A real-life thriller about the most tumultuous period in America's financial history by an acclaimed New York Times reporter. 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.
©2009 Andrew Ross Sorkin; (P)2009 Penguin Audiobooks
"Andrew Ross Sorkin pens what may be the definitive history of the banking crisis." (The Atlantic Monthly)
"Andrew Ross Sorkin has written a fascinating, scene-by-scene saga of the eyeless trying to march the clueless through Great Depression II." (Tom Wolfe)
"Too Big to Fail" is a masterpiece of reporting and as exciting as an adventure novel. It deserves to win the Pulitzer Prize. The print edition contains an eight-page list of characters and it's not possible to follow the complex narrative without reference to it. Aside from the newsmakers (Paulson, Geithner, Bernacke) many of the key players are unknown and some of them appear only briefly or after long absenses. Without the "who-is-who" reference guide in the print edition, the reader is sure to lose some of the important trends and actions in this fascinating story. I could seldom remember which player was associated with which entity. Why can't audio book publishes make the author's list of characters availble for download? I'm sorry I listened to this book; reading it would have given me a better understanding of the events and characters.
This book straddles great spaces, across times. Unless you have the big picture in mind when you listen, you will think the author is ranting about Lehman and Geithner alone.
The book starts with descriptions of each personality; Dick Fuld, Geithner, Paulson so that when the fun really starts you can easily relate to their behavior with the background the author has provided earlier.
Half of the book is about Lehman's hurtle into bankruptcy and how Fuld, because of his greed and head-in-sand approach prevented Korean investors, and almost everyone from buying Lehman. It also discusses how Lehman's complaint about short sellers was not acted upon by Paulson, who suddenly acted on short sellers when they started attacking Fortress Goldman.
It also states how bankers from Morgan stanley and Goldman high-fived each other when they hear the Fed is bailing out AIG.
We also hear the background as to where the magical number of $700bn came into TARP.
All through the book, one thing becomes clear: Banks can and will expect the government to bail them out when they are in trouble but are very reluctant to share the profits with the government.
Overall, the book is good, but as with All the Devils Are Here, the publisher neglected to ensure that the narrator knows how to pronounce all of the words and names. At least, unlike ATDAH, the mispronunciations do not include a word that is used more than 500 times.
Someone who bothered to find out how to pronounce the words and names.
Just 3 stars for this work covering an enormously important subject.
If you subscribe to "People" magazine, or it's ilk, this coverage of the melt down may be of greater interest to you. It is mostly about the background and nature of the people involved, not the detailed events and mistakes that caused this disaster.
The headline, of course, is an allusion to that famous question posed to Shoeless Joe Jackson after the Black Sox scandal. It falls a little short of what I'm driving at, but part of what bugs me about this story is Sorkin's inside baseball hero worship. Maybe I could have expected this, but Sorkin seems to see these banksters as larger than life tragic heroes. What I was looking for was some explanation of how it could have been possible for a nation's economy to have come down to the judgment of such flawed characters. In other words, why on earth was anyone considered too big to fail? How did they get such control? How come, after they abused that control, at least some of them aren't in prison?
I lost my job as a result of their recklessness and the buddy-buddy terms they operated under. It goes down pretty hard to hear about their heartache over the impact on their bonuses and careers as they quaff $180-a-bottle chardonnay. Sorkin pays very brief lip service to "Main Street," but in his myopic focus on his heroes, he doesn't seem to know what it is, or to understand the human consequences of what these clowns, and the clownish "regulators" who were supposed to be watching them, and beyond them, the patsies from Reagan through Obama, Gramm, Leach and Bliley through Chris Dodd, what all these adequately-paid incompetents were doing, and how on earth we can prevent them from getting even more power to screw us even worse.
One of the reviews mentions the Wall Street titans "staring into the abyss" or words to that effect. In the Depression, Washington got moving partly because farmers in the Midwest were setting up roadblocks. In this case, none of the rich men -- yes, almost exclusively rich, white men -- appear to see any further than a little public embarrassment and a golden parachute to some other similarly powerful job. Boy, that's not the abyss at all. Calling that an abyss likens a worldwide economic catastrophe to a batting slump; it arises from the same blindness that made it possible for Obama, a couple years ago, to compare the obscene salaries paid to the banksters to the money baseball stars earn.
These guys have very little right, apart from their incomes, to claim to be stars. And they're not playing a harmless game.
I have to confess, I'm only two thirds of the way through the book. Maybe Sorkin will turn things around. But I'm trying to pay attention to what he has to say because, in large part, what he's writing about has a direct bearing on my trade. I can't imagine why most other people would bother.
Those positive reviews in big-name publications were written by people who hadn't been laid off yet. Don't believe them.
Do you care whether these rich guys like each other? I don't. Apparently, Sorkin does.That's the peril of being on a beat too long. He should do a stint covering gang violence.
The performance is adequate. That's what saves this book from a grade of zero, so far. I'll tough it out to the end in this book, and if I find something different from what I've said so far, I'll eat crow.
I don't think I'll have to do that.
Nope. I read him from time to time because he's more or less relevant to what I do for a "living." But I wouldn't pay for it.
It's largely irrelevant
huh? Let's be serious. Sometimes books are more than entertainment. At least, they're supposed to be.
I don't think my bitterness over this awful Wall Street-driven economy is unique. The "Occupy" movement got turned into a joke, but I, and other Americans, live by the Democratic principals that gave rise to it. I hope and pray those principals will be widespread enough to force substantive changes.
22 hours of personal stories and minute-by-minute account of what happened from the collapse of bear stern to the TARP program. Lots of background stories about the participants and there's a loooot of them.
Let me list some issues and observations I have on the book:
- There's way too many characters and way too many details to a level that cast doubt on the author's ability to collect all that information. To his credit, he puts a disclaimer that some of the stories are sourced by only one source with no way to prove them. This makes the book a way to understand the circumstances of the crisis not to make a historical account of what actually happened.
- If you're new to characters, try to find pictures of them (which is available in the hard cover and the paperback)It helps remembering who is who.
- The book mentions nothing about what caused the crisis. This was a disappointment for me as I was looking forward for that part.
- The book gives a kind look at the heads of financial institutions that participated in the crisis, their history, their families, their short comings in their careers and lives. Sometimes it make them look like the people who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in the middle of a perfect storm and not the ones who caused it. Though at the very end, the book describes the executives insistence on avoiding limit on bounces and reveal that the true intension of quickly paying back the TARP money is actually their desire to access their bounces, it generally gives executives a favorable treatment as people who are racing to save the financial system.
- One of the things that struck me is the ease with which people on such high level managing huge financial institutions deal with important decisions. The number of possible merges between huge companies is big. Meetings over the weekend, phone calls to ask "Do you want to buy JP Morgan/Lehman Brothers/etc.?". It just amazes me.
Read the book but don't count it as the only account on what happened, it's only one version of the story. The story of what happened, not what caused the crisis and who's to blame.
I would highly recommend this book. For layman who is interested in understanding the meltdown of the markets 2 years ago this book is a must.
Sorkin creates very vivid portraits of all the important players. Its an easy read and doesn't require you to have a depth of wall street knowledge to understand what happened.
Everything. He brings just the right tone- not overly dramatic, not campy.
Why Lehman was Allowed to Fail
I am just going to quote another review below, because he nailed it for me. "The print edition contains an eight-page list of characters and it's not possible to follow the complex narrative without reference to it." This book is more about characters then the actual events of the financial melt down. And since there are so many real world characters it is hard to track them and it ends up feeling like the Author is just name dropping all over the place. If I could track the characters I think I would have enjoyed it more.
I have read many books and lived through the hour by hour meltdown and this is by far the most accurate account of those events. Excellent format, and auditory. A must read.
Sorkin does a great job bringing you right into the suv's, meetings and phone calls and heads of the heavy hitters involved in the meltdown.
Even though we all know how it turned out, the machinations Sorkin describes are fascinating. Terrific narration too.
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