are not necessarily portrayed in the most flattering light and Stewart raises a number of questions about the overall handling of the investigations.
One word of caution - readers should not get too bogged down in the details of the story. The insider trading scandal involved
hundreds of players and transactions and schemes that were unbelievably complex. It is almost impossible to assimilate the entire story without getting somewhat confused. Nevertheless, the book is at its most effective when you take a step back and look at the grand scheme of the insider trades, the methods by which the perpetrators were brought to justice and the punishment they suffered from their crimes.
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Format: Paperback
I just reread this book now that I have 14-more years of financial world experience. I enjoyed the first half which primarily deals with the financiers and their transactions, but the second half gets bogged down following the regulators who seem hell-bent on making big arrests of powerful people and advancing their fame and careers more than they care for the actual rule of law.

Most of the financiers introduced are truly repugnant characters, in particular guys like Dennis Levine, Marty Siegel, and Richard Freeman. Levine comes across as a conniving weasel who was basically inept at arbitrage and was able to hide this fact from the ignorant (not everyone) by cheating. Siegel was portrayed as a smug crook who turned crybaby as soon as he had to take his medicine. I can't decide if I disliked Levine or Siegel more. Freeman is the most interesting. He seems clearly guilty of insider trading, and pretty much escaped severe prosecution thanks to his benefactors (Robert Rubin) at Goldman Sachs, along with most of his personal wealth.

While Stewart does some exceptional research, it is also clear that he is engaging in a lot of speculation. The most obvious example is the numerous recounted conversations between all the characters, which is of questionable accuracy and few of which are verifiable beyond what the author was able to extract from a large group of people whose honesty is suspect. This includes all the attorneys, corporate chieftains, and in my opinion it especially includes all the government agents and prosecutors.

There is a lot of myth surrounding Milken, and unfortunately most of it is inaccurate. For one, Milken has always been very guarded of his privacy.
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