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Fool's Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe Paperback – 6 May 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349121893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349121895
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,485 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
University.

Product Description

Review

** '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)

Review

`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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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Chuck E VINE VOICE on 3 May 2010
Format: Paperback
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 By Glidd of Glood on 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 By mikkip on 29 Sep 2010
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 By Tim Scott on 8 May 2009
Format: Hardcover
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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