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End of Wall Street, The Paperback – 26 May 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PENGUIN USA; Reprint edition (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143118722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143118725
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.3 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 272,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By DOPPLEGANGER TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
It would be difficult to better this tale of the specific events leading up to and culminating in the near total collapse of the global monetary system. The narrative is precise, understandable and highly readable.

Mr Lowenstein, unlike many others, does not need to resort to long-winded and completely unnecessarily complicated 'spiv-academic-speak' prose that seeks to camouflage the simplistic underlying nature of the irresponsibility and greed that took a grip of the financial markets. He fully understands what has gone on, which brilliantly manifests itself in his articulate and masterful treatise.

Essential reading for just about anyone wondering what the devil has gone on in our financial markets but is worried about understanding the explanation. Also essential reading for all economists, bankers, investment managers, rating agencies, accountants, regulatory authorities and others who contributed knowingly or otherwise to the debacle, in order to reflect and hopefully repair their ways. Alas, I doubt it though!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 16 Jan 2011
Format: Hardcover
For some reasons that I ignore, there are very little reviews of this book on Amazon and so I thought "well another book on the crisis ...". But I had read "When genius failed" and highly rated it. So I gave it a try even if I had read a few books on the crisis by then. I was not disappointed and you won't be. Should you have to read only one then it should be this one. Well researched, unbiased and clearly written it gives a very good picture of what happened during the financial meltdown of 2008. Enjoy the ride.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Aug 2010
Format: Hardcover
How did mortgage loans to not-quite-prime borrowers evolve into the engine of doom for Wall Street? Journalist and best-selling author Roger Lowenstein uncovers the root causes and the culmination of the 2008 financial debacle. He explains how loans to formerly unattractive clients brought out the best in Wall Street innovation and the worst in Wall Street greed. His behind-the-scenes look at the people involved, their backgrounds and their decision making is a fascinating depiction of how the mortgage ball got rolling. Lowenstein's recounting of this now familiar story manages to excite like a novel, with pulse-pounding deadlines, superhero bureaucrats and evil villains (too many to count). He even opens his book with a lengthy "cast of characters." getAbstract recommends his saga for its you-are-there view of what really happened on Wall Street - and, particularly, what really happened during one fateful weekend in September 2008.
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By RMF on 27 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The memory of pain is often short, collectively and individually. Therein lies the inability of mankind to learn from its repeated mistakes.

Roger Lowenstein has written a well-condensed chronology of the painful failure of Wall Street's - and Main Street's - belief in ever-rising house prices financed with ever-rising debt leverage and ever-decreasing lender oversight. Painful but too soon forgotten as the stock market reaches new heights in a still limping economy. The "solution" to the resulting catastrophe embraced by the Fed of allowing some firms to fail while saving others, massively inflating its balance sheet with heterogeneous collateral and of wrapping the biggest financial institutions in an implied government ("too big to fail") guarantee, an approach whose weakness was clearly demonstrated by the collapse of Fannie and Freddie, may well be the next source of financial pain over-hanging us all while the lost jobs, lost savings and lost hopes remain uncompensated and unaddressed. Lowenstein's reminder of the 2007 to 2009 events is salutary and his short book well deserves a slow and thoughtful reading-and remembering.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 58 reviews
199 of 204 people found the following review helpful
The Origins and Story of the Financial Crisis 6 April 2010
By AdamSmythe - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the differences between Roger Lowenstein's 2000 book, When Genius Failed, and his latest book, The End of Wall Street, is that when Genius was written it plowed a lot of new ground describing the events that led up to (and followed) the collapse of the improbably-named Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) hedge fund back in 1998. (At that time, the LTCM saga was a very big deal, although the seriousness of the event has certainly been eclipsed by the more recent financial crisis.) The fact that Lowenstein was--and remains--a gifted writer just made Genius all the better. Today, in contrast, the events of the recent financial crisis are reasonably well known, and I've lost count how many books have been written on the subject. Is there room for one more? Sure. However, don't expect blinding revelations. Really. There is little new material that you probably haven't seen elsewhere. Fortunately, The End of Wall Street is well written, as you would expect from Lowenstein, so be prepared to enjoy a thoughtful, well-researched and engaging story. I haven't downgraded The End of Wall Street because it isn't the first book on its subject (although some may want to do that), but rather have rated it on the basis of how enjoyable it is. Frankly, I don't think it's quite up to When Genius Failed standards, but it's still a good effort.

This 298-page book begins with a list of its cast of characters that's over eight pages long. However, many of them--like Ben Bernanke, Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Barney Frank, Timothy Geintner, Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and others--hardly need an introduction. Lowenstein accurately tells the reader than it wasn't so much what followed the Lehman Brothers failure that was most important, but what preceded it. So we go back--way back--to the history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie, for example, dates back to 1938. (Freddie was created in 1970.) Latter, in 1968, Lyndon Johnson wanted to sell shares to the public in order to get Fannie off the government's books. Obviously, Fannie wasn't all good news, even back then.

Although I am taking some liberty at dividing the book, here are some of the main topics through which Lowenstein tells his story: (1) Fannie, Freddie and the somewhat toothless and ineffective OFHEO (Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight) that was created to watch over them; (2) Subprime loans, complete with the stories of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's CEO, NINA (no income, no asset) loans, New Century Mortgage, CDOs, etc.; (3) Other lenders, including JP Morgan and its more cautious CEO, Jamie Dimon; (4) Lehman before its fall; (5) The increasingly aggressive and competitive atmosphere among major banks, with special emphasis on CitiGroup; (6) The government takeover of Fannie and Freddie; (7) Lehman's collapse and its many aftershocks; (7) Hedge fund turmoil; (8) The TARP; (9) The Wachovia deal; (10) Bernanke and Paulson; (11) The Great Recession; and (12) The end--of Wall Street. It's not the really the end of Wall Street, of course. This is literary license. Interestingly, Lowenstein includes mention of Hyman Minsky's provocative "Instability Hypothesis," which is plus for the reader.

The book starts and ends with mention of Robert Rodriguez, the manager of two mutual funds for First Pacific Advisers (and amateur race car driver). According to Lowenstein, here was a man way ahead of his time in regards to seeing the building financial crisis. That may well be true, but Mr. Rodriguez isn't quite the investing genius he may seem in the pages of this book. In 2008, for example, with the conservative Mr. Rodriguez's stock-oriented mutual fund approximately 40% in cash for most of the year, he managed to lose almost 35%, compared to the (100% invested) S&P 500's 37% loss.

In closing, if what you are looking for is a lot of fresh meat regarding the recent financial crisis, I wouldn't buy this book. However, if you enjoy reading a lively, well-written and solidly informative summary primarily of the events that led up to the crisis, this is a good choice.
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
So far, the definitive book on our Great Recession and its causes 14 April 2010
By Jedrury - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Roger Lowenstein, an accomplished journalist on issues related to high finance and Wall Street, pens a concise, analytical and thrilling overview of our Great Recession culminating in the pinball like events of September and October 2008. While his protagonists are Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner, he neither fawns nor is overly critical, providing understanding and appreciation to their roles and the outcomes of their policies. He examines the excesses of Fannie and Freddie and the legislative refusal of Democratic Congressional leaders to reign them in. He examines the vital role of the three major rating agencies and how their failure to flag the vulnerabilities in the mortgage securities contributed to the mess. AIG and its tentacles in all areas of the financial world are probed making its highly controversial bailout understandable. When Paulson yanks its blameless president's multi million dollar bonus, the reader murmurs "ouch." Lowenstein ferrets into Morgan Stanley's teetering position explaining its final sale of stock to the Japanese. The Big Three's 10/13/08 meeting with the banks forcing the federal government's investment in them is the capstone of governmental intrusion in this time of crises. He deftly plays out his timeline from 2007 through the Obama election never allowing the reader to get lost in the narrative. Without explication, for an adroit writer like Roger Lowenstein is too subtle, it is clear that the events of this two month crisis period keyed the election of Barrack Obama. His superb closing chapter ends with an observation about the prominence of finance in the last two decades and how its central role has diminished now; thus, the title of the book. The future ramifications of the Great Recession can neither be wholly foreseen nor predicted but Lowenstein does an excellent job of forecasting the future by explaining the past.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
From Icarus to Cassandra 23 May 2010
By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When Genius Failed, Roger Lowenstein's previous book on Wall Street, was a tale of hubris. It told the story of the rise and fall of LTCM, a hedge fund led by financial superstars, which failed and was bailed out in 1998 because its managers had placed excessive trust in their models. They thought they had found the ultimate money-making formula, but they fell on the rare event nobody had anticipated: the Asian financial crisis and Russia's default on its government bonds.

The book had a hero: John Meriwether, the brilliant bond trading manager who assembled a team of financial whizkids and Nobel prize winners. John Meriwether gained a measure of fame in Michael Lewis' book Liar's Poker, where he is described by Lewis as a Salomon Brothers fixed income guru and master of Liar's Poker, a game of bluff involving the guessing of numbers on hundred dollar bills which came to define the money culture of Wall Street at that time. Meriwether had grown up a bit by the time he created LTCM, but When Genius Failed retained the youthful energy that made trading floors sound like a college students' lounge, brimming with practical jokes and laughter. Greed and arrogance were tempered by team spirit and irreverence.

By contrast, The End of Wall Street is a story of cynicism and abuse, deception and fraud. The youthful enthusiasm is gone, and all is left are the cold calculating strategies of consenting adults bent on abusing each other. In Lowenstein's rendition, Meriwether was a modern Icarus, who burned his wings by trying to reach the sun. In The End of Wall Street, the book's hero is a modern Cassandra who regularly warns his contemporaries on upcoming catastrophy. This prophet of doom is named Robert Rodriguez, a fund manager who appears at every juncture of the book to foretell the troubles ahead. He interprets a nightmare on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's absence of audited financial statements as a fateful omen and moves clear of their government-backed debt as early as 2006. He warns of an "absence of fear" and scrubbs his bond portfolio clean of "suspicious" mortgage-backed securities in mid-2007. He consistently underscores that the core issue of the crisis is capital deficiency and not just liquidity, well before the Fed and US Treasury became ready to consider injecting capital in banks. But he is an outsider to Wall Street, and all he can do is haplessly watching the crisis unfold from a distance, while protecting his investors from the ripple effects.

To me, the most eye-opening chapter was the one on the subprime lending boom. Here I learned about NINA loans (as in "no income, no asset", referring to loans for which the borrower did not provide documentation of either) and option ARMs (for "adjustable rate mortgages") and other financial products from hell by which borrowers usually ended up owing more than they had borrowed. The method by which lenders ensured that borrowers would use their property as a primary home, described by one commercial agent as a "very serious process", was reduced to, simply, checking a box. The waiting period by which borrowers who had filed a personal bankrupcy could qualify for credit was shortened from two years to just one day. Clients could state their income and wealth without being asked to document it, making some credit officers refer to these so-called stated loans as "liar loans".

The weakening of standards and suspension of disbelief by which bankers usually scrutinize potential borrowers was not reduced to the mortgage industry. It was also extended to complex financial products, for which high ratings replaced independent judgment, and to the whole financial system that was believed to have reached a state of permanent stability, leaving the risk of a serious downturn definitively behind. High leverage and excessive risk-taking was fueled by excessive trust in the market and by Wall Street's indulgent compensation practices. And regulation of derivative products was seen as not only unnecessary, but also as potentially damaging.

The End of Wall Street is not the best book on the 2008 financial collapse. The author couches his story in moral overtones and vents his indignation at every corner, with rather gratuitous attacks on academics such as Milton Friedman and Michael Jensen. The day-to-day account of the events immediately preceding and following the Lehman shock have been described in more detail elsewhere, and sometimes read like a me-too account. The title greatly oversells the book, and no attempt is made to explore the overall significance of the disappearance of investment banks from the American financial landscape. Likewise, the web of cross-obligations and the countless conflicts of interests that still mar Wall Street and make its banks too connected to fail are not touched upon. The author concludes, without further elaboration, that "the Wild West model was supplanted with a more European-seeming arrangement, in which a few elite players thrived within government's embrace". I am not convinced.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Insightful and Well-Written 23 April 2010
By Douglas C. Childers - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Roger Lowenstein's "The End of Wall Street" details the recent economic collapse by focusing primarily on the Federal Government's interaction with Wall Street as the United States banking system and the entire economy faced a total collapse due to the breakdown of the housing market. What makes Lowenstein's book unique to the multitude of other books that examines the recent economic downtown is the access the author provides to the behind the scenes dealings during this critical period. Much like, "When Genius Failed," the reader receives first-hand accounts of the banks trying to save themselves by merging with other banks, the contentious meetings between the heads of the investment banks and the Federal Reserve as to what was the appropriate course of action, and how Paulson and Bernake lobbied Congress and the White House to get the TARP legislation signed up.

I appreciated the manner in which Lowenstein presented the Government's reasoning for not bailing out Lehman, then recognizing the mistake they made due the market's reaction, and scrambling to not allow any of the other investment banks to fail. Furthermore, I came to realize the extent of Wall Street's leverage and the catastrophic implications that this posed for the entire economy. Lowenstein also points out that the problems the banks were facing were due to the banks' insufficient capital reserves, as opposed to the lack of liquidity that many economists (including Fed Chairman Ben Bernake) suspected. The final chapter is a great read that attempts to put the entire situation into its historical perspective and offers the reader a glimpse of what we can expect from Wall Street going forward.

I recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in finance and economics. Unlike some other books on this subject, Lowenstein does not go into a lot of detail about the securitization of mortgages, credit default swaps, CDOs or the role the ratings agencies played in this entire mess. Therefore, it might be a good idea for those readers to read other books that provide more guidance as to why the markets collapsed before reading "The End of Wall Street." I believe that with this background information, they will enjoy and appreciate this book much more.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Missed it by that much............. 20 May 2010
By Anthony Baird - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title promised so much more than the book actually delivers. The dustjacket uses such words as 'sizzling', 'damning' and 'searing' to describe the book's revelations but Emile Zola this book is not. At the time of writing, no custodial sentences had been passed on any of the parties responsible for the Great Financial Crisis and sadly this book will not be the one that leads to the lights being on at midnight in the offices of ambitious prosecutors. That said, it covers the ground and to the layman it is a well written history of a time when the banking industry and Wall Street lost their heads and any trace of ethics.

Roger Lowenstein employs the eighteenth century economist Adam Smith's famous phrase - 'the invisible hand', but credits this to the author of a book written only last year. Perhaps this is not the author's fault; merely the usual careless Penguin editing.

I did enjoy reading the book however, although it is not "J'accuse". Written with more passion, this book could have been truly great.
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