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Fiasco: Blood in the Water on Wall Street Paperback – April 6, 2009
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The game of Russian roulette is alive and well and living on Wall Street, where it's known as the derivatives market. In his aptly named book F.I.A.S.C.O., Frank Partnoy, a former derivatives trader at Morgan Stanley, exposes the seamier side of high-stakes finance. Derivatives are securities whose worth is determined by the value of other securities; according to Partnoy, however, the derivatives market is an elaborate illusion performed with smoke and mirrors. In fascinating, frightening detail Partnoy describes several of Morgan Stanley's slick deals that, in his eyes, are just this side of outright fraud. More than just dishonest, the bait-and-switch tactics Wall Street traders employ to rig the markets are downright dangerous, since the massive debt these deals conceal will inevitably come back to haunt the dealmakers.
F.I.A.S.C.O. could be subtitled Portrait of the Trader as a Young Man, for Frank Partnoy is indeed young, and his short tenure on Wall Street left him sadly disillusioned but much wiser. His book will leave you wiser, too--and probably very worried. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Before his recent return to practicing law, Partnoy was a derivatives salesman for the prestigious Wall Street investment bank Morgan Stanley. In simple terms, a derivative is a tricky financial instrument whose value depends on another security, such as a stock or bond. Partnoy takes us inside the complex world of high finance, deriving his title from Morgan Stanley's competitive skeet-shooting event, the Fixed Asset Annual Sporting Clays, which "set the mood for the firm's barbarous approach to its clients' increasing derivatives losses." This is a story about deceit and manipulation by fund managers wanting big bonus checks and a wake-up call to the average investor. Partnoy explains in easy language the investment alternatives used by the very wealthy to avoid paying capital gains taxes. In addition, we get an in-depth look at well-known derivative "fiascoes," namely Orange County, Procter & Gamble, and others. This fascinating book will appeal to serious investors. Recommended for all business collections.?Bellinda Wise, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.Y.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Strangely readable book. The greed and money lust and the pathetic macho posturing of the derivatives sales people fascinated. The stupidity of the bankers, insurance fund managers, etc. who bought the risky and complicated derivatives concocted by the Morgan Stanley people, amazed. Partnoy himself comes across as someone who went along with the program until it got just a little too ugly and then got out. I suspect there is another side to this story.
It is quite gripping as literature, and I read it very fast. Mainly it succeeds at creating a milieu, and readers need to understand that it's mainly a highly entertaining look at that milieu. As literature, it fails to maintain the appeal; in particular, I felt the character of "The Queen" was inadequately developed given her pivotal role.
As an introduction to the world of structured finance and derivatives, it leaves much to be desired: mainly, Partnoy fails to explain why derivatives trading became so pervasive in the nonfinancial sector--which I believe is the most important non-literary insight of the book. If it is indeed, then Partnoy's subsequent evasion of this topic is quite frustrating and suggests a lack of curiosity on his part.
Portnoy tells his story in a fluid style, leaving the reader wanting more, page after page. This book exposes the greed and ignorance of the market's fools, or customers, and the eagerness of the Wall Street investment firms to offer ever more enticingly packaged derivative instruments to help them achieve their ruin. Everyone who has money in the markets should read a few books like this to get a more realistic idea of what these venerable Wall Street institutions really think of their customers.