- Paperback: 260 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061965308
- ISBN-13: 978-0061965302
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager Paperback – June 22, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Expanding on a 2007 interview in the literary magazine n+1, editor and interviewer Gessen draws together two years' worth of interviews with a despairing anonymous hedge fund manager. HFM, as Gessen calls him, didn't go to business school or major in economics, but has been working successfully in hedge funds for over a decade. With some context provided by Gessen, HFM schools readers in the stories behind the death of Bear Stearns, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the plunging dollar, the bailouts, the Madoff scandal, and, finally, the upswing. Though it's interesting to have a personal take on the tumultuous past two years—and HFM ends the interviews when the stress finally drives him to take a semisabbatical—the decision to tell this story in an interview format is tricky and ultimately unsuccessful; the choppy transcription format distances readers from the ideas at hand, and the points lose their punch. Fans of the original article will find this expansion compelling, but other readers curious about the factors behind the crash will do better elsewhere. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This book is a series of interviews with an anonymous hedge-fund manager (HFM) by the co-editor of a literary magazine (who admits to being ill-informed on finance); he sets out to understand what is happening on Wall Street. The HFM offers a brilliant financial professional's view of the economic situation in real time, from September 2007, when problems in financial markets began to surface, until late summer 2009, when the financial meltdown generally subsided and the financial community went back, in HFM's view, to business as usual. With definitions of financial terms and products, and explanations of domestic and global issues as they occur, HFM draws from his decade of nonstop work as a hedge-fund manager to educate the interviewer and us as the financial crisis unfolds. This is a great read. The interviews are edited in a readily understandable manner and will provide a thoughtful perspective for a wide range of library patrons who want to learn about the recent financial debacle. --Mary Whaley
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Top Customer Reviews
If you're looking for an accessible overview of the financial crisis in readable prose, this is a good choice. If you're looking for something deeper, however, this will disappoint. For example, the HFM never quite explains why the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn't do more to stabilize the economy. Due to the interview format, the timeline of events is presented in a muddled, confusing way. I couldn't quite map out the sequence of events very well. (For a more detailed--but lacking meaningful explanations--account, "Too Big to Fail" is a better bet).
Moreover, it's important to remember that this is coming from a hedge fund manager. In addition to having no real inside knowledge of what was happening behind the scenes, the HFM seemed a bit too self-conscious of the fact that he was being published in a literary magazine. At one point early in the interview sequence, he assured people that "everything would be okay." He later admitted that he was saying that to quell any fears among the readership.
That makes you wonder how honest and blunt this guy was during the interview.
There are some particularly valuable conversations that illustrate, through examples, the risk magnification from instruments that become illiquid combined with leverage. In a panic, the interviewee points out how contracts (such as for collateral haircuts, or funding commitment period) may not be honored (a law suit will be irrelevant because it will not save the fund in time), how word gets around the market and, together with asset liquidations and investor withdrawal restrictions, causes a rapid, downward spiral.
There were also some interesting observations, that you wouldn't necessarily know without being in the industry. One was that, at the time of the Lehman collapse, arbitrage trades unusually existed for which very few players had the capital to be able to take advantage, such as simple covered interest arbitrage (buying a high quality foreign government bond and hedging out the FX exposure, which should produce a return close to U.S. Treasuries). The "basis" (difference between the U.S. Treasury and the hedged foreign government investment) between the two moved out from the usual 2 basis points (2/100ths of 1%) to 20 b.p.s That's something, I'm sure, a better-capitalized bank like JPMorgan Chase was able to use to considerable profit advantage.
If you have a interest in the day-to-day workings of hedge funds (and bank prime-brokerage), perhaps as a credit officer, a internal audit professional or a regulator, I thoroughly recommend the book. It's a relatively quick read and the anonymous hedge fund manager is a smart and thoughtful person who gives many highly insightful comments.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
But if I'm wrong and you can, that would make it my favorite book on the crisis.Read more