Customer Reviews


61 Reviews
5 star:
 (27)
4 star:
 (23)
3 star:
 (9)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and whilst I have not unlike some reviewers read this non stop, I could not waited to get back to it. I have even bored a friend at dinner about it. And she is an archaeologist.

This is a story of the people behind the subprime mortgage crash, and it builds up by discussing how some of the players got involved in the market...
Published 24 months ago by Susan Handley

versus
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars whitewash
The authors have indeed done extensive interviewing and told a complex story well. Yes indeed, the book is excellently researched, comprehensive and authoritative. For these seeming achievements the book certainly appears to deserve 5 stars.

A superb reprise at the start of chapter 18 explains: "...the creation of CDOs was the apotheosis of the previous 25...
Published on 13 Jan 2012 by D&D


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 23 Dec 2012
By 
Susan Handley (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: All The Devils Are Here: Unmasking the Men Who Bankrupted the World (Kindle Edition)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and whilst I have not unlike some reviewers read this non stop, I could not waited to get back to it. I have even bored a friend at dinner about it. And she is an archaeologist.

This is a story of the people behind the subprime mortgage crash, and it builds up by discussing how some of the players got involved in the market and manipulated it and profited by it or lost everything. Few of those involved were innocent, whether by being complicit in producing products that they knew would be dangerous or "toxic" as one package was called, or because they were too greedy to investigate what they were buying. From the regulators, the rating agencies, the GSE (government sponsored enterprises), to the banks, mortgage companies even to the borrowers, everyone let greed hurtle them towards disaster.

Some have commented on how difficult it is to read. Yes this is not a quick read but it is fascinating. I have an accounting background but not in banking or treasury and sometimes I could not remember the detail behind a CDO or a Credit Default Swap but the narrative swept me along regardless. Here is tale of greed encouraging men and women to exploit a system were regulation either could not keep up or was not there at all, as new products were created and/or political machinations stopped the few regulators who tried from controlling the monster.

There are also complaints that this is solely concentrated on the US. Perhaps the title as it refers to the men who bankrupted the world is misleading. I for one would have liked mention of the other collapses But I also see it as a strength that the area focused on just the US. If there was too wide a focus then some of the pace of the book might have been lost. And after all this was a book written by Americans for Americans.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read., 4 Jan 2011
By 
Andrew Graeme (Kiltarlity, Inverness-shire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read this book from cover to cover in three days, when I was supposed to be working. I feel that it was time well spent!

After a gripping prologue, the book begins slowly enough, setting out all the players and riders. And if you just happen to not be an investment banker, you may need to keep a page open on Wikipedia, to remind yourself now and then just exactly how does a Credit Default Swap work and what is the difference between a Collateralised Debt Obligation and a synthetic CDO. But trust me, nearly every non-investment banker I have spoken to, did not know what a CDO and a CDS was until 2007. Then we all got to learn this stuff in a hurry!

The further you get into this book, the better it gets. The pace picks up and gets faster and faster, until, right at the end, we get to disaster after disaster, as deluded CEOs desperately try to wriggle this way and that, in a glorious 'dance macabre' as the dominoes fall.

This truly gripping yarn of delusion, foolishness, incompetence, hysteria, fraud and utter, unbridled avarice explains how we went from well-intentioned moves to provide safe investments and finance for affordable housing, to a world in which one company discovered that 30% of its loans were grossly inflated and going to dilapidated houses that nobody was moving into and nobody wanted. This exciting book tells us how mortgage companies and banks bundled debts into these CDOs, typically each CDO being worth about a billion Dollars and sold them off in bundles. We learn how the strange mathematics and the even stranger logic of taking a huge pile of very bad debt and, by lumping it together in these giant CDOs, the rating agencies could be paid to rate this stuff as triple-A! CDOs that were supposed to be just 10% sub-prime mortgages, the rest being safe mixed debt, from commercial to credit cards, turned out to be 85% sub-prime junk papers.

If there has to be a criticism of this book, it has to be that no mention is made of the madness that was happening in the rest of the World. France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia and of course the UK all had their own versions of this credit bubble. In the UK, houses were sold at up to thirty times annual earnings and based on the lunacy of self-assessment and in some areas, valuations increased by 400% in ten years. The Germans have stricter mortgage laws, so they had to import the madness from the US. In the UK, huge banks folded or (e.g. Lloyds and RBS) had to be taken into government ownership. Perhaps that could be a new chapter in a second edition?

But this is the pure American story of how giants, such as Ameriquest, Countrywide, AIG and Fannies Mac and Mae were brought to their knees by their own greed, whilst smaller fry, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and many, many small mortgage brokers, fell in a giant game of dominoes.

This is the story of the day the banks fell for their own Ponzi scheme!

Just buy this book. If you can't buy it, borrow it - but you can't have mine, as there's already a line waiting to read it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars whitewash, 13 Jan 2012
By 
D&D - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The authors have indeed done extensive interviewing and told a complex story well. Yes indeed, the book is excellently researched, comprehensive and authoritative. For these seeming achievements the book certainly appears to deserve 5 stars.

A superb reprise at the start of chapter 18 explains: "...the creation of CDOs was the apotheosis of the previous 25 years of modern finance. They were stuffed with risk yet...large chunks of them were considered as safe as Treasury bonds...[even though] they existed solely to make complex bets on securities that existed somewhere else in the system (which, as often as not, were themselves bets on securities that existed somewhere else in the system).

"The...rating agencies'...profits depended on stamping these complex bets with a triple-A rating...They were made possible by the invention of the credit derivative, the most glittering innovation in finance. And their raw material - the debt upon which everything else was built - was mortgages, quite often poorly underwritten subprime mortgages. The stew was now complete.

"On another level, synthetic CDOs were a classic example of how things never really changed on Wall Street. The sellers of synthetic CDOs had a huge informational advantage over the buyers, just as bond sellers have historically had an advantage over bond buyers. Buying a synthetic CDO was like playing poker with an opponent who knew every card in your hand. Conflicts abounded...Just as a cash CDO was the perfect mechanism for laundering risky mortgages, so was a synthetic CDO the perfect vehicle for laundering positions a firm wanted to get off its books." Plenty of traders were aware that their subprime holdings were junk.

In chapter 22: "...as the mortgage market descended into utter chaos [during that awful summer of 2007] and decades of wrongheaded policies, craven behavior, foolish mistakes, and misguided beliefs had come together to create a financial volcano that was beginning to stir" - the authors imply there wasn't really any conspiracy, just bad luck.

The book does repeatedly place blame but seems to deliberately point only at the patsies. A few pages later it does (inadvertently?) reveal some truths: "the banks' dirty little secret was now out in the open. It wasn't just Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] that had been creating moral hazard all these years. So had the nation's big banks. They had taken on terrible risks, built up immense leverage [bets], and created such tight interconnections with their derivatives books that the failure of any one of them could bring down all the others. When things got bad, they assumed they had an 'implicit government guarantee'..."

The book would have you believe that many originally unrelated and tiny acorns of corrupt practices proliferated - by chance - into mighty oaks of fraud and that all these just happened to intertwine into a cataclysmic debacle (about which Obama claims "no laws were broken" - thereby condoning the widespread deceptive sales practices). Where they cannot be totally swept under the carpet, a few of the more major manipulators are mentioned, but mainly in passing and with forgiving descriptions. Greenspan, for example, is repeatedly excused because of his "free market" views. For this whitewash, throughout the book (for instance, chapter 2 of Griftopia" by Matt Taibbi is a much more honest review of Greenspan and his career), it really deserves zero or even negative stars, so my 3 stars are on the generous side.

Repeatedly it excuses the national government at every level, the government regulators (considered "a joke" by Wall Street, which had spent hundreds of millions to achieve that outcome), the Federal Reserve and even Wall Street generally. Why no mention of the fact that the US Federal Reserve is no more federal than Fedex and has no reserves but is the single most profitable business in the US?

Why no mention that the so-called Federal Reserve - and our own Bank of "England" - is fully owned by private banks, the very financial terrorists who created the meltdown covered in this book and to whom this so-called Federal Reserve (as discovered since the publication of this book) then handed over 12 TRILLION - without conditions! (search on "the world's biggest scam" for more, just in case you missed this towering inferno of a crime, which has also - of course - gone unpunished) [later note: staggering as this amount is, David Wilcock explains that it is now 26 trillion - search on Wilcock + "26 trillion"]

Why such scant coverage by mainstream media (msm) of this theft of 12 TRILLION? Why no mention of the huge gap between the shadow banking system (meaning off-ledger or off-balance or fraudulent financial activity or - frankly - massive organised crime via white-collar theft/embezzlement) and the on-the-books banking system (only the masses are unaware that off-balance sheet activities and separate conduit vehicles have created a second shadow banking system as large as the visible system)? Day in and day out the msm deflect our attention to the odd burglary or murder or (briefly) to rioting (while denying that riots have anything to do with the increasing poverty).

The City of London's hypothecation and rehypothecation practices have recently come into the lime light, via MF Global and JPMorgan, and it may come as a surprise to many that the City, along with Washington D.C. and the Vatican, are not in practice subject to the laws of the country in which each is situated. The real degree of supervision is minimal at best so it's an economy that rewards only insider trading, which is why the British government is so keen to avoid outside control. This book, focused on Wall Street, fails to address how this enables and encourages much of the still-continuing and massive crime spree, but perhaps a future edition might, as the story is still far from over?

In the meantime, some ad hoc suggestions:
"Currency Wars" by James Rickards, who is famous, among other things, for his ability to accurately predict the Fed's moves ahead of time
"Treasure Islands" by Nicholas Shaxson reveals much about offshore tax havens
"Creating Wealth" by Hallsmith & Lietaer is a practical and comprehensive guide for everyone who wants a vibrant local economy without destroying the planet, and its people, in the process
"Debt: The First 5,000 Years" by David Graeber, a fascinating exploration of debt vs money, economic systems and society
"Natural Capitalism" is another great book on future possibilities, based entirely on existing successes, with overview case studies of these provided as uplifting examples.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As close as we'll get to the truth?, 22 April 2013
By 
Clever Spud (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was particularly interested to read this as Bethany McLean wrote "The Smartest People in the Room" about the Enron debacle. Unfortunately one thing led to another and it lay in the bookcase for a couple of years before I got around to it.

Suffice to say that the passage of time has done little to change my view of the core of the book. Primarily focusing on a US-centric view of the financial meltdown, "All the Devils Are Here" does however cast its net to not only cover how the house of cards collapsed around the world, but provides a fascinating history for what various governments and regulatory bodies did wrong over the previous three decades to let it happen.

What's revealed is an infuriating perfect storm of financial de-regulation, government incompetence (if not outright corruption) and a pack of hyaenas in the financial services industry that were effectively left to their own devices with no nobler goal than the lining of their own pockets at the expense of the public purse and their own customers.

I don't normally approve of spoilers in reviews but SPOILER ALERT: the bad guys mostly got away with and if anything has happened in the three years since the book was published it's that they are now back at it, business as normal, just waiting for the public gaze to falter so they can rinse and repeat it all over again. And with the collusion of a bought media and governments of all stripes who rely on third party funding, it won't be long now. Give it another ten years and we'll be due our next financial meltdown.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biggest Betting Shop In The World, 4 Sep 2011
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
American journalists have always had a record for producing long and meticulous accounts of events that seem outlandish to the man in the street. In this case a lot of financial data meets some very odd personalities. The authors manage to take us through much of the complexity into a world where stupid greedy and arrogant men rule their team-playing subordinates (eliminating any that show signs of individual thought) and bully their regulators using hired political help. The result is wide-spread financial problems for which many of the non-financial population will pay for with taxes and jobs. Having made a career of being out of step with management I found the whole story wearyingly familiar, especially the bit where the bosses find they've been rolled in much the same manner as their own marks.

If I have any criticism of this book it relates to three areas. Firstly, the almost total immersion in America. I would have liked to know if this was entirely an American-generated problem into which the rest of the world only injected funds. Secondly, I felt the end of the story was told too fast. It was as if the cast of villains for whom we had selected many a punishment were washed away in tsunami. Thirdly, I would have liked more on Paulson's abandonment of Lehman Brothers - blamed by Anatole Kaletzky for much of what followed.

But these are Oliver Twist complaints: Please, sir, I want some more!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars All-encompassing Account of the Financial Crisis, 13 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having read and enjoyed Bethany McLeans account of the Enron debacle, I decided to read All the Devils Are Here, although, needless to say, it is not the first book I have read on the subject. This account trumps most others due to its depth and size of scope. It takes you from the events that sowed the seeds to the crisis, like the advent of the mortgage-backed security, to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. In doing so, it covers all important institutions and literally hundreds of characters. Some, notably Alan Greenspan, come off in a very bad light, while for example Hank Paulson is portrayed more positively. However, in spite of its title, the book is not about the right or wrongdoings of individuals, but rather an account of a colossal systemic failure. This ranges from the fraudulent subprime lenders and CDO underwriters to the FED and other regulatory agencies as well as politicians at the federal level, who completely abandoned their roles as overseers and among other things exempted lenders from state laws passed to prevent predatory lending. Particularly interesting was also the parts about the GSEs Fannie and Freddie, run as private companies for shareholder profit at the expense of the US government. Although not as thrilling as for example Michael Lewis The Big Short, All the Devils Are Here make it up by being detailed and insightful.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Blame game, 6 Feb 2013
We all love pointing the finger, but not at ourselves. Wanna get at the truth? You're probably better off starting out with something like Davis Graeber's Debt: the first 5000 years - but just to pique your interest, star reviewing team D&D refer us to the Forbes article "The Four Companies That Control the 147 Companies That Own Everything": in a nutshell, the real power to control the world lies with four companies: McGraw-Hill, which owns Standard & Poor's; Northwestern Mutual, which owns Russell Investments, the index arm of which runs the benchmark Russell 1,000 and Russell 3,000; CME Group which owns 90% of Dow Jones Indexes; and Barclay's, which took over Lehman Brothers and its Lehman Aggregate Bond Index, the dominant world bond fund index. Together, these four firms dominate...the world's money. Deep doodoo indeed
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Gordon Gekko is alive and well, has bankrupted the world and is back for an encore..., 16 Oct 2011
By 
The Guardian (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera have written an entertaining and rigorous examination of the causes of the global financial meltdown. 'All the Devils' in the book's title add up to more than 100 named individuals but in addition tens of thousands of property agents, speculators, salesmen, regulators and other players who collectively contributed to the subprime mortgage scam which almost bankrupted the world, are described but go un-named.

McLean and Nocera chart the origin of sub-prime mortgage selling back in the 1980s and how the gradual rise (`like creeping slime, which slowly took over the industry') of borderline criminal practices became endemic and to dominate the activities of many huge financial corporations, all afraid to be left behind and miss the free-cash boat. The origins of the `securitisation' process whereby mortgages aggressively sold to people almost certain to default were wrapped up in `derivatives', `credit default swaps', `collateralised debt obligations' and other such esoteric inventions is described with forensic detail: the traditional bond between borrower and lender, and due diligence before granting a loan, were discarded in the scramble for quick profits and commissions. The higher default risk was bundled up and sold on to other institutions around the world which became so far removed from the origin of the product they had little idea of the risks they were taking on. As long as the huge commissions and bonuses continued to be paid to all the players in the game, no-one cared about the eventual consequences and few dared point out the Emperor in reality had no clothes on.

The authors run through the bios of many big players, like Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide and Roland Arnall of Ameriquest, to enable the reader to see them as real 3-D people who got caught up in the game and played their part in engineering the crisis. Regulators failed to keep up with the growing esoteric complexities of new bundled financial products; Congress was aggressively lobbied so that less and less capital was required by financial institutions to back-up loans. Regulators were led to believe that the properties against which loans were taken out could always be re-possessed and sold, and prices would keep on rising, but nothing was done to protect against common practices of over-valuation and high fees paid to sellers before any of the loan principle was repaid. People were scammed and ripped-off on a grand scale, all on the noble principle of `extending home-ownership.' Fannie and Freddie, Government sponsored enterprises, joined in the game because they didn't want to be left behind and their CEOs justifiably believed that, if it all went wrong, the Federal Government would always bail them out.

The ratings agencies, like Moodys, played their part: browbeaten into giving triple-A ratings to bad-risk `structured financial products' and played off against their competitors ("If you don't grant us a triple-A, we'll pay Standard & Poor's to do the job instead") they proved next to useless in the real world, only downgrading a product or organization (like Enron, for instance) days or hours before collapse when everyone else could see what was about to happen and it could no longer be concealed.

The book is quite long at 364 close-printed pages, plus index. It contains a lot of detail but never gets bogged down; in fact the style is racy and continuously instructive. Of all the books on the financial meltdown this is one of the best. If there is a criticism it might be that the focus is exclusively on the USA (where admittedly the subprime scandal originated and slowly contaminated the investment world with stored-up catastrophe); the parts played by debts run up by Eurozone governments like Greece and Ireland, or the catastrophic collapse of the Icelandic banking system which lost more money in a few days than the entire productive capacity of the Icelandic economy, are given scant attention. Of course it's the same basic cause everywhere: overspending with money you don't have, cooking the books, immersing everything in a sea of complexity so deep no-one really understands what is going on; endemic fraud on a massive scale, and old-fashioned greed.

Buy or borrow the book if you can. You don't need a degree in economics to follow McLean and Nocera's lucid text, just be average-smart and pay attention. At the end of the book, you'll understand more about how it all happened, and why.

Could it all happen again? Sure it could, and it probably will.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars All the Devils are Here, 13 Sep 2011
By 
Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`All the Devils are Here' is a book that explores how the financial industry brought the world economy crashing down during the credit crunch of 2008 and exposes the people at the heart of the crisis.

In a book packed full of detail we are taken through the rise and over exploitation of subprime mortgage debt by some of the biggest names on Wall Street. I gained a greater understanding of how the subprime market rose and became so pervasive, how the various banks made money from the debt it bought and traded and the depth and level of risk undertaken during the period explored and why it all eventually came tumbling down.

I agree with other reviewers that this book has quite a lot of jargon, but to be fair most of it is explained and you just need to keep these explanations in mind to fully grasp what this book has to offer. There is also a list of the people involved at the start, as well as a glossary of the various financial abbreviations to make everything a touch clearer. There are also two photo plate sections with photo's of the key players in the crisis and it's resolution, although I just skimmed this once or twice and feel it didn't really add a great deal to the book.

I would've liked some graphs, charts or other images to clarify some of the points raised and I think this would have made the book a lot easier to grasp for the general reader.

It pays to be aware that this mainly mentions the crisis from an American point of view and the UK economy is only briefly touched upon at a few moments where the stories meet. But as the crisis originated in America and then spread globally this stands to reason. But, if you want a look at the crisis from a UK, or global, point of view you should look elsewhere.

All in all this was an fascinating, if slightly heavy going read and I learnt a great deal that left me shocked and staggered at the greed and risk taken with other peoples money. Be prepared for an in-depth and testing read that won't dumb things down or insult your intelligence and you should be fine.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars The Devil... and all of the detail, 21 Aug 2011
By 
Amazon Customer - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These days the fact that someone has contributed to Vanity Fair represents, for me, a hallmark for journalistic quality - the prose is usually detailed but readable and the writers have usually been investigative as opposed to simply rehashing content third hand.

Bethany's credentials are immaculate - as well as having been a Vanity Fair contributing editor she is credited with having been one of the first to publicly blow the whistle on Enron (her book, with another co-writer 'The Smartest Guys in the Room' offers the definitive account of that 'emperor who had no clothes' saga).

Some accounts benefit from being written by the players for the immediacy but 'being there' does not qualify someone as a great communicator (Michael Lewis of 'The Big Short' being an exception).

Co-written with Joe Nocera sometimes of the New York Times, 'All the Devils are Here' sets out the background and events in painstaking detail. So thorough that at times the detail and account of the participants meant that I had to go back and re-read to keep up - a bit like trying to follow a game of three dimensional chess. To a certain extent this is one of the flaws of the book - it is so painstaking to include every protagonist that I felt the big picture was at times in danger of being obscured by the number of pieces on the board (and I make this observation despite knowing the industry).

In sections, the style of writing adopts the Cornelius Ryan approach of relaying the story from the accounts of those who were there and this is very effective in providing a front row seat sensation. In other areas the book tried too hard, in my view, to be authoritative at the expense of readability. As a result, this was a good but somewhat slow read and this may be one example of where co-writing obstructs free flow of prose.

For all of this, the authors deserve congratulations for trying to communicate the background to an immensely complicated fiasco without economising on the facts. I don't think any book could fully identify the roots of the financial crisis because they trail not only through the financial infrastructure but the fabric of society. I consider this detailed account is best read after one of the other suggested books that set some of the scenes with broader brush strokes.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Only search this product's reviews