Investment bankers were known as the "masters of the universe" during the 1980s. In the 1990s, that title has been usurped by the major consulting firms: McKinsey, the Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, CSC Index, Gemini, Deloitte Touche and Andersen Consulting. All exercise enormous power and influence in international business and increasingly in the public sector. Many companies do not undertake a major initiative - from the launch of a new product to a merger, to downsizing - without the assistance, advice and hefty fees of the consultants. AT&T during one recent year, for example, paid $347 million to consulting firms. This study chronicles the successes, failures and practices of the biggest and most influential firms in the consulting industry. It takes a thorough look at their impact on a world entering into the complexities of the information age. Some of the questions looked at include: are consultants the agents of change they profess to be or are they merely hired guns willing to do the dirty work for a price?; are consultants an isolated elite with an abstract view of the consequences their advice has for the real world of people who depend on corporations to earn their living? ; and will the globalization of business which they earnestly promote result in a bigger pie for all to share or a greater concentration of wealth among the elites of the world? The authors spoke to sources within the firms themselves, gaining access to clients, finding court cases which reveal inside industry practices (for instance, the Guinness Affair). James O'Shea is the author of "The Daisy Chain".