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Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves

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Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego and greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world’s economy. “We’ve got to get some foam down on the runway!” a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve of New York, would tell Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, about the catastrophic crash the world’s financial system would experience. Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail re-creates all the drama and turmoil, revealing neverdisclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were “too big to fail,” it is a real-life thriller with a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were too big to fail.


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Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego and greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world’s economy. “We’ve got to get some foam down on the runway!” a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve of New York, would tell Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, about the catastrophic crash the world’s financial system would experience. Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail re-creates all the drama and turmoil, revealing neverdisclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were “too big to fail,” it is a real-life thriller with a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were too big to fail.

30 review for Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    "The only problem with capitalism is all the capitalists.” Herbert Hoover There’s a school of thought out there that many, if not most, people buy into. It goes something like this: The U.S. government is full of a bunch of stupid bureaucrats who do nothing but pass restrictive laws that keep businesses from making money and prevent the growth of the economy. Obviously, the businesses should be allowed to do their thing with no government interference because they know what’s best, and if they "The only problem with capitalism is all the capitalists.” Herbert Hoover There’s a school of thought out there that many, if not most, people buy into. It goes something like this: The U.S. government is full of a bunch of stupid bureaucrats who do nothing but pass restrictive laws that keep businesses from making money and prevent the growth of the economy. Obviously, the businesses should be allowed to do their thing with no government interference because they know what’s best, and if they should happen to step on their dicks, then they should just fail without the government trying to save them. To do anything else is socialism! That’s a nice theory, but there’s a huge flaw with it. For the most part, a large business is made up of a bunch of short sighted people who will cut their own throats in the long term if it means making money next quarter. Don’t believe that? Enron. Worldcom. Tyco. AIG. Bear Stearns. Lehman Brothers. Etc. Etc. In 2001 and 2008 we saw what happens when someone doesn’t keep a close eye on the companies chasing the quick buck, and the accounting fraud of 2001 was only about ten years after the savings and loan scandals that cost the U.S. around $120 billion. Where we really get into trouble is when these fucktards have been allowed to run amok, and then the chickens finally come home to roost. That’s when Joe or Jane Taxpayer, who a few years earlier were sitting there grumbling about the damn guvment keeping the businesses from earning an honest buck, will lose their goddamn minds over the possibility of the government providing cash to these companies to keep the entire economy from going into a death spin. They’d rather see their 401K shrink to a $1.76 rather than let those greedy bastards get a dime of taxpayer money! But no government regulation either! So rather than holding our noses and spending $50 billion dollars to save Lehman Brothers and AIG and shore up a few other companies and then passing some sensible regulations to keep it from happening again, the government, fearing what Joe or Jane would say, tried to force a private sector solution and ultimately let Lehman go into bankruptcy. Yet after the first domino fell, the panic that spread would end up with the U.S. spending over $750 billion to try and stop another Great Depression. This book does a great job of laying out the chaos and confusion that occurred and how we were all teetering on a brink that could have been far worse in 2008. Most of the book is just a straight retelling of the events with what the major players were thinking and what they did, but there’s a nice summary at the end that lays out what the author thinks about how it played out and does a fair job of assigning some blame. A couple of things especially stuck out to me. When the Lehman Brothers execs realized that there would be no government bail out of them, several of them gave angry speeches denouncing the government for not doing more. I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that a top executive at Lehman Brothers had probably been a hard core guvment-sux Republican up until the point they didn’t get a check. Oh, the irony. The other thing that made me scratch my head was that these companies kept going back to billionaire Warren Buffet to try and get him to invest so they could raise capital. Buffett made a few half-hearted offers on things he thought he could turn a buck on. Late in the game, when TARP had been passed and the original plan was for the government to buy the toxic assets that were dragging down everyone, Buffet sent a letter to the secretary of the treasury where he laid out a plan that would have created a hybrid of a public and private company to buy up those assets, get a fair market value for them, take them off the troubled companies balance sheets and potentially provided a decent return on the tax payer money. Buffet even pledged to invest $100 million of his own money and help administer it. The plan was shelved when it was decided to invest capital in the banks, but out of all the schemes hatched over those desperate days, it seems like one of the more plausible ones. So why in the name of Alexander Hamilton didn’t anyone ask Warren Buffett for a plan earlier? They all knew he’d been too smart to get involved in the mess that was dragging them all down. (One reading of a Lehman Brothers stock report that the industry had praised just weeks earlier convinced Buffett that he wouldn’t loan them any capital.) All of these companies tried to beg money off him, but no one asked him if he had any ideas to get them out of the mess. WTF? Here’s the best part. It’s going to happen again. Think it can’t? There’s still been no meaningful regulations passed and I will bet a six-pack of Boulevard Pilsner that there will be yet another meltdown that will tank the economy and cost taxpayers huge before 2020. Any takers?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X

    What the financial crisis in the US essentially came down to was the bankers had the government balls in a nice tight wrench and if those balls got gangrene and dropped off, leaving the whole of the Western world without a banking system and the ensuing anarchy, they couldn't care less because they were filthy rich anyway and would, personally, all of them be more than just all right. (Skip to the last-but-two paragraph if you don't want the lead-up to how). How it works, in a simplified way (the What the financial crisis in the US essentially came down to was the bankers had the government balls in a nice tight wrench and if those balls got gangrene and dropped off, leaving the whole of the Western world without a banking system and the ensuing anarchy, they couldn't care less because they were filthy rich anyway and would, personally, all of them be more than just all right. (Skip to the last-but-two paragraph if you don't want the lead-up to how). How it works, in a simplified way (the only way I can grasp it, financial pea-brain as I am and leaves out the part insurance companies played) is that the banks use their money, our money, our deposits, to make money by lending it out as mortgages and business loans. They make money on the interest people have to pay for those loans. If the standards for getting a loan are pretty lax (as they were at the time) then a lot of people won't be able to repay their loans and the bank doesn't have the money, isn't earning interest but has a dud house that won't sell for a profitable amount or a bankrupt business. So the bank isn't making any money but in an effort to do so, it relaxes restrictions on getting a loan even more so even more people borrow money and fail to repay it in this depressed economy... etc. etc. etc. There is another arm to this banking scam business, that is investment, and here's where the big bucks come in. Investment bankers are always looking for good businesses where they can buy shares at a much lower price than they think they will rise to in the future, then they can sell them and realise a profit. Of course, there is always the risk they made a wrong judgement call and the shares fall in price and as they are on their way down they have to decide whether to stick with them and hold on to them and hope they will go up (some time) or get out with a reduced amount. Either way the bank is holding on to some pretty worthless stuff, like the houses that got foreclosed and won't sell for the value of the loan and the bankrupt businesses, or they've taken a loss on the shares either completely or close enough. So there you have it, whatever the banks did in a depressed economy they were losing money. If everyone were to go to their bank to withdraw all their money they couldn't as the banks have lost some of the money on those unwise deals, and have more locked up in loans and investments that might pay up or might also go belly-up. So some of the bigger investors seeing that Lehmans among other banks looked like they were full of bad debts and old houses and not much cash wanted their money out. On Wall Street, people took notice of big investors pulling their money out, and more people did, and started to look at the other banks (most of whom were in exactly the same position). So these big investors were pulling their money out from everywhere and looking to the Far East and points South, North, East and West where the bankers had been more regulated by government and not allowed to carry on risking people's money to the degree there was no longer enough to pay people their money back. So the banks couldn't pay back the depositors their money, and like a pack of cards one after the other began to collapse. The next thing, the final thing really, was the fear that you and me and everyone else on your street would suddenly wake up and realise what was happening with the big investors was happening to you too and be in the queue at their bank at 9 a.m. to withdraw their money. And the bank wouldn't have it. Can you imagine the scene? Smashed ATMs and rioting. Businesses would not pay their overnight deposits in the next night, everyone would demand to be paid in cash, shops would not accept credit cards, debit cards wouldn't work. There would be anarchy in the streets. And the government would fall. The US holds the principles of capitalism far too dear and always sees Communism when nationalisation and regulation of industries is debated, even when, as with the bankers it was obviously needed. So before a rescue package could be put together, they had to overcome the Fear of the Bogeyman. Once they did that, they could put together a financial package loaning the banks at very favourable terms, enough billions that everyone who wanted their money could get it and their would be enough left over to invest and hopefully restore the banks to their usual obscenely greedy profit-making. What really swayed them was the fact that the government would fall and they, Bush's Republicans, would 100% definitely be out of a job. So now is the time for regulating the banks and how they spend these vast sums that are being loaned to them. But guess what? The bankers won't accept any meaningful regulation at all. Its fine by them if the banks collapse, they've all been drawing huge salaries and bonuses often in the millions. And knowing the collapse was coming you can be sure their money was holed up somewhere safe. So the government had a three way choice. One, let the banks collapse and the government along with it producing a Depression so major that it would reverberate around the world and make the depression of the 30s look like some minor thing that happened way back when. Two, call the bankers' bluff and bail out the banks and regulate their investments so that our homes, our small businesses and our money was safe by stopping the bankers risky behaviour (this would have benefited the average person, you and me). Three, give in to the bankers, let them invest as they please make huge profits (if they could) and then awarding themselves multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses and throwing us, average Joes, to the pits. The investment bankers said if you put any restrictions on us, we will all leave, we will retire, we will go to other countries' banks, we will do as we please, but we will not work in any bank that restricts how we do our business, so we got you over a barrel, either you do it our way or no way. Hahaha Yep. By the balls. And the average Joe .... So the situation now is as it was, seven financial institutions control the banking system of the US and should they fail, well, read the book! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- (Just a note, the more a country relies on financial products the more it is susceptible to a depression. If the country relies on manufacturing items people want - China, Germany, South Korea etc - then its in a much stronger situation. Sure it could be hard to raise money to buy raw materials and machinery if the banks go, but what they have sold and have to sell gives them cash coming in. Another note, you paid the bankers salaries and bonuses, you paid for their bail out when they did it wrong and you are paying through interest for their salaries and bonuses again. What interest does the bank give you on your deposit? Essentially, the public is triple screwed.). What are the alternatives to the banking system? Buy gold, ingots not jewellery, you don't want to pay for the design, and find somewhere safe to put it, ie. not a bank. Or... money under the mattress!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    The strength of Sorkin’s book, which covers the period right after the fall of Bear Stearns (March 2008), up to the TARP infusions of capital (October 2008), is that he synthesized masses of detailed information and assembled it into a chronological story, using multiple firsthand accounts, contemporaneous journalistic sources, and public records. You can imagine him flipping through his enormous Rolodex (an inapt 80s allusion, but I like the image), calling every Wall Streeter he’s ever spoken The strength of Sorkin’s book, which covers the period right after the fall of Bear Stearns (March 2008), up to the TARP infusions of capital (October 2008), is that he synthesized masses of detailed information and assembled it into a chronological story, using multiple firsthand accounts, contemporaneous journalistic sources, and public records. You can imagine him flipping through his enormous Rolodex (an inapt 80s allusion, but I like the image), calling every Wall Streeter he’s ever spoken to since his intern days. He goes inside Lehman CFO Erin Callan’s head (and real estate records) to find out that she borrowed $5 million on a $6.48 million condo at 15 Central Park West, designed by Robert A.M. Stern. We see the suspicious question marks circling in Warren Buffett's head as he talks with Lehman CEO Dick Fuld about possibly buying a stake in Lehman. We get Jim Cramer's point of view on a meeting with Fuld and Callan about short sellers: Fuld is hoping Cramer will talk bullish about Lehman on CNBC, but Cramer doesn't trust what they're telling him. Morgan Stanley, tasked with examining Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s enormous mortgage portfolios to determine how bad the damage is, ships all the data to....India, where Morgan Stanley has an “analytic center.” 1,300 employees there will pore over it. Apparently Sorkin is talking about hard copies here. The weakness of the book is that it’s as if the entire crisis of 2008 unfolded in a vacuum, divorced from the enormous real estate bubble, mortgage frauds, toxic assets, complex derivatives, deregulation, and banker greed that caused it. Sorkin never explains the origins of the crisis in financial or macroeconomic terms, aside from the briefest sentence here and there. The securitization of mortgages, and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), are explained in less than two pages (of a 600 page book). There are so many trees here, and we spend so much time examining bark and leaves, that I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers had no idea what the forest itself looked like. The degree of detail is about as granular and exhaustive as it gets; I think Sorkin explored every phone call, landline or cellular, that every Wall Street executive made or took during the crisis. When the executives go to their favorite restaurant, San Pietro, we find out what they ate. Sorkin never fails to tell us whether someone lands at Teterboro Airport, or Westchester. There are juicy quotes, and some juicy gossip. We find out who hated whom. Who thinks who is really stupid. (No one thought SEC chair Christopher Cox was up to the job, and Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit doesn’t shine as luminously as some of the other bulbs.) John Thain is greedy as all get-out. Tim Geithner has six-pack abs. Hank Paulson calls his penis Herman (p. 346), which I wish I didn’t now know. At the height of the crisis Geithner was so intent on having banks merge (to solve their liquidity problems) that some CEOs began referring to him as “eHarmony.” Geithner can’t stand FDIC chairwoman Sheila Bair, who he thinks is a media grandstander, and he subtly mocks her on a conference call. At a tense emergency meeting between the Bush cabinet and Congressional leaders on the TARP plan, arguments, shouting and finger-pointing erupt; Dick Cheney watches silently, smiling. If you actually want to know what the financial crisis was, and why it happened, read Bethany McLean’s book All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis. Unlike Sorkin, McLean is an investigative business journalist. She tells a great story, and she underpins it thoroughly with nuts-and-bolts explanations.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mahlon

    In Too Big to Fail Andrew Ross Sorkin achieved the impossible, he made the 2008 financial crisis accessible to a wide variety of readers. His tightly woven and meticulously researched narrative feels like a movie script, which is why it is no surprise that it eventually became one. Sorkin does a great job in setting out the circumstances that led to the failure of the banks, and then chronicling almost day by day the decision making process behind the eventual bailout. One of the best financial In Too Big to Fail Andrew Ross Sorkin achieved the impossible, he made the 2008 financial crisis accessible to a wide variety of readers. His tightly woven and meticulously researched narrative feels like a movie script, which is why it is no surprise that it eventually became one. Sorkin does a great job in setting out the circumstances that led to the failure of the banks, and then chronicling almost day by day the decision making process behind the eventual bailout. One of the best financial books I've read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    So I teach banking law and I assign a bunch of articles and documentaries on the crisis and I lived through it so nothing in here was new, but I wanted to read this after 10 years to see how well the narrative has aged and also because I forgot some of the play by play. This hasn't aged all that well because it's more of a financial thriller than an analysis. It's also so over the top about lionizing some of these big bad macho bankers and policymakers. Sorkin seems to have a big crush on Dimon So I teach banking law and I assign a bunch of articles and documentaries on the crisis and I lived through it so nothing in here was new, but I wanted to read this after 10 years to see how well the narrative has aged and also because I forgot some of the play by play. This hasn't aged all that well because it's more of a financial thriller than an analysis. It's also so over the top about lionizing some of these big bad macho bankers and policymakers. Sorkin seems to have a big crush on Dimon and Paulson. He also seems to credit Fuld with a lot more good faith than I remember him exhibiting. Though Sorkin is right that Lehman probably should have been saved too. I do think it's an important read for those people who don't remember the crisis--for example, my students were in middle school. And many of them believe wholeheartedly in market discipline again. So I guess I will have to assign more and more until they realize how little stomach we had for market discipline on the brink of disaster.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I have 5 books on the 2008 financial crisis and this is the largest. However, it wasn't "Too Big to Fail". Mostly a waste of my time but I finished it and will give it 2 Stars. If you want to know what some of the people on Wall Street and a few in DC were saying and doing, you will be satisfied. You won't learn anything about what caused the financial crisis and you really don't get any detail on the plans to save the system. Just "make a plan", "give me your Plan B", "call that guy", "make a I have 5 books on the 2008 financial crisis and this is the largest. However, it wasn't "Too Big to Fail". Mostly a waste of my time but I finished it and will give it 2 Stars. If you want to know what some of the people on Wall Street and a few in DC were saying and doing, you will be satisfied. You won't learn anything about what caused the financial crisis and you really don't get any detail on the plans to save the system. Just "make a plan", "give me your Plan B", "call that guy", "make a deal", "come up with a solution", blah, blah, blah. Not surprising that this guy has written a slanted, partisan account but it is more a gossip column than a useful history. He treated favored players to positive coverage - he wants to get them on as guests on his morning financial show. If you want a great explanation of the origin of the financial crisis, read The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine or the first 37 pages of The Sellout: How Three Decades of Wall Street Greed and Government Mismanagement Destroyed the Global Financial System. Not this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    RJ from the LBC

    The level of detail is astonishing in this comprehensive insider's look at the 2008 financial crisis including the failure of Lehman Brothers and the response of government regulators. This book will be an undeniable resource for historians in the years to come. Unfortunately that same level of detail also cripples the book somewhat, making it too unwieldy and dense to be fully appreciated by the average reader.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alok Mishra

    It was very interesting as well as enlightening read! More will told by the native readers but as fas as my own perception about the book is concerned, I got a lot to learn and understand about the functioning of USA economy and the big time players who influence the system.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    I don't know if it's fair to rate the book based on the first few chapters that I read, but I know that my rating is going to be the same IF I did finish it. I just can't. This is NOT a book about the financial meltdown -- if you want something that explains the crisis, you are better off reading Wikipedia (seriously!). This, however, seems more fiction than nonfiction. Seriously? Was the author there in the boardroom when the investment bankers and traders barked to each other frantically to I don't know if it's fair to rate the book based on the first few chapters that I read, but I know that my rating is going to be the same IF I did finish it. I just can't. This is NOT a book about the financial meltdown -- if you want something that explains the crisis, you are better off reading Wikipedia (seriously!). This, however, seems more fiction than nonfiction. Seriously? Was the author there in the boardroom when the investment bankers and traders barked to each other frantically to save their asses? Was he a fly on the wall when one of those big shots rolled down the window, lamenting how tired he felt due to jet lag, after schmoozing clients in India? I find it troubling that the book is written like a suspense novel instead of a factual account and analysis of the actual event. The book is not badly written; I can fully understand why people love it. However, I find it disturbing, that it seems the author was depicting all these "movers-n-shakers" as some kind of tragic heroes. There is this subtle hint of admiration in the author's story-telling. Playing recklessly with other people's money, raking in record high $$, crashing the system, bailed out by taxpayers, and NOT penalized in any way or form -- wow, the glory, the excitement! These are criminals and parasites, not some fallen angels; I don't need and want to know their wonderful history of climbing the corporate ladder, and yet, it seems the book is exactly about that, all the tedious details of their lives and ascension. Shocking. Of course, maybe I am just biased.

  10. 4 out of 5

    AC

    Finished -- I imagine this book would be a tough read, since it's pages literally crawl with minor characters -- bankers, minions of the armies of the night... but it makes a good listen -- Paulson comes off much better than Bernanke or Geithner -- and the author tries (against Taibi) to rehabilitate Goldman. He makes the case, persuasively, imo -- against the Vampire-Squid conspiracists -- that the media really didn't and doesn't understand how close Goldman itself came to failing (-- so much Finished -- I imagine this book would be a tough read, since it's pages literally crawl with minor characters -- bankers, minions of the armies of the night... but it makes a good listen -- Paulson comes off much better than Bernanke or Geithner -- and the author tries (against Taibi) to rehabilitate Goldman. He makes the case, persuasively, imo -- against the Vampire-Squid conspiracists -- that the media really didn't and doesn't understand how close Goldman itself came to failing (-- so much for the myth of the all-powerful Goldman). Had Morgan failed, Goldman would certainly have been next... (obviously, Citi would have gone... perhaps earlier...., but that wouldn't have been allowed to happen; and Citi, of course, had a different status from Goldman, being a bank). The book is full of interesting anecdotes -- and offers a fairly convincing portrait of the the modern 21st century conditorii. It thus has sociological, as well as financial interest. Now that I've learned to love and embrace drive-time, I'm going to try to finish Lords of Finance. (My current audible (drive-time) -- really well told -- even has me feeling sympathy for Dick Fuld and Hank Paulson...)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ldrutman Drutman

    This was a book I felt like I had to read – 539 pages of the blow-by-blow of the financial crisis. Or at least what the crisis looked like from the top: It’s really the story of what the heads of the biggest financial firms were up to, and the federal regulators (mostly the Treasury and the Fed) who were trying to prevent the financial sector from collapse. Mostly it just feels like reading about this chaotic charade with a bunch of crazed sleepless CEOs and lawyers and accountants trying to This was a book I felt like I had to read – 539 pages of the blow-by-blow of the financial crisis. Or at least what the crisis looked like from the top: It’s really the story of what the heads of the biggest financial firms were up to, and the federal regulators (mostly the Treasury and the Fed) who were trying to prevent the financial sector from collapse. Mostly it just feels like reading about this chaotic charade with a bunch of crazed sleepless CEOs and lawyers and accountants trying to figure out what deals they should or should not do. It’s basically the story of the companies in worse shape (Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros., Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley) trying to get one of the more healthy companies (JP Morgan, Goldman, Bank of America) to buy them, or trying to get the Japanese or Koreans or Chinese investors to buy them, and trying to get the government to backstop the deal. A lot of it adds up to this odd dance where nobody seems to know what anything is worth, and the companies in bad shape keep trying to dress up their finances as better than they are, while the companies in better shape send in a wave of lawyers and accountants to try to understand the finances in about two days. Not surprisingly, nobody can figure out anything. The companies in worse shape keep complaining that they are being killed by short sellers who don’t understand their business, and hedge fund investors loom in the background, moving money around in huge numbers, punishing the failing firms especially hard. Meanwhile, Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner are furiously pumping the various parties to agree to shotgun weddings to stabilize the system, convinced that if they can’t get the stronger firms to absorb the weaker ones, the entire system will collapse. They keep trying to resist demands for Treasury to guarantee assets, even though buyers keep saying that’s the only way they’ll do the deal. All the while, nobody is getting any sleep. There are lots of calls that happen at 4 a.m. and lots of descriptions of key people looking haggard after sleeping 3 hours in four nights. Paulson vomits and/or dry heaves several times. Also: bigwigs are constantly flying back and forth from places like Aspen and eating at fancy Manhattan restaurants. This goes on and on. The only thing that changes is this slow building pressure in the background. Time is ticking. Confidence is vanishing. Stock prices are plummeting. And everybody is calling in their collateral, pushing all the financial firms to the brink of bankruptcy. Ultimately, of course, the federal regulators decide that the only way to stabilize the system is to pump $700 billion of capital into the banks, a number that appears to have been drawn up somewhat randomly. From the chaos that is reading this book, I was able to re-confirm a few basic assumptions: 1) These CEOs were all hugely arrogant assholes who have a ton of pride on the line. 2) No CEO really had any idea what exactly their companies assets looked like or seemed to have really much of an idea of what these companies were doing. 3) CEOs are obsessed with “making deals.” 4) The market is prone to panic and panic feeds more panic. I know this book has gotten a lot of hype, but it’s not a book I’d recommend unless you want to read 500+ pages of what feels like the same basic tableau over and over again – a bunch of crazed CEOs and government regulators running around like chickens with their heads cut off, having the same conversation over and over again about how they want to do a deal but they don’t know if they can and they have no idea what the balance sheets of the companies really looks like. It felt like Sorkin (wunderkind reporter for the NY Times) was just trying to cram in all the details he could to show how much reporting he had done. In that way, the culture of journalism is similar to the culture of Wall Street – this sort of frenetic do-everything pace that doesn’t leave any room for being thoughtful. It’s just a race, a competition. But to win what, I’m not clear.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daiv Shorten

    For the lay person looking to learn the basics about the events that unfolded during the subprime mortgage crisis, I actually recommend the HBO original film based on this book ahead of the book itself. Whereas the movie had several illuminating scenes that put the events into vernacular for someone like me, I found that the book was a bit too hard to grasp. Not for lack of effort, as Sorkin is not prone to speaking over anyone's head. Rather, the material is so dense, and the factors so similar For the lay person looking to learn the basics about the events that unfolded during the subprime mortgage crisis, I actually recommend the HBO original film based on this book ahead of the book itself. Whereas the movie had several illuminating scenes that put the events into vernacular for someone like me, I found that the book was a bit too hard to grasp. Not for lack of effort, as Sorkin is not prone to speaking over anyone's head. Rather, the material is so dense, and the factors so similar (derivatives, credit swaps, etc) that the book-format made it tougher to keep track of what actually happened. In the end, I came out the other end wanting to see the movie again to clarify what I had just read. That said, I do think this is an excellent book in several respects. One of my favorite aspects of the book is Sorkin's obvious fascination with the back-stories of the high-powered executives at these banks. I was intrigued to learn just how many of the CEOs, CFOs, and COOs were actually blue-collar, non-Ivy Leaguers with a chip on their shoulder, rather than the entitled legacy employees who swell the mid-level ranks and the lesser board positions. I also think that anyone with even an intermediate understanding of finance would greatly benefit from reading this book. My only complaint is thus something that was out of Sorkin's hands- namely, that the material was tough to grasp.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    This book made me mighty mad, not only at the despicable characters portrayed in it, but at the author for his adoring, fawning approach to them. More than once I slammed the book down, only to force myself back to it a week or two later. And for that persistence I was rewarded---ever so slightly---by Sorkin daring to approximate analysis in an afterword. To judge by this book, Sorkin never met a Wall Street bigshot he didn’t worship. But worse, his journalistic style is so overloaded with This book made me mighty mad, not only at the despicable characters portrayed in it, but at the author for his adoring, fawning approach to them. More than once I slammed the book down, only to force myself back to it a week or two later. And for that persistence I was rewarded---ever so slightly---by Sorkin daring to approximate analysis in an afterword. To judge by this book, Sorkin never met a Wall Street bigshot he didn’t worship. But worse, his journalistic style is so overloaded with trivial quotations and careful notations about who made the phone call to whom or what staircase the competing bank execs used to get to their meeting that the reader (this reader, anyway) comes away thinking Sorkin is desperate to have us believe he---Sorkin---is extraordinarily trusted by these perfumed princes, and, worse, is their soul brother. He has an annoying penchant for making a mega-bank vice president’s walk down a New York City sidewalk to an expensive restaurant sound heroic, especially if it ends in f-word locker-room tough guy language over expensive French wine. I felt I HAD to read this book if for no other reason that it chronicled a big moment in American history. Where’s my barf bag?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kartik

    The tag 'Master Storyteller', should be applied to Andrew Ross Sorkin for this piece of work. It has been a while since a book captured my attention so well as this one did. Sorkin is able to cover the 'history' of the financial crisis in a good amount of depth, switch back and forth between the different 'stages' and bring out the personalities of the key players such as the investment bank CEOs, the NY Fed and the Treasury while at the same time providing enough information about the The tag 'Master Storyteller', should be applied to Andrew Ross Sorkin for this piece of work. It has been a while since a book captured my attention so well as this one did. Sorkin is able to cover the 'history' of the financial crisis in a good amount of depth, switch back and forth between the different 'stages' and bring out the personalities of the key players such as the investment bank CEOs, the NY Fed and the Treasury while at the same time providing enough information about the complicated financial instruments that were at the center of the crisis. Key Takeaways: 1. No one is too big to fail - these venerable wall street institutions were regarded as 'rock solid', but they were operating on shaky foundations. 2. Use credit carefully - credit is good when exercised with caution and always prepare for a worst-case scenario. In fact, re-examine your assumptions of a worst-case scenario on a regular basis. Memorable picture from the book: Picture of the check for $9B from Mitsubishi UJF financial group to Morgan Stanley to help them with their liquidity crisis and prevent another collapse.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rob Smith

    If any book from the past several years that has emerged to have critical acclaim across the broad swath of American society from that cottage industry of economic doomsday books, it's this one. Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail is the crowning achievement of them all, appearing on several "need-to-read" lists for the controversial economic shindig that eclipsed so much of the last year's of the Bush administration. Than why does it come off like the economic and political thriller version of If any book from the past several years that has emerged to have critical acclaim across the broad swath of American society from that cottage industry of economic doomsday books, it's this one. Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail is the crowning achievement of them all, appearing on several "need-to-read" lists for the controversial economic shindig that eclipsed so much of the last year's of the Bush administration. Than why does it come off like the economic and political thriller version of a Dan Brown novel? This book chronicles the "behind the scenes" action during what could be termed Wall Street's annus horriblis, 2008. In that year the bubble boom time burst in a big way, and without government intervention, our whole economy would crumble and we'd be living in a Mad-Max capitalist dystopia. Assembled from oral recollections, and a library of primarily documents, Too Big to Fail is a 'who was where, when' of the economic crisis. The book has a lot going for it actually, and it's easy to see where the lauded praise comes from. The prose is immensely readable, aside from some problem sentences in several areas, Sorkin has an excellent style. He is not boring, he's positively entertaining. That's not something you can say about most books like this. It's a bit lengthy, clocking in at over 500 pages, but those pages will just fly by. Sorkin ultimately fails. He rarely talks about the ever-burning question of "why?" that should be asked around every corner. There is little to no explanation of the economic forces at work during those times. Sorkin, at best, will give two sentences of description to what is actually going on. For the most part, the economic calamity crashing down around Wall Street is portrayed as some kind of economic natural disaster, brought on my mysterious god-like forces whom the CEOs and executives have no control or agency over. I find it hard to believe this is an innocent mistake on the part of a high-profile business reporter like Sorkin. Instead what you actually get is the literary equivalent of being roofied and Sorkin pushing the back of your head ever so slowly into a large pile of excrement. If you read nearly any other book on the crisis, it reveals those big investment banks had a heavy hand in setting up their very own demise. I mean, throughout the book, those same banks had all these bad and toxic assets dragging them down, or cooked their books, or did a number of incredibly unethical and sketchy things to make a couple of (hundred million) bucks. But in the narrative Sorkin is loathe to make this connection. In fact, the closest thing the narrative has to a big bad is the hedge fund short-sellers the CEOs bemoan is running them out of business. Which belies the core problem of the book. Those turbulent days of 2008 is constantly referenced as an actual natural disaster. The crisis is referred to as a cancer, a tsunami, an earthquake, a disease, among other adjectives that belong in some tawdry, tepid action thriller. Couple this with the complete lack of context and explanation of where this all originated from and it just comes off trying to hard to absolve those of actions. Then there's the fact the book is filled with entirely irrelevant information. The personal feelings of some execs towards other, the high school drama involved in running a high-stakes, high-profit investment bank, what restaurants they dine at, what cares they drive, etc etc. The entire book is filled with enough details you could've sworn Sorkin was writing the HBO movie adaptation at the same time. Do I need to know that some execs think that the CEO of JP Morgan Chase looks in shape for someone his age? Or that Tim Geitner has a six pack? No, but like the Wall Street version of People magazine or Seventeen magazine, Sorkin dutifully chronicles it and not the economic train wreck some of those same people put us in. It doesn't help Sorkin sets this book up like a thriller too. There's no table of contents and chapters are titled numerically. It looks and reads like a novel as well. There are settings, scenes and we often following characters about their day. There's also a distressingly high number of quotes and conversations. Sorkin takes pains to say he's reconstructed these conversations to the sources' best recollections. I find this suspect for a few reasons. No one remembers everything perfectly and we often reconstruct our memories to paint ourselves in the best possible light. The dialogue reads too much like a novel or too cinematic to have actually happened accurately. This accounts for the readability of the book, but it loses a sense of accuracy and reportage. People talk first draft after all. Plus, Sorkin makes section or chapter breaks on an overly dramatic cliffhanger. This is a writing technique one of my old English teachers would called the "Dan Brown School of Writing." The other thing to consider is, this came out in 2009, a year after the events covered in the book. A year where the bankers and government officials were about as popular as a witch in old-timey Puritan Salem. I sincerely doubt any oral recollections are as truthful as it claims. In all honesty there are a slew of better books explaining the financial crisis of 2008. And all of them do a better job of it than someone who is, to borrow a phrase from Taibbi, a "shameless, ball-gargling prostitute of Wall Street." As much as I dislike Taibbi's grandiosity and hyperbole, after reading this book, I think I'll cede him this one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" should frighten and enrage readers, and, for some, it probably will, but for a majority of readers, it will fall into that "grand systemic changes need to be made, but I (an average person) can't do anything to change it" mentality that cripples many of us into petrification and denial. Our heads go back in the sand, and we go about our daily lives as if we didn't have this looming storm over our shoulders. Unfortunately, if history has taught us anything Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" should frighten and enrage readers, and, for some, it probably will, but for a majority of readers, it will fall into that "grand systemic changes need to be made, but I (an average person) can't do anything to change it" mentality that cripples many of us into petrification and denial. Our heads go back in the sand, and we go about our daily lives as if we didn't have this looming storm over our shoulders. Unfortunately, if history has taught us anything (not that we're listening), there will be a day of reckoning, and it won't be pretty. Ever since mankind developed a system of brokering goods and services and created a monetary system, there have been the haves and the have-nots. Throughout history, there have been periods where the haves (by virtue of the fact that they possess the wealth, whereas wealth = power) manipulate, use, and abuse the have-nots to the point that the have-nots (by virtue of the fact that they possess the numbers, whereas numbers = strength) have no choice but to rise up against the have-nots, usually resulting in violence. Of course, the cycle simply starts anew, and what has happened before will happen again. and again. and again... President Barack Obama, quoted in the afterword, sums it up nicely: "The people on Wall Street still don't get it. They don't get it. They're still puzzled: Why is it that people are mad at the banks? Well, let's see. You guys are drawing down ten-, twenty-million-dollar bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that it's gone through in decades, and you guys caused the problem. And we've got ten percent unemployment. Why do you think people might be a little frustrated?" While Obama's words may resonate with many people, the fact that he and everyone else in Washington, D.C. have still done nothing substantial to solve the problem makes the sentiment seem a bit disingenuous. Maybe it's because many of these people in Washington find themselves in the pockets of these Wall Streeters (the haves), and they don't want to solve the problem for fear of losing the pocket, while the rest of us (the have-nots) continue to struggle daily to make ends meet. In one poignant scene in the book, President George W. Bush allegedly asked Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, the question, "How did we get here?" His question goes unanswered. Sorkin attempts to answer that loaded question somewhat successfully in "Too Big to Fail", an in-depth reportage of the 2008 banking collapse, starting with the failed attempt to save Lehman Bros. that started a domino effect that many people believed would result in the failure of many more banks, resulting in a Depression that would surpass the one in the '30s, thus leading to the government's intervention and the unpopular bailouts, which (depending on one's perspective) either saved us or simply postponed the inevitable. Basing his book on thousands of interviews, memorandum, transcripts, e-mails, audio and video recordings, news articles, and public records, Sorkin has written a non-fiction account that, at times, reads like fiction. By that I mean it's almost too unbelievable at times, but it actually happened. Sorkin attempts to answer the question, "How did we get here?" by illustrating the ridiculously lavish spending by the Wall Streeters who made millions on extremely risky mortgage loans (the subprime, or "predatory" loans that enabled many people to buy homes that they couldn't afford) during the housing bubble as well as high-risk investment products called collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which Sorkin doesn't really define in very clear terms, but, to be fair, no one has ever defined it in clear terms. Even former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, a guy with dozens of important letters after his name and is considered the Stephen Hawking of economics, doesn't fully understand them: "...[S]ome of the instruments that were going into CDOs bewilders me. I didn't understand what they were doing...And I figured if I didn't understand it and I had access to a couple hundred PhDs, how the rest of the world is going to understand it sort of bewildered me." Essentially, things had gotten so overwhelming and investments were tied up in so many different things, that once Lehman Bros. fell, it threatened to topple the entire system like a house of cards, unless the government stepped in to inject several billion dollars (of taxpayer money, mind you) to keep it standing. And that's exactly what happened, but not all at once. As Sorkin describes, it was down to the wire as Paulson and Timothy Geitner---at the time, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York---puppeteered the strings of Wall Street and government to get things done. If there are any "heroes" in this disturbing story of greed and corruption, I suppose Paulson and Geitner would be the best choice. As someone who does not know much about the inner workings of Wall Street or even economics in general, I still found "Too Big to Fail" fascinating. I would have liked some more explanation of things mentioned (hell, a glossary might have even been handy), but I don't think it hurt my understanding of the main points Sorkin was trying to make.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    This book is a great feat of reporting - Sorkin conducted thousands of hours of interviews and obviously put a lot of research into reconstructing all the events surrounding the meltdown on wallstreet in 2008. The book focuses on the Lehman bankruptcy, and then focuses on how the US Treasury and the Fed eventually developed TARP to stabilize the financial/credit markets. So, the book effectively reads like: "X happened, so Y CEO called Z CEO, who then called Hank Paulson, who then conferenced in This book is a great feat of reporting - Sorkin conducted thousands of hours of interviews and obviously put a lot of research into reconstructing all the events surrounding the meltdown on wallstreet in 2008. The book focuses on the Lehman bankruptcy, and then focuses on how the US Treasury and the Fed eventually developed TARP to stabilize the financial/credit markets. So, the book effectively reads like: "X happened, so Y CEO called Z CEO, who then called Hank Paulson, who then conferenced in Bernanke and Geithner, who then said Z, which prompted Y CEO to do A, while Z CEO attempted to merge with Bank A, which caused CEO Y to throw a shit fit ...." And on and on and on. For all its exhaustive reporting, the book is incredibly light on analysis. The book reports pretty much everything that happened, while saying remarkably little about why it happened, what it means, how we go here, and where we might go next. I suppose the book is meant to be more reporting and less analysis, but the book is so heavily weighted towards the former that it really detracts from the gravity of the final product. I guess we'll have to wait a few years for some meaningful works of analysis to emerge.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ci

    An excellent chronicle of the fiasco of 2008. This is a sympathetic group portrait of the major players in the financial crisis. Their failures and success are not as important as their desperate efforts to avert something catastrophic. One should always be reminded of the excellent quote in the end of the book by Theodore Roosevelt's speech in Sorbonne in 1910: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done An excellent chronicle of the fiasco of 2008. This is a sympathetic group portrait of the major players in the financial crisis. Their failures and success are not as important as their desperate efforts to avert something catastrophic. One should always be reminded of the excellent quote in the end of the book by Theodore Roosevelt's speech in Sorbonne in 1910: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. "

  19. 5 out of 5

    BookSweetie

    This book is not too big to read, or even too big to enjoy, provided that you are a reader who wants to be reading the book that is, rather than a long list of possible alternative books about the severest financial crisis since our Great Depression. This book is a reportorial non-fiction style book with a dash of fiction-like drama that is low on the "why" and heavy on the "who" and "who said and did what when." That part is done fairly successfully, although readers should be forewarned of This book is not too big to read, or even too big to enjoy, provided that you are a reader who wants to be reading the book that is, rather than a long list of possible alternative books about the severest financial crisis since our Great Depression. This book is a reportorial non-fiction style book with a dash of fiction-like drama that is low on the "why" and heavy on the "who" and "who said and did what when." That part is done fairly successfully, although readers should be forewarned of two challenges. First, there is a very lengthy cast of characters and organizations to keep straight, even with both the essential comprehensive chart at the front of the book and also the helpful photo pages that appear mid-book. Secondly, there is no glossary to help the uninitiated with the finance style vocabulary peppered throughout the text. Nevertheless, the research for this account was clearly extensive, the details convey the emotional turmoil, and Sorkin's daunting effort will almost certainly become a treasure for future historians.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I picked this book up mistakenly thinking it was Paul Bunyan's memoir. It was not, but enjoyable anyhow.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bob Adamcik

    This was a very long and (at times, tedious) read, but in fact informative and worthwhile. The obvious question before reading it is whether or not it is biased, i.e. slanted either left or right...a logical question given how the crisis has been politicized. But frankly, I think Sorkin did his homework, and to my unspecialized ear, it sounds pretty complete and balanced. He also weaves a pretty good story to get you through all the minutiae. And I have to say (much as I kind of hate to do so) This was a very long and (at times, tedious) read, but in fact informative and worthwhile. The obvious question before reading it is whether or not it is biased, i.e. slanted either left or right...a logical question given how the crisis has been politicized. But frankly, I think Sorkin did his homework, and to my unspecialized ear, it sounds pretty complete and balanced. He also weaves a pretty good story to get you through all the minutiae. And I have to say (much as I kind of hate to do so) that I emerged from it with a fuller understanding of what happened (and is still happening), and a bit more sympathetic toward many of the players and the pressures they were under and the decisions they had to make. I'm certainly more sympathetic towards virtually all the government players at Treasury and the Fed; less so to the bankers (save a few). It was certainly revealing to see how some truly fought to save their firms...but at the same time, distressing to see how some, at least, continued in denial right up to the end, while others continued their preoccupation for titles and positions and salaries and bonuses even as the were grasping at straws to save the world as they knew it...a world which was invariably crumbling because of their own greed and selfish shortsightedness. There was a similar book written (and which I read) after the savings and load crisis of the 1980s that resulted from Reagan's deregulation of that industry, a crisis that also cost the government billions of dollars (though I believe less than the current crisis). I can't remember that book title now, and cannot find it. I wish I could. I remember it was excellent as well, and like this one, only too revealing. The difference is that, in that instance, much of what occurred was flat out criminal...whereas much of the current crisis seems, at least in a purely legalistic vs ethical sense, more justifiable as logical result of further deregulation. What's missing in the book, though not integral to it, are a prologue explaining the history of deregulation, interest rate declines and the mortgage boom, and emergence of hedge funds and DDO's, and resulting actions on the part of investment firms that led to the crisis; and secondly, perhaps in the epilogue, an explanation of how the crisis, when it occurred, brought about the economic crises still going on in Europe..especially Greece, Spain, Ireland and Iceland. I suggest reading the book, though it's a long read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

    There's a variety of military history sometimes called "maps and chaps"--- often vivid, well-researched, and well-written ---that tells you everything that happened in a given battle or campaign, but without any context in politics or social costs. Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big To Fail" is a kind of maps 'n' chaps version of the Global Economic Meltdown of the Year Eight--- a vivid, well-researched, very well-written account of the events that led up to financial chaos in September and October There's a variety of military history sometimes called "maps and chaps"--- often vivid, well-researched, and well-written ---that tells you everything that happened in a given battle or campaign, but without any context in politics or social costs. Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big To Fail" is a kind of maps 'n' chaps version of the Global Economic Meltdown of the Year Eight--- a vivid, well-researched, very well-written account of the events that led up to financial chaos in September and October of the Year Eight and culminated with the TARP program and the effective nationalisation of a number of major banks and brokerages. Sorkin takes us inside the boardrooms and the Fed, and conveys the sense of panic and desperation and frenzied emergency dealmaking of those weeks. But it's all a bit...abstracted. Sorkin never really explains why all this is happening. It's like an account of Bonaparte's career that never really mentions the French Revolution or its effects. Sorkin's heroes--- especially Hank Paulson at Treasury, Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke at the Fed, and Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan ---dash across the pages making deals and fighting off disaster. But there's no real sense of what's gone wrong with the financial system--- no description of the monsters lurking out beyond Midtown Manhattan and what created them. Assuming that Sorkin's informants and interviewees are mostly truthful, the story is one without many obvious villains. Even Dick Fuld at Lehman comes across as more hapless and clueless than anything else, as does Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman. The heads of the great banks and brokerages do seem to care about their employees and staffs, but they only vaguely understand what's happened in the markets and never understand the depth of post-bailout populist anger. "Too Big To Fail" is about how catastrophe was averted, but it's a view that doesn't explain the reasons for financial collapse, and it doesn't look at the effects the meltdown had beyond the windows of office towers in New York. Sorkin has written a fine account of what happened in the autumn of 2008, but it's like battle history that's only about generals and their maps, with no context and no history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Stock

    An excellent read. I'm curious now to somehow watch the HBO documentary that was made (with the same author?). I felt that the author of this book, though comprehensive in his detail, too often gave an apologetic and even rationalizing explanation as to the motives and intentions of the primary actors in the catastrophic events and decisions that took place. One of the biggest take-aways from this story is that Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner (government agents) got all the CEOs (of the An excellent read. I'm curious now to somehow watch the HBO documentary that was made (with the same author?). I felt that the author of this book, though comprehensive in his detail, too often gave an apologetic and even rationalizing explanation as to the motives and intentions of the primary actors in the catastrophic events and decisions that took place. One of the biggest take-aways from this story is that Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner (government agents) got all the CEOs (of the biggest banks, trading houses, etc) into one room, and coerced them into taking TARP money. "Your regulators are sitting right there across the room from you," the CEO's were told-meaning: if you don't want big trouble from us (the government, the ones that are the gatekeepers) then you'll go along with our plan. And though most of the CEO's gladly took the money and government assistance, some did not want to take the bailout money. They were forced to take the money- 10 to 25 billion dollars each, respectfully. It's sickening. The whole issue, obviously, is a disaster- that the companies and the government so used and abused our money - and that the fat cats came out even fatter, and many were rewarded richly for their time and decisions which got us into the problems in the first place, is enough to drive one to a permanent distrust of American government. ...present day Presidential race even left out of all of this. Read this if you get the chance. But first read Matt Taibbi's The Divide (American Injustice in the age of the wealth gap). It's one of the most important books published in the last decade.) Thank you for reading.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    I had retired from the Federal Reserve System just before the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but I was aware of many of the issues. This is a solid and well researched story of the crisis. The crisis was a creature of the shadow banking system--the array of investment banks, hedge funds, and private equity funds. It was akin to an old-time run on the bank -- short term credit dried up, financial institutions had to sell assets to meet bills and committed purchases, every institutions stress was I had retired from the Federal Reserve System just before the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but I was aware of many of the issues. This is a solid and well researched story of the crisis. The crisis was a creature of the shadow banking system--the array of investment banks, hedge funds, and private equity funds. It was akin to an old-time run on the bank -- short term credit dried up, financial institutions had to sell assets to meet bills and committed purchases, every institutions stress was passed to other institutions like a hot potato. "Hidden" weaknesses in the financial system came to light (use of swaps, excessively high ratings for fundamentally weak securities) and the problems just rolled on and on. Responsibility for mitigating the damage fell on Hank Paulson as Treasury Secretary, Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman,and Timothy Geithner as New York Fed President. What options did they have, what decisions did they make? Who helped and who hurt? The meat of this is the decision to bail AGI out and let Lehman fail. Sorkin does a great job showing why that was done. It was not simply a decision by a few--it was a decision by players around the world (like the Bank of England). This book is really about how complicated our financial system has become, and how fragile the conduits of credit are when initial minor problems (like the Bear Stearns failure) echo through the system. You can learn a lot about crisis management and its pitfalls from this book

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    A play-by-play of the days leading up to and shortly after the financial crisis, centered largely around the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and climaxing with the TARP program. Unlike Michael Lewis, who drew a fascinating and engaging story out of the short-sellers who made a bundle when the building fell down, Sorkin tries to tell "the" story of the crisis in a narrative form. I'm not sure I'm on board with that, considering how close he sets the point-of-view, but it's become a common practice A play-by-play of the days leading up to and shortly after the financial crisis, centered largely around the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and climaxing with the TARP program. Unlike Michael Lewis, who drew a fascinating and engaging story out of the short-sellers who made a bundle when the building fell down, Sorkin tries to tell "the" story of the crisis in a narrative form. I'm not sure I'm on board with that, considering how close he sets the point-of-view, but it's become a common practice in journalism these days, and is probably a lot easier to read (and write). However, by going this route, Sorkin puts the reader in a strange position of being "with" the various CEOs and government representatives on their adventure, making it very difficult to gain any perspective on the crisis. The best chapter is the epilogue, where Sorkin can step back and use a wider lens - I wish the rest of it had come from the same vantage. Ultimately, this book is about the people involved in the crisis and bailout - if you're looking for analysis of the processes, or some sort of explanation of the numbers at work, this is the wrong place to look. But, for an historical look at the people and events who made the past few years so fun (and certain passages and asides make it clear that Sorkin hopes there's a longer shelf-life to this book than most), it's fairly comprehensive.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    I read this book to fill a slot in a challenge. It's not my usual kinda thing. It has a lot of information about the financial crisis of 2008. While it's informative, you almost need a degree in finance to follow it some of the time, or that's what it seemed like to me. I definitely learned a lot more about those events. I also learned that, from what I could tell, some, if not most, of what happened could have been prevented. It was a combination of greedy/stupid choices on the part of the I read this book to fill a slot in a challenge. It's not my usual kinda thing. It has a lot of information about the financial crisis of 2008. While it's informative, you almost need a degree in finance to follow it some of the time, or that's what it seemed like to me. I definitely learned a lot more about those events. I also learned that, from what I could tell, some, if not most, of what happened could have been prevented. It was a combination of greedy/stupid choices on the part of the bankers involved that created the majority of the mess, and then ego that prevented most of them working smoothly to fix it. Raging ego has no place in deciding things that effect an entire nation, and even those beyond. I also found it appalling that they were mostly worried about themselves. It wasn't until after page 400 there was even a mention of the regular people who stood to lose so much. I don't know much about finance, and I'm even less inclined to venture into that world having read this. Very densely written and you need a good foundation in the subject matter to really comprehend most of it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Celine

    Never did I ever expect to fall so deeply enthralled with the inner lives of CEO's, Federal Reserve Chairmen and government officials. What I love most is that Sorkin writes so candidly that you find yourself lost in the turn of events yourself. By the end of the book I was pulling for people to whom I never thought I would give sympathy, and rooting against people I originally thought I liked. Definitely worth the read, even if you have no interest in the subprime mortgage crisis.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shivani

    Subprime crises- behind the scene! Amazing book. I wonder what all the author would have gone through to collect and collate this kind of information. From Bear Stearns to TARP, everyone involved and the conversations that took place; all so palpable.

  29. 4 out of 5

    ScienceOfSuccess

    I was expecting something more from this one, since its almost 600pages, at least 300 over average. This one was as good as the others, maybe written more like a novel :)

  30. 4 out of 5

    jun

    The Cannon Fodder, Lehman Brothers - Review of Too Big to Fail In 2008, the lucky Chinese people sheltered under the state-owned system watched a striking and destructive financial crisis resulting from private ownership. While the real estate and financial market became sluggish, the media industry thrived to be the winner with a variety of books, films and television programs. Of which the interview collection - Too Big to Fail under the cloak of documentary produced by the young and successful The Cannon Fodder, Lehman Brothers - Review of Too Big to Fail In 2008, the lucky Chinese people sheltered under the state-owned system watched a striking and destructive financial crisis resulting from private ownership. While the real estate and financial market became sluggish, the media industry thrived to be the winner with a variety of books, films and television programs. Of which the interview collection - Too Big to Fail under the cloak of documentary produced by the young and successful journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin was the representative works. This book brought the author unprecedented fame and, of course, great wealth too. Although the economic fluctuation has recovered after the valley and keeps comparatively steady, the tragedy of capitalist private ownership by reason of the weak dominance of dollars under Jamaica system is still an interesting bedtime reading story. Basically, the coming out process of this book was a struggle of hunger marketing with reviews reaching the public anterior to the book itself. Moreover, since there were waves of praise, the Economist even presented its valued and hard-won views while Goldman Sachs and Financial Times also classified it as one of the annual top six business books. The following movie of the same name also got an expected box-office record, which was impossible for peers. With such amazing commercial success, the author of this works should be introduced firstly. Andrew, as a right-hand chief commentator of New York Times Who once worked as an intern at New York Times as early as his secondary school time and did part-time work for it by writing during college at Cornell University, officially got on board naturally after graduating and became a merger journalist in Europe of New York Times. Only one year later, he was promoted to the chief. His column in New York Times is one of the hottest blogs with the personally founded column, DealBook being a valuable financial information center and the current participant Squawk Box getting popular as a morning news column. For his outstanding talents and skills in self-marketing and relationship management, his social network nearly covers the whole of Wall Street, including the big names such as Warren Buffett. When the book was published, he was just thirty-two years old. He is undoubtedly a real wunderkind. As a direct witness of the financial crisis, Andrew interviewed more than 200 parties for more than 500 hours and comprehensively presented almost all the significant events and details that happened between the managers of different financial institutions and the government regulators from March 17, 2008 (Bear Sterns crush) to October 13, 2008 (Treasury Department of United States and the Federal Reserve offered TARP loans to rescue the market) with 539 pages focusing on the delineation and characterization of different figures with POV (point of view) writing method. Of course, for the professional characteristics of financial reporter or the consideration for the majority with no professional knowledge of finance, variety of hearsays and gossips are also involved with long and detailed introductions to the history of the big bugs and the contexts of different powers. The tidbits also make this works an interesting and easy reading stuff like an entertainment magazine rather than an uninteresting financial book. In spite of my view that this book is a feature works under the cloak of documentary on my opening page due to the vivid image characteristics, humanity defects and emotional experience of different people in the book, it cannot be regarded as a documentary technically. Despite the name - Too Big to Fail, the definition of “too big” (great assets or wide influence?) has not been determined by the author and there is also no explanation of the logical relation between “too big” and “to fall” since all the hypothesis of readers in view of the background of the events (although at that time, most of the kindergarten children knew about the financial crisis because their parents refused to buy them toys). In addition, another reason why I regard this book as a documentary is the author cares little about the introduction to the causes of the crisis, the connotation of dealings, the systematic problems and specific solutions. Moreover, the causes of subprime mortgage neglected intentionally by the author, effects of credit default swaps (CDS), bulls & bears stock market competition and some other professional problems are also the reasons. Andrew just manages to fulfill his functions as a financial reporter by carefully stating the major figures in chronological order and vividly describing what death, struggle and rebirth mean. Inevitably, his political inclination is very obvious in the book for the loud singing and praising for the Federal Reserve, DOF and the Bush administration. The descriptions of the farouche dispositions as an economist of Ben Bernanke (2006-2014) and the devoted and loyal images of two secretaries of treasury Hank Paulson (2006-2009) and Timothy Geithner (2009–2013) are also quite penetrating. Although Hank Paulson is kind of unlucky for being unjustly blamed, the praise from the author is still excessive because the responsibilities of Paulson and his staff for the crisis are not mentioned. On September 19, 2008, as Paulson officially announced the execution of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and then the Federal Reserve fulfilled the responsibilities of the U.S. central bank to successfully control the spread of the crisis, opportunists like Goldman Sachs got a great perk while the unlucky boy Lehman became the cannon fodder. How did this crisis happen and end? It is appropriate to summarize the cause as “the entire world is hustling and bustling just for benefits” described in “Biographies of Merchants” written by Sima Qian. After Internet bubble burst in 2001, the capital flew into raw building materials and real estate market, subsequent substantial appreciation of property prices attracted a large number of property purchasers, the banks issued subprime mortgage to the poor credit purchasers and shifted the risks to the investment bankers (namely the main actors in Too Big to Fail) by taking the creditor’s rights of the mortgage lenders as derivative products of subprime mortgage. When the house estate prices had fallen, the subprime mortgage lenders breached the contracts and stopped paying off the loans, causing the capital flow into stagnation, evaluation on derivative products of subprime mortgage became hard, trust between financing institutions decreased, and then inter-bank transactions bogged down and finally resulted in tragedies. Although Federal Reserve Board (FRB) could ease the situation to some extent, the government had to weigh too many advantages and disadvantages when using the taxpayers’ money and the voters’ reaction. The extensive influences of Goldman Sachs officers on the government and the public were another factor to be considered by Bush administration at that time. In 2006, Goldman Sachs gave the support to the Bush administration under the condition that Paulson assumed the post of treasury secretary and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) exempted his tax roll for selling Goldman Sachs stocks worthy of about USD 100 million. In the same year, Bernanke, Geithner and Kristopher Cox took office as chairman of FRB, chairman of the New York Fed and chairman of SEC respectively. Hereby a bureaucratic framework of a Goldman Sachs faction was formed. The financial giants mentioned in this book included Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, American international group(AIG), Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Except Lehman Brothers, these financing institutions obtained relief funds to different extents. Bear Sterns: it was acquired by JPMorgan Chase & Co. at the gross price about USD 236 million (two dollars per stock) on March 16, 2008. Merrill Lynch: it was sold to Bank of America Corp. at the price about USD 44 billion on September 14, 2008. FRB provided an urgent aid of USD 85 billion for it on September 17, 2008 and in return for this aid, the government may obtain its stock warrants under certain conditions. Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac: American government took over near-bankrupt Fannie Mae and government sponsored Freddie Mac at the price of USD 200 billion on September 7, 2008. Morgan Stanley: Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group acquired 21% of its stocks at the gross price of USD 9 billion on October 14, 2008. Goldman Sachs: on September 24, 2008, Berkshire Hathaway subordinate to Warren Buffett declared that it planned to invest USD 5 billion in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. On the evening of September 21, 2008, FRB declared to approve the requests of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to turn into a bank holding company, which meant that "long time well-known Wall Street vanished". In fact, among these financing institutions, only AIG and Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac could be called “Too Big to Fail”. The systematic risks of bankruptcy was entirely uncontrollable and could cause unimaginable results: financial system collapsed, unemployment wave intensified the social turbulence, endowment insurance system winded up, social insurance system was threatened and credit-based social norms got interrupted, etc. It was inevitable for FRB and DOF to give reliefs once again after Bear Sterns. Of course, it was also inevitable for them to be criticized because they spent the money of the taxpayers. In September, 2010, during the public hearing hosted by investigation committee of American financial crisis, when talking about Lehman Brothers bankruptcy case, Bernanke said that Lehman was in lack of enough mortgages, American government cannot help, and so “we refuse to use the capital of public sector to aid Lehman”. Regardless of the conspiracy theories that the officials of Goldman Sachs faction deliberately did, perhaps, the more possible reason for Lehman’s falling was that the first domino was pushed down when Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac were gone short at the beginning. Let alone to the problem of changing head of fixed income into head of equities and the Mark-to-Market accounting problem. In general, this book is meritorious despite of some defects. It reviews the event comprehensively and it deserves the evaluation of “an extraordinary achievement that will be hard to surpass as the definitive account” as the author Andrew said at his personal website. Another mentionable thing is that after this financial crisis, Keynesianism became prevailing in different countries for economic recovery. The essence is that the government performs intervention or the governments perform cooperative interventions to avoid leading risks under interlinked economic system, which has become an immediate and efficient manner to overcome the crisis and stabilize the dominating position and further to successfully transfer and gather treasures.

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