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Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises | [Timothy F. Geithner]

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

On January 26, 2009, during the depth of the financial crisis and having just completed five years as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Timothy F. Geithner was sworn in by President Barack Obama as the 75th Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Now, in a strikingly candid, riveting, and historically illuminating memoir, Geithner takes listeners behind the scenes during the darkest moments of the crisis.
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Publisher's Summary

From the former Treasury Secretary, the definitive account of the unprecedented effort to save the U.S. economy from collapse in the wake of the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression.

On January 26, 2009, during the depth of the financial crisis and having just completed five years as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Timothy F. Geithner was sworn in by President Barack Obama as the 75th Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Now, in a strikingly candid, riveting, and historically illuminating memoir, Geithner takes listeners behind the scenes during the darkest moments of the crisis. Swift, decisive, and creative action was required to avert a second Great Depression, but policy makers faced a fog of uncertainty, with no good options and the risk of catastrophic outcomes.

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises takes us inside the room, explaining in accessible and forthright terms the hard choices and politically unpalatable decisions that Geithner and others in the Obama administration made during the crisis and recovery. He discusses the most controversial moments of his tenures at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and at the Treasury, including the harrowing weekend Lehman Brothers went bankrupt; the searing crucible of the AIG bonuses controversy; the development of his widely criticized but ultimately successful plan in early 2009 to end the crisis; the bracing fight for the most sweeping financial reforms in 70 years; and the lingering aftershocks of the crisis, including high unemployment, the fiscal battles, and Europe's repeated flirtations with the economic abyss.

Geithner also shares his personal and professional recollections of key players such as President Obama, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Larry Summers, among others, and examines the tensions between politics and policy that have come to dominate discussions of the U.S. economy. An insider's account of how the Obama administration saved the economy but lost the American people, Stress Test reveals a side of Timothy Geithner that only few have seen.

©2014 Timothy F. Geithner (P)2014 Random House Audio

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  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 06-03-14
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 06-03-14 Member Since 2015

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "Gripping"

    I have read several books recently on the financial crisis we are just coming out of. I read “On the Brink” by Hank Paulson the former Secretary of Treasury, “House of Debt by Alif Mian and Amin Safi, economist, describes the large amount of empirical research done since 2008. Now I have read “Stress Test” by Timothy F. Geithner whose book unlike the prior books provides an insider’s view point of the crisis. I am sure that this will be a controversial book and people will take sides according to their personal belief and only a few people will read it for the facts without judgment. Geithner served as President of the New York Federal Reserve from 2003 to 2008 and Secretary of Treasury from 2009 to 2013. Geithner starts the book with his childhood growing up in various countries as his father worked for the Ford Foundation. He says he learned to speak Hindi, Japanese and Chinese. Geithner describes his education at Dartmouth University and his graduate studies at the Graduate School of International Studies at John Hopkins. He tells about his personal life meeting his wife getting married having children. But he spends most of the book on his employment at the Treasury. He tells about his work in the International department working on helping countries with their financial crisis such as Mexico, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea. He says the lessons he learned helped him deal with the current worldwide financial crisis. Geithner goes into great detail about how the crisis development and people were caught off guard as people were complacent because of our long time of stability in the markets. He implies that greed and lack of proper inspections lead to some of the problems. He explains what was wrong, and how they attempted to fix or relief some stress on the markets. He goes into depth about the stress test they designed for the banks to avoid future problems. Geithner explains what attempts were made at legislation to prevent future problems along with what is good, adequate or poor and what is missing and needs to be corrected. The description of our dysfunctional government comes through crystal clear. He mentions Elizabeth Warren as she worked under him as temporary head of the new consumer bureau. I noted Warren was more interested in how the crisis was affecting the individual and Geithner was more interested in the institutions and countries. One of the biggest problems during the crisis was Geithner’s inability to communicate adequately. He has done an excellent job with this book so I wished he would have written his explanations and had someone read them maybe that would have gave us the confidence that comes with understanding. It is obvious from the book the man did his best in an extremely difficult situation.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ignacio 05-19-14
    Ignacio 05-19-14 Member Since 2014
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    "A must of you liked "too big to fail""
    Where does Stress Test rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    not the best it's actually hard to stop listening to it. Geithner is a convincing guy and it really makes you feel the stress and despair of the whole situation


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Stress Test?

    the moments just prior to the results of the stress tests to the bank


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    yes, definitely


    Any additional comments?

    If you liked this one, you should read on the brink and too big to fail

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary B 08-29-14
    Gary B 08-29-14
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    "Too Long"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I think if this book could have been half as long it would more interesting. I found myself getting bored by Mr. Geithner going into too much detail about parts that did not add value to the story. I did like his insight to how the Treasury worked with the President and Congress and his reasoning behind the bailouts.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Comedy


    What didn’t you like about Timothy F. Geithner’s performance?

    Too slow and deliberate.


    What character would you cut from Stress Test?

    N/A


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Moore Bay Area, CA USA 07-22-14
    Michael Moore Bay Area, CA USA 07-22-14 Member Since 2005

    mcubed33

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    "Very Worthwhile Read!"

    I have read a number of books on the 2008 Financial Crisis, and yet learned a lot from Mr. Geithner’s book. He emphasizes two key points that are critical for understanding why things became so serious:

    1. The financial institutions that fueled the “subprime” crisis were highly leveraged. I already knew that, but had not appreciated the point that they were leveraged by means of extremely short-term debt—“overnight” repos in many cases. Thus, once confidence left the financial markets, these institutions were literally hours away from running out of money to pay their debts as they came due. Also important here is the fact that the most important players in the subprime market frenzy were “Wall Street” institutions outside the traditional banking system and thus outside the extensive examination and reporting requirements imposed on the traditional banks.

    2. The financial markets were gripped by "Panic" once the players woke up and actually appreciated the fact that the subprime loans were not supported by any realistic credit review, but merely by the expectation that US real estate values would continue to rise and allow the loans to be refinanced. Once panic set in, investors wanted out period. They were not ready to analyze distinctions in credit quality, they simply wanted to avoid losses. That set in motion a vicious self-fulfilling cycle in which all tranches of CDO portfolios fell in value, buyers disappeared, and forced sales of securities through margin calls or funding obligations led to sales at “fire sale” prices and serious capital losses.

    Mr. Geithner also addresses a point that most people (myself included) found very troubling in the government’s response to the financial crisis: the government’s approach of throwing lots of money and government guarantees at institutions who were clearly guilty of highly irresponsible management practices. In other words, these were institutions that deserved a punch in the jaw rather than taxpayer cash in their wallets. Geithner points out quite persuasively that although such sentiments are fully justified they are not useful responses to a financial crisis that endangers the whole economic system. “When the neighborhood is on fire, the focus should be getting the fire contained and out, rather than chasing down the arsonists who started the fire,” or words to that effect, is how he frames the issue.

    I will add one point of serious criticism I have about the book. Mr. Geithner touches only very briefly and superficially on his role as head of the New York Fed in failing to
    supervise properly the lending practices of Citibank and Citigroup in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Citi was the only traditional banking institution (though it combined a large securities trading operation after the merger with Smith Barney) that had such large subprime loan exposures on its books that it has to be classified as one of the principal culprits in the irresponsible subprime lending frenzy. How did the NY Fed miss its exposures and why? There are no doubt important “lessons learned” from those questions that Mr. Geithner might have explored in depth but did not.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 05-25-14
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 05-25-14 Member Since 2015

    Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.

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    "Surprisingly well read and well written account!"

    First, I am usually loathe to review a book I have not completed. Second, I usually prefer a professional narrator to the author's own reading. Last, my tastes have run towards classical fiction and opera in recent months, perhaps because I work in the bond markets and it isn't all that relaxing to keep on working during my commute as well as during a 12 hour workday.

    All that aside, this is SUCH a fascinating account of Secretary Tim Geithner's life and work experience that I am breaking with habit and writing a review although I am only a few hours into the book.

    Geithner is actually a pretty decent narrator considering what a mediocre public speaker he was, and continues to apologize for. He has a tendency to drop his voice a little at the end of sentences which forced me to repeat some of his reading - but that small flaw is quite manageable and shouldn't discourage even picky listeners.

    The story of his life and experience is quite engaging and well-written. His background is unusual and his perspectives sharp. This audio reveals him to be quite different from person portrayed by the press or even his own public appearances during his tenure in office and he defends his decisions and positions well. I am really impressed by his ability to explain how and why things happened and his own justifications for actions taken.

    As a bond market participant with a front seat on the financial crisis I enjoyed reading TOO BIG TO FAIL. But one of the most frustrating aspects of that book was its strict reportorial nature - it explained what happened minute to minute but provided no real analysis of why and what it all meant. This book exactly goes to the places I found missing in TOO BIG TO FAIL and that is the most satisfying part of the book for me.

    Geithner's willingness to say exactly what he thinks when so much of what he did is politically unpopular with so many on both sides of the US political divide is the most addictive part of this listening adventure. I can only stop listening long enough to write this review. I very highly recommend it to those who value Geithner's perspective on earlier crises as well as the 2008 Financial Crisis and his tenure as the first Secretary of the Treasury for the Obama Administration.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerard 05-18-14
    Gerard 05-18-14
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    "Amazing Man, Powerful Story, Beautifully Delivered"

    The author does a superb job retelling recent US financial history. His unique voice and terrific delivery make this a must as an audiobook. Timothy Geithner clears up personal misconceptions that I recall being reported in the press. It made me see him differently. We were lucky to have him in the right place at our sad time.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle P. Adamo 05-19-15
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    "Book is good, Reader is abysmal."
    Would you try another book from Timothy F. Geithner and/or Timothy F. Geithner?

    Although the book is full of fascinating information, Geithner is a terrible reader. In real life he is not the most stimulating speaker, as a reader of an audible book his voice is dull and painfully tedious to listen to. My husband and I have tried several times to listen to this book during our various cross country drives. Each time we have to turn the book off after an hour or two lest we fall asleep while driving. There is a reason authors hire professional actors to read their books, Mr Geithner!


    What other book might you compare Stress Test to and why?

    I once listened to/read the audio version of "Marley & Me" by John Grogan. This book got rave reviews but the audible version was slightly better than awful. Again, the author read the book! Good authors do not necessarily make good readers. Hire a professional.


    How could the performance have been better?

    By hiring a professional actor to read it.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CZhang 05-09-15
    CZhang 05-09-15 Member Since 2014
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    "A look inside Fed/Treasury's crisis management"

    I consider it a perfect read after taking courses like "analyses of financial crises" and "understanding central banks" (or courses of the like). It was interesting to listen to how the history unraveled yet surprisingly the last chapter was a concise and thoughtful summary. If you can listen to one chapter only, go for the last one. Overall, I loved it and applaud for their work in containing the crisis to a level much more manageable than it otherwise would have become.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bassam 04-22-15
    Bassam 04-22-15
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    "Not as good as I thought it would be"

    By the third chapter, I decided to quit listening to Mr. Geithner's disillusioned views of how the world works. Something is missing here. It is hard to consolidate the two views he presents. On the one hand he always projects a self image of someone who is not interested in economics, finance, or politics while at the same time lays out a narrative of how he kept rising in the cadre of government bureaucrats. Difficult to make an honest image of who exactly is Timothy Geithner.... At least you get the chance to hear a former Treasury secretary curse!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victor 04-20-15
    Victor 04-20-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Awesome"

    A great balance of both technical and lay explanations. The Secretary does a great job of building up toward the financial crisis, then solidly illustrates the Administration's plans, along with painting the geopolitical situation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 42 results PREVIOUS125NEXT
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  • JPM
    United Kingdom
    5/13/14
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    "Geithner’s persuasive case for Federal Bailouts"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Stress Test to be better than the print version?

    Timothy F. Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary (2009-2013), former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and currently the President of Warburg Pincus, a global Private Equity investment institution), emphasises on the importance of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP or Federal Bailouts) of 2008 and his role in saving the world from the depths of Economic Depression.

    In his first book titled "Stress Test," Geithner constructs a persuasive case of his role as the man most responsible for the TARP (Federal Bailouts) of 2008. Financial bailouts historically were only made available to the commercial banks and not extended to the Wall Street Investment houses, Geithner was the first Treasury Secretary to have made this possible.

    He makes the case for TARP in saving the Financial Institutions. He extends the argument on the value of Financial Institutions gaining enormity when the country in question is the United States of America (USA), the largest economy on the planet. The importance of the Financial Institutions grows and reaches epic global proportions, when the same nation is facing a crisis, which finds its origins in the core of the same Financial Institutions. The TARP, which then amounted to approximately 700 Billion dollars (and have now reached ~ 8 trillion dollars: all funded by taxpayer money) was released to act as a safety net for the Financial Institutions who in turn are to protect the Tax Payer of the vicious cycle of recession, which if left uncontrolled would have led to Global Economic Depression).

    Geithner makes two big admissions

    1) He admits that he did not foresee the coming of the “Financial crisis" (especially showcased during a meeting held in March 2008 (the Bears Stearns rescue days), when he objected against the then Federal Governor Kevin Warsh's statement on the fact that financial institutions remained undercapitalized (i.e. the Institutions had too much leverage and hence had too much exposure to potential losses, which could lead to financial apocalypse).

    2) His second biggest admission is that he did not grasp the grimness of the troubles, while they were occurring and even after they had occurred (from him being influenced by Citibank’s Robert Rubin (who along with Larry Summers had recommended him for the position of President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, despite of him (in his own words) lacking the desired experience).

    Geithner also takes jibes at and thrashes the "moral hazard fundamentalists" and "Old Testament" types fellows who raise concerns that bailing out the financial institutions has encouraged even riskier behaviour. He says that the TARP and other rescue programs enacted in the crisis years were a success because the alternative(s), which no one can ever know would have been far worse.

    There are some very good stories of his interactions with the heads of Wall Street banks, most notably with Citibank’s Robert Rubin, Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein and Lehman Brothers Dick Fuld and with important personalities of the likes of the Oracle of Omaha Mr. Warren Buffet, Ben Bernanke, the then Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, then and current President Mr. Barack Obama and ex-President Mr. Bill Clinton.

    Overall a very good read (I heard it on Audible at 1.5x :)


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Giuseppe
    3/7/15
    Overall
    "Boring"

    Self promoting uninteresting book. Not fun to read. Trying to justify the mistakes made in the office. Not worth buying.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cal C
    2/25/15
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    "Excellent book"

    Prerequisite for anyone wanting a good record of one of the most damaging financial crisis in recent times. The window into how Washington works and the politics that followed .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hydrazine
    1/14/15
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    "Fascinating insight into the Financial Crisis"

    The inside story of the mainly successful attempt the U.S. took to deal with the financial crisis. I ended up feeling genuinely sorry for Geithner who took enormous flack from both left and right whilst just trying to do the best he could.

    Some people complain about the narration of this book but I always prefer to hear the author's own voice. While Geithner will hardly get an Oscar for his reading, his style is nonetheless pleasant enough and the story compelling enough to keep you listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • researchschoar
    9/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Grt story spoiled by dull narration style"
    Would you try another book written by Timothy F. Geithner or narrated by Timothy F. Geithner?

    Yes


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Its abt american response to economic crises


    What didn’t you like about Timothy F. Geithner’s performance?

    Robotic and dull narration style of the book


    Any additional comments?

    Narrater's skills can make or break th success of the book

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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