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Fool's Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe [Paperback]

Gillian Tett
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 May 2010

In the mid 1990s, at a vast hotel complex on a private Florida beach, dozens of bankers from JP Morgan gathered for what was to become a legendary off-site meeting. It was a wild weekend. But among the drinking, nightclubbing and fist-fights lay a more serious purpose - to assess the possibility of building a business around the new-fangled concepts of credit derivatives.

The group at the heart of this revolution was an intense team, made up of individuals with a supreme sense of loyalty to each other and to the bank - for years, nothing could break them apart. But when, finally, the team dispersed, the innovations spread far beyond their original intentions, producing perversions in the mortgage market that ultimately culminated in disaster.

Part real-life thriller, part investigation and exposé, this searing narrative takes us deep inside the shadowy world of complex finance - a perfect storm for the credit crunch

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Fool's Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe + Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street + The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (6 May 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0349121893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349121895
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gillian Tett has worked for the Financial Times for fifteen years, where she runs the global markets. In 2008 she won the British Press Award for the Business Journalist of the Year. She often appears on high-profile discussion programmes such as Today and she lectures widely. She has a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge

Product Description


** 'A truly gripping narrative . . . The fact that Tett is able to reproduce such raw private communications is a tribute to her journalistic abilities (Dominic Lawson, SUNDAY TIMES)

** 'Her blow-by-blow story is an impressive piece of detective work. She pulls back the curtain on a closed, unaccountable world of finance (Will Hutton, GUARDIAN)

** 'An absorbing 15-year gallop across the Wild West of the world's financial markets . . . Tett sketches a system in the grip of a great error, emanating outwards from a cadre of elite traders who were able to repel any attempt to monitor, question or restrain them (Stephen Foley, INDEPENDENT)

** 'A very readable, well-informed account of the way investment bankers invented, promoted and profited from the . . . financial products that were at the heart of the financial collapse (Vince Cable, Daily Telegraph)


`Her blow-by-blow story is an impressive piece of detective work. She pulls back the curtain on a closed, unaccountable world of finance' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mea non culpa 3 May 2010
The subtitle could have been: 'How the Unrestrained Greed of Everyone Else Corrupted J.P.Morgan's Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe: How a Saintly Band of Bankers Rewrote the Rules of Finance and Unleashed an Innovation Storm that they can't be Blamed for.

If you were to take a walk past J.P.Morgan's mid-town offices, I wouldn't be surprised if you were to see employees from the PR Dept. handing out copies of this book to passers-by. Although it gives a fairly decent, if superficial, run through of events, it is hampered by its partial perspective - seen exclusively through the prism of a team of J.P.Morgan bankers who claim most of the credit for the financial innovations that ultimately wrecked the world economy, but little of the blame - which is, at least partly, dumped at the door of those dastardly regulators for not breaking up the party when it was in full swing and Chuck Prince was still dancing.

This small band of fun-loving, ambitious, and moreover, idealistic financial geniuses discovered that, if they could dice up various debt products and sell them on, and then 'insure' the risk of default by selling cover even to those not holding that risk - 'exposures could be transferred to the most efficient holders of that risk'. Alternatively, it could be transferred more efficiently to those unaware of what those risks really were - particularly if it could be rubber-stamped as AAA by agencies paid by the sellers of those products. At no point is there the suggestion of any awareness that dislocating the originators of loans from the risk of default might not be an unalloyed boon.

All that was needed was to convince the regulators that these new product markets could be self-policing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lighting a cavern with a 40 watt bulb 9 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I am always very impressed by Gillian Tett when she appears on Newsnight which she frequently does. So I was expecting a trenchant analysis of how bankers' greed caused the credit crisis and a laying bare of all the machinations which would switch on the lightbulb of true understanding. Sadly, I don't really think you get this, although the title leads you to expect that you will.

I could be wrong, but I see the hand of the publisher in this narrative. It concentrates on the personalities (or at least some of them, principally those at J.P. Morgan) behind the boom in derivatives, at the expense of the mechanisms. But even these personalities are only sketched with broad brushstrokes - we know little about the characters and nothing about their lives outside the bank. We don't know for example how big their bonuses were, although that might have been enlightening. The office politics of banking aren't particularly interesting and frankly, no one could care less when they lose their jobs in power struggles and takeovers. As a human interest story, it doesn't work.

But equally, it disappoints slightly from a technical analysis. This is because not only are derivatives beyond simple options often opaque - and this is the tale of the invention of the most opaque derivatives imaginable - but because banking itself is completely opaque to the layman (and one increasingly suspects, to bankers too). It would have been good to understand how banks actually make the prodigious sums they do and how the alchemy works whereby simple deposits of real money from people and businesses are multiplied many times over into stranger and stranger loans. The book tells us nothing about this.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a biased account... 29 Sep 2010
By mikkip
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Gillian Tett's book reads easily and is informative to the layman. However, the account is one-sided and omits to mention many pertinent points. My guess is that the author, being a professional journalist, did not want to raise the hackles of the very people on whom she depends for an inside track. Therefore, there is little mention of the short term incentives (i.e. bonuses) of the bankers who are the 'heroes' of her story. These as much as anything were the driving force for the 'unrestrained greed' within the banking community. Nor is there enough talk about how bankers oppose transpareny as this would cut into their ability to charge exorbitant fees and huge bid-offer spreads... in short this is an account which does not dig deep enough into the reasons why...
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95 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight into the human drama 8 May 2009
This is the first properly considered book about the financial crisis to be published. Gillian Tett is well known as a financial journalist (working for the FT in London). Accordingly, you might think this book has been rushed out to simply rehearse the emerging consensus view on the causes of the financial crisis. Not so! This is a very impressive volume. To start with - Gillian Tett knows the spider's web of complex structured products at the heart of this story well enough to be able to describe it simply. That is the mark of true mastery. What is best about this book, however, is the way it tells the human story. That is the story of the innovators at J.P. Morgan who created these products and realised at an early stage that they left behind a kind of nuclear waste that needed to be properly contained - particularly so in relation to derivatives based on residential mortgages (the default pattern of which was essentially unknowable until recently). Other banks didn't realise this (or didn't care) and just left that waste sitting on their balance sheets, or worse, shifted it to quasi-subsidiary vehicles where it was hidden and supported by short-term funding that quickly evaporated at the first sign of trouble. Ultimately, the book shows that financial innovation is not a problem per se - it's the use to which such innovation was put that created problems.

Overall - this is a very informative and interesting read which has clearly been in the planning for some time. A well considered book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
My dad loved this book
Published 2 months ago by Antheadawn nichollsA
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
item just as described. Perfect condition. on time. no hassle what so ever. really good value and a brilliant read
Published 5 months ago by graham hodgins
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete systemic meltdown
This book analyzes the worldwide financial crisis of the first decade of the 21st century from the point of view of one of the major market participants who created and sold... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Luc REYNAERT
2.0 out of 5 stars FOOL'S GOLD
Virginia Woolf reminds us that we can only assess a book by reference to its category. If the work does not meet our expectations because we fail to identify its genre before we... Read more
Published 10 months ago by DCC Gaster
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
It is good and the delivery is good for me too. The problem is that I haven't got time to finish it.
Published 11 months ago by Yi JIN
5.0 out of 5 stars A real insight into finance.
This author and the book opens up the world of finance and who was fundamentally responsible for the financial meltdown that occurred.
Published 12 months ago by Charles E. Greenwood
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting trip to the world of credit derivatives.
Very interesting trip to the world of credit derivatives. The author is not a PhD on Finance, however she can explain a very complicated theme is a simple yet technically correct... Read more
Published 12 months ago by G L Rocha
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling objective account of the greatest financial debacle in...
This book provides a thorough and fairly technical analysis of exactly how the crisis of 2007-08 unfolded, whilst detailing its root causes. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Martin
2.0 out of 5 stars A good technical account of the financial crisis of 2007 / 08
This is a good technical and historical account of the events leading up to the financial crisis of 2007 / 08 - and events thereafter. Read more
Published 18 months ago by D. Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this and understand the root or our economic problems
This book explains clearly how the financial problems began and mushroomed, with copious anecdotes, quotes and references for the reader to look into further if required. Read more
Published 18 months ago by GP
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