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Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable (Bloomberg) Hardcover – 3 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomberg Press; 1 edition (3 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576603466
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576603468
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 1.8 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 819,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Book Description

complicit provides a full overview of the recent financial crisis, showing what went wrong and the lessons that need to be learned.

About the Author

mark gilbert has worked for bloomberg news since 1991 and is the london bureau chief. he has written a regular column on global financial issues since 1998, and has spent more than 18 months warning about the impending credit crisis and helping readers to disentangle its consequences.

Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gaurav Sharma VINE VOICE on 16 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
Following the credit crunch, with the recession receding in many corners of the globe, attention of market commentators has now shifted towards understanding how it all unfolded and more crucially what got us there in the first place. Journalist Mark Gilbert feels the blame lay squarely on Wall Street greed and lax regulation (both national and international).

In a probe of Wall Street's "blunder years", this book examines in some detail the collusion among bankers, investors, rating agencies and financial regulators or in some cases behavioural recklessness brought upon by the need for speedy returns of key market players. It runs on a now familiar theme that availability of easy unchecked credit and excessive liquidity, multiplied many times over by the loosely regulated sale of complex debt obligations by investment banks ultimately did the money markets in.

The author correctly pinpoints to a culture of greed and bungled regulation which brought us here in the first place. Examples of Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch are all there. In order to truly appreciate the narrative, the reader must have a mid to high level knowledge of financial markets. While the book is perhaps not intended for those with a basic knowledge of finance, it does a good job of explaining what went wrong and how to change the practices that led to one of the greatest financial crisis of our times.

The market for books of this nature is getting rather cluttered. Hence, Gilbert has used all his experience to offer a detailed account that is not too bland, simply in order for his work to stand out. It does not disappoint and is a telling indictment of how Wall Street's tolerance for extremes made the credit crisis inevitable. As with books of this nature, students of finance and readers with a mid to high level market knowledge would enjoy reading it. I suspect it would also make for uncomfortable reading for some in financial circles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Morten Pedersen on 10 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's based on the usual story - mortgages that shouldn't have been given, mortgage backed securities not worth ratings agencies 'AAA' rating, caused by too much liquidity, and failure on the investment banks behalves to analyse successes as well as failures.

Once the liquidity dried up, it took down Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers as well as Northern Rock, an entity financed through the short-term commercial paper market.

It's very similar to a lot of other books on the topic, so if you've read one of those, chances are you know most of this already. It is slightly more technical than others, however, and it does a good job explaining some of the more technical details such as the operation of money market funds, and why "breaking the buck" matters.

It finally highlights the societal issue of the smartest people entering finance rather than science, which is clearly an issue in today's society.
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Format: Hardcover
In 'Complicit' Mark Gilbert provides a crisp and succinct account of the credit crisis and its root causes. Though a detailed book, it's accessible and not too long, with Gilbert doing a good job of shining a light on the financial mechanics without drowning the reader in jargon or complexity.

He is good when relating how the financial spasms related to the real world - bringing out how a collapse of AIG would have immediate ramifications in the main street economy. The pyschology of the various players involved is explored with clarity - the analysis of the abilities of traders and the management of these mythical beasts is alarming. Gilbert maintains a strong and consistent moral perspective, isolating the avarice, stupidity in some cases, and chicanery of the main protagonists.

He concludes with well-crafted and compelling policy prescriptions, particularly striking at the heart of the problems of the rating agencies and raising powerful questions over the make-up and leadership of central banks (questions he put forward before this crisis it should be noted). The book also has a good index, which has aided me more than handful of times already in the month since I read it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Credit crunch for dummies 10 Feb. 2010
By A. James - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mark's orange-box approach to finance is always refreshing. As in his regular columns, Complicit avoids financial jargon, and shuns the usual splurge of rumour and myth. His specialty is often in spotting the obvious when everyone else has missed it, which makes the credit crisis an ideal target. But the book also carries a harsh message which is that if you allow yourself to be uniformed about something that matters, you can't then complain when it smacks you on the back of your head. In essence, we let the "bankers" turn the health of the global economy into their day spa. If we don't step up and take charge, it will happen again, and again. If you don't let someone take advantage of you, they can't take advantage of you... Mark says it's time to take charge... I'd recommend this book as compulsory reading for economics students at every level and anyone who has even a casual interest in finance and markets.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Complicit 27 Jan. 2010
By Ellen P. Lafleche-christian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There aren't many people who can say they've sailed through this latest financial blip unscathed. Most of us have been impacted in some way or another. Many of us have looked for someone to blame the credit crisis on. Mark Gilbert thinks we're all to blame either by active participation or by being bystanders.

In Complicit: How greed and collusion made the credit crisis unstoppable, he explains why. The securities industry grew with leaps and bounds over the past few years and society as a whole reaped the rewards of freely available credit at super-low interest rates. The global financial authorities like the government, the banks and the money managers all looked the other way while lining their pockets.

The list of those to blame doesn't stop there. Realtors freely took advantage of the increase in home buying and appraised houses at fictitious levels. Banks and credit unions lent money to people who had no hope of paying back their mortgages. Homeowners bought properties at rates they knew they wouldn't be able to afford to repay. The average price of a U.S. single family home doubled in the period from 1989 to 2003 from $113,000 to $229,000.

In 2006, at the same time the US housing marketed rocketed, the global derivatives market grew at the fastest pace on record. The total outstanding amount grew by 40% to an amazing $415 trillion according to Gilbert. This uncheck growth could only continue as long as people kept ignorning the warning signs of a coming collapse. In 2006, some markets began to make the connection and the impact of years of risky financial decisions began to be felt.

Mark Gilbert offers an in depth explanation of how this credit crisis grew to the point where it was felt around the world. He explains how each segment of the market was involved in the crisis and backs up his findings with facts, figures and percentages.

If you want to understand how this became a crisis so that you can be aware of the warning signs if it happens again, I highly recommend this informative read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Future Classic? 10 Feb. 2010
By R. Pearson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Gilbert sets out the timeline and triggers for the Global Recession in an easy-to-read style that will appeal to all and is well enough explained for those outside of the City to follow easily.

None of the "I single-handedy invented the CDO market" or "I told you it was going to happen in my previous book" rubbish but an in-depth explanation from a man who was sat in the Bloomberg news room watching it all unfold.

"Complicit" has the potential to be compulsory reading for future generations wishing to try and learn from the mistakes that were made.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Infromative, Pleasurable and Concise Read 18 Sept. 2010
By Christopher K - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a book that covers every aspect of the financial crisis which began in 2006, look no further. This is one of those books that come along once in a while that teach you a tremendous amount and has a lot of information but is a pleasure to read. The author's style is straight forward and has an entertaining dry with to it. The thing that makes this concise book so special is the author introduces the reader to tough topics such as derivatives and credit investments and does it in such a way that anyone can understand it. I will say there were a few terms that the author defined but didn't fully explain such as CDO's and SIV's but I was able to look these up in Wikipedia to enhance my understanding. The books stay away from the politics of the credit crunch and ensuing recession. The author skillfully explains all the conditions and players leading up to the credit crunch /real estate bubble burst and recession. It's truly a comprehensive work. It does a wonderful job at showing how the entire investment market was so interrelated on a global scale, that any falling would effect everything.

Chapter 1 explains how real estate values were completely overinflated and made for an attractive investment as the stock market was stagnant at the time. It was an investing crazy with no thought to risk behind it. It further explains how banks that made mortgage loans no longer had a stake in the risks as the debts were sold off to investors therefore the bank had no further risk once they were sold off. Home owners also used their houses as ATM machines continually drawing on the equity. All the while, history teaches us what goes up must come down. All the players bet on values just going up and up.

Chapter 2 explains how when the debt derivatives created by the financial world were sold off, the ratings companies were paid by the originators to give it high ratings (a big conflict of interest) Furthermore since these investments were brand new, there really was no reliable way of rating them. High ratings proven dreadfully wrong. Derivatives have no intrinsic value like a business does with its assets, revenues, reputation... Derivatives are only worth what someone else will pay for them. And when no one wants them, guess what?

Chapter 3 goes into how there was a flood of cash into the market that volatility disappeared giving the false impression to investors that risk has declined. There were warning signs though, ignored by all. Everyone wanted the party to continue.

Chapter 4 explains how China flooded the world with cheap goods and reinvested it's profits in the financial institutions allowing money to flow freely and keeping inflation incredibly low. Another false sign of stability. When the housing markets had some shocks, money then moved into equity invest markets furthermore making the supply of money so cheap.

Chapter 5 shows how banks only reward brokers when they make gains and do little to no studying on investments that tank to understand why. As the market unraveled, banks reluctantly tried to write off losses which were truly understated losses as the bank could not comprehend just how toxic the assets were. They tried to offset losses with their own capital to save their reputation. The reality was there wasn't enough capital to curtail losses ultimately and firms like Bear and Lehman found themselves in a true liquidity problem.

Chapters 6, 7 8 and 9 explains how as the market unraveled banks lost trust in each other, as well as depositors and liquidity essentially froze. Therefore they could not return capital as investors demanded. LIBOR soared and cash became even more expensive and liquidity further froze and banks would not lend to other banks - Everyone was on their own! As a result, banks glutted money and would not release any to consumers. The credit crunch was in full swing.

Chapter 10 discusses how Bear Sterns fell and was saved by the Fed, Lehman went bankrupt, Merrill was purchased and AIG saved. This created a moral hazard as bankers now knew risk was irrelevant as the Fed and central banks would bail them out if they got into trouble. The Feds choice of saving one but not the other gave the wrong signal. It also delves into how central banks had academics not real business people running the show therefore they made the rules up as they went along to solve the crisis because they had no real knowledge to go by.

Chapter 11 gives possible future solutions to prevent this crisis from happening again. In my opinion some are naive since bankers will do everything they can to prevent these fixes from happening as they will curtail profits through regulations.

Everyone is to blame for this crisis. The author explains what happened in other country's markets not just the US.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Another Book Review by the Aleph Blog 12 Feb. 2011
By David Merkel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am not sure how many current economic crisis books I have reviewed. I think I am getting close to a dozen and I am currently reading "Fault Lines." I'm not sure I want to do many more crisis book reviews. Tonight's review is Complicit, by Mark Gilbert of Bloomberg.

Bloomberg columnists are typically good writers, with detailed knowledge of their subject areas, and a no-nonsense approach to writing. This book from Mark Gilbert is no different. As Joe Friday often said, "All we want are the facts, ma'am."

And for the most part, that's what you get in Complicit. It is not a long book at 173 pages, but it comprehensively chronicles the growth in leverage, and how it spread to many areas of the investment markets.

When bubbles grow, everyone is a friend. Underwriting becomes lax, limits are stretchable, FICO scores are pessimistic approximations, etc. Risk is transitory; we originate to sell. Regulators don't want to stand in the way of seeming prosperity. Nor do politicians.

Leverage gets higher in explicit and implicit ways. Credit spreads get tight as a drum. It is a virtuous cycle... until it become a vicious cycle.

In the bust, credit spreads rise, cutting off the possibility of refinancing. Then asset defaults come, and GSE and bank insolvencies.

Central banks did not view inflation broadly enough, focusing on goods price inflation, and ignoring the asset inflation that was distorting the economy. They disclaimed an ability to see, much less deal with bubbles.

The high yield market became a frenzy for yield, with CDO equity bidding for lousy bonds and default protection on lousy corporations. Debt spreads tightened to levels that indicated perfection had arrived.

Investors chased risk, seeking returns. There were too many parties willing to make fixed commitments, because they needed to earn a lot. Balance sheets were ignored, and income statements were everything. History being bunk, was thrown out the window, because it was different this time, we were in a new era.

The crash in Shanghai was the first warning in February 2007, followed by the equity quant crisis in August 2007, and the breakdown in the money markets. All of the clever ways parties used to lever up short-term credit blew up, forcing banks to take credit back onto their balance sheets. At that point, everyone should have dumped the banks, but few did; leverage was too high, and asset prices were falling.

The critical decision was bailing out Bear Stearns. I agree with Gilbert; either both Lehman and Bear should have been bailed out or neither. I think not bailing Bear and Lehman out would have led to the best outcome. After Bear failed, other banks would have moved to straighten themselves out. We might not have had as much failure had as we eventually did. The inconsistency of regulation, as well as the unwillingness or regulators to be tough added to the crisis.

The book covers the September 2008 climax well, but takes us past that, offering possible solutions. I particularly liked the ideas of limiting the number of academics in important regulatory posts, and having more regulators with practical experience. I also liked central bankers being proactive on bubbles, and the asset/liability matching inherent in paying those that make long term decisions with financial instruments that last for the term of the decision, and are contingent on the credit quality of that decision. An example would be paying securitization originators with pieces of the subordinated tranches.

I liked the book; for those with limited time, the book is particularly suitable, because it is brief.


Gilbert's style is hard-hitting; though many financial companies took advantage of government largesse, few practically considered the possibility of bailouts while the boom was going on; they were pursuing profit with little thought of systemic risk. There was a lot of greed, but in my opinion, few expected bailouts, but took them when they were offered.

Who would benefit from this book?

Most people would benefit from this book on the crisis.
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