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Liar's Poker (Norton Paperback) Paperback – March 15, 2010
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As described by Lewis, liar's poker is a game played in idle moments by workers on Wall Street, the objective of which is to reward trickery and deceit. With this as a metaphor, Lewis describes his four years with the Wall Street firm Salomon Brothers, from his bizarre hiring through the training program to his years as a successful bond trader. Lewis illustrates how economic decisions made at the national level changed securities markets and made bonds the most lucrative game on the Street. His description of the firm's personalities and of the events from 1984 through the crash of October 1987 are vivid and memorable. Readers of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities ( LJ 11/15/87) are likely to enjoy this personal memoir. BOMC and Fortune Book Club selection.
- Joseph Barth, U.S. Military Acad . Lib., West Point, N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“The funniest book on Wall Street I’ve ever read.”
- Tom Wolfe
“Often profane, always hilarious, right on the mark.”
“So memorable and alive . . . one of those rare works that encapsulate and define an era.”
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And the pieces are all in place for another monster Wall Street blow-up, to be bailed out once again by unwitting (and unwilling) taxpayers ("TBTF"). Wall Street has figured out how to pass all the risk of gambling with other peoples' money to the taxpayers, while keeping all of the profits for themselves. You don't even need to be be an investor in the stock market anymore to get fleeced. Uncle Sam will reach into your pocket on behalf of Wall Street!
Lewis warned us of the danger after the first time it happened, but apparently nobody listened (or not the right people). Page 163: "The mortgage trading desk evolved from corner shop to supermarket. By increasing the number of products, they increased the number of shoppers. The biggest shoppers, the thrifts, often had a very particular need. They wanted to grow beyond the limits imposed by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board in Washington. It was a constant struggle to stay one step ahead of thrift regulators in Washington. Many 'new products' invented by Salomon Brothers were outside the rules of the regulatory game; they were not required to be listed on thrift balance sheets and therefore offered a way for thrifts to grow. In some cases, the sole virtue of a new product was its classification as 'off-balance sheet.' To attract new investors and to dodge new regulations, the market became ever more arcane and complex."
Is it any wonder that the same thing happened again in 2008?
If there's any doubt that Wall Street acts solely in their self-interest (customers are there to absorb losses, nothing else), Lewis lays it out on page 199: "I should have felt guilty, of course, but guilt was not the first identifiable sensation to emerge from my exploding brain. Relief was. I had told him the news. He was shouting and moaning. And that was it. That was all he could do. Shout and moan. That was the beauty of being a middleman, which I did not appreciate until that moment. The customer suffered. I didn't. He wasn't going to kill me. He wasn't even going to sue me. I wasn't going to lose my job. On the contrary, I was a minor hero at Salomon for dumping a sixty thousand dollar loss into somebody else's pocket."
Taxpayer, sew up your pockets.