In The Hellhound of Wall Street, Michael Perino recounts in riveting detail the 1933 hearings that put Wall Street on trial for the Great Crash. Never before in American history had so many financial titans been called to account before the public, and they had come within a few weeks of emerging unscathed. By the time Ferdinand Pecora, a Sicilian immigrant and former New York prosecutor, took over as chief counsel, the investigation had dragged on ineffectively for nearly a year and was universally written off as dead.
The Hellhound of Wall Street provides a minute-by-minute account of the ten dramatic days when Pecora turned the hearings around, cross-examining the officers of National City Bank (today's Citigroup), particularly its chairman, Charles Mitchell, one of the best known bankers of his day. Mitchell strode into the hearing room in obvious disdain for the proceedings, but he left utterly disgraced. Pecora's rigorous questioning revealed that City Bank was guilty of shocking financial abuses, from selling worthless bonds to manipulating its stock price. Most offensive of all was the excessive compensation and bonuses awarded to its executives for peddling shoddy securities to the American public.
Pecora became an unlikely hero to a beleaguered nation. The man whom the press called "the hellhound of Wall Street" was the son of a struggling factory worker. Precocious and determined, he became one of New York's few Italian American lawyers at a time when Italians were frequently stereotyped as anarchic criminals. The image of an immigrant lawyer challenging a blue-blooded Wall Street tycoon was just one more sign that a fundamental shift was taking place in America.
By creating the sensational headlines needed to galvanize public opinion for reform, the Pecora hearings spurred Congress to take unprecedented steps to rein in the freewheeling banking industry and led directly to the New Deal's landmark economic reforms.
©2010 Michael Perino (P)2010 Tantor
"Perino's book is a trenchant, entertaining study of the New Deal's heroic beginnings, one with obvious relevance to latter-day efforts to rein in Wall Street's excesses." (Publishers Weekly)
Well, if you think that the current economic melt down was new and different, does Michael Perino have a surprise for you. In his “The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora’s Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance,” Perino details the story of Ferdinand Pecora’s investigation of banking executives in 1933. The book opens with biographical insights into the background of Pecora, how he ended up in Washington, and how he found himself on the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. In response to the Great Depression and facilitated by the political climate Pecora was in a prime location to make a name for himself. Perino’s meticulous research and reporting shine in this book. The prose sings and insights into the era and complexity of the circumstances (and wrong doing) are in every chapter. The narration of George Wilson is excellent. Its all here. I found myself comparing Pecora's era to our current economic problems and concluded "Same news different people."
I bought this book because the author is a colleague of mine, and I enjoyed it immensely. It's a great tale and extremely relevant to the headlines of today. Too bad we don't have a Pecora this time around!
This would be a swell read if narrator would eschew regional accents -- the attempt detracts, and this would be ever so much better listening without them. His natural reading voice is quite fine.
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