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Extreme Money: The Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk (Financial Times Series) Paperback – 26 Aug 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 536 pages
  • Publisher: Financial Times/ Prentice Hall; 01 edition (26 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0273723979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0273723974
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 328,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Long listed for Financial Times/ Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year 2011


Listed in Bloomberg’s Top Business Books of the Year 2011


One of’s best business books of 2011


"…a powerful book…highly readable and informative…Anyone who decodes the ratings of the three major agencies so amusingly – CCC means "Russian roulette with five bullets in the chamber" and D means "scrape your brains off the wall and place in a plastic bag"- demands to be read."
Lindsay Tanner, former Australian Minister of Finance inThe Monthly, August 2011

" While the run-up to the global financial crisis has been well documented, Das provides his own unique insights."
Luke Faulkner, Hedge Funds Review, August 2011

"...virtually in a category of its own – part history, part book of financial quotations, part cautionary tale, part textbook. It contains some of the clearest charts about risk transfer you will find anywhere. ...Others have laid out the dire consequences of financialisation ("the conversion of everything into monetary form", in Das’s phrase), but few have done it with a wider or more entertaining range of references...[Extreme Money] does... reach an important, if worrying, conclusion: financialisation may be too deep-rooted to be torn out. As Das puts it – characteristically borrowing a line from a movie, Inception – "the hardest virus to kill is an idea".  
Andrew Hill "Eclectic Guide to the Excesses of the Crisis" Financial Times, 17 August 2011

“an idiosyncratic yet withering analysis of how 30 years of financial alchemy and excessive credit have plunged us into what feels like a slow-motion depression… addresses, one by one, the overarching themes of the great credit boom and bust of the late 20th century.

Black humor is Das’ natural medium, and he gave me a rueful chuckle every few pages. You know that a writer is hard to pigeonhole when the advance praise compares him to both Candide and Hunter S. Thompson. I prefer to view Das as a modern-day Ishmael with an attitude, a weathered seaman who has witnessed firsthand the crazed hunt of hedge-fund captains for alpha, the great whale of superior investment returns.

… I could only endorse the conclusion. “There is no simple, painless solution” to the fix we’re in, Das writes. “The world has to reduce debt, shrink the financial part of the economy, and change the destructive incentive structures in finance. Individuals in developed countries have to save more and spend less.”
Doomsday Debt Machine Roars as Wizard Das Chides Buffett: Books, By James Pressley, Sep 19 2011

“ a fast paced ride...Das manages to be both an insider and outsider – much of what he covers is based on first hand experience...there’s no of the faux glamour that infuses many otherwise critical books on finance.... this is a thoughtful, interesting and unusual book that deserves to jostle for shelf space alongside classics such as Charles Kindleberger’s Manias, Panics and Crashes and Devil Take The Hindmost by Edward Chancellor. It is well worth a read by anyone seeking to grasp the broader impact of the recent crisis."
Chris Sholto Heaton, Money Week, November 2011


“...Mr Das has a keen eye for an anecdote ....   give[s] the reader plenty of chances to chuckle at the hubris he reveals.. the views of people like Mr Das were consistently ignored in the run-up to the debt crisis..”

More luck than judgment, The Economist, 15 October 2011


“...Extreme Money is not about the financial crisis, as such. It is about the history of money and the journey that brought us to 2011. Das writes in a clear, straightforward manner that is approachable to all readers and takes in a diverse range of references from Hollywood movies to mediaeval literature, with plenty of gags and reflections from his career in the industry, which make for an easy read.”

Nick Ferguson  “A history of extreme money”, 21 September 2011, Finance Asia



"…exposes the shambles of a system characterised by bogus and failed economic market theory, a shamelessly rapacious finance industry, and a broad failure by governments to protect either their citizens or their productive industries from a finance industry driven by the most perverse incentives….Das writes colourfully, in short punchy sections, and countless memorable aphorisms…Politicians, please read this book."

Richard Thwaites “Dangerous money games” Canberra Times, 17 September 2011


“Das is a chatty writer, with a style that combines elegance with wit, erudition and a large dollop of cynicism. He is also widely read, given to inventing unusual metaphors and quoting from sources as diverse as Trollope and Groucho Marx. As a result, he has succeeded in producing an entertaining page-turner on a subject considered both numbingly dull as well as frighteningly opaque.”

Devangshu Datta “World money, salted and seasoned” Business Standard, 16 December 2011


“ Extreme Money is about much more than the financial crisis. ... Das is writing about the society that has been built under the suzerainty of finance over the last few decades. He uses the references to highlight, underline and contrast some of the features of this crazy society. At one level, Das gives us the conventional narrative of the crisis. ...At another level, he elaborates on the economic theory that provided the intellectual sustenance for the financial revolution. ... But at a more fundamental level, this book is about the corruption in values caused by what Das terms Extreme Money, by which he means not only the dangerous speculative games played with money, but also the attitudes and culture that have emerged out of casino capitalism. At the deepest level, this book is about hubris and the nemesis that inevitably follows.”

Manas Chakravarty “The money shot:The global society formed by the financial currents of the last few decades” Live Mint , 9 December 2011


“This is probably the finest financial history of the period.... , it tells with great authority the real story of modern finance—how money mutated into a rogue virus— something that finance students will otherwise never know. The book is a mirror of our financial times, a must-read for all.”

Debashis Basu  “Extreme Money: Modern Finance—The Rogue Virus” Moneylife, 24 December 2011


“...Das dons a professorial cap to weave financial history and popular culture into an entertaining and blistering social critique of how so many have come to chase endless financial reflections of the real economy...”

“No loss in the telling” Hindustan Times 23 December 2011


“ Extreme Money is a morality tale of the cascade of massive wealth into the pockets of financial wizards at the cost of the stability of the global financial system.... a cautionary tale from Faust warning what happens to those who trade their souls for lucre."

Andrew Allentuck, Financial Post,5 Noof financial alchemy...  lays bare the investment bankers’ schemes and machinations which culminated in the worldwide financial crisis and Great Recession of 2007 to date.... an illuminating text that has much to teach you about the world of high finance.”

Thomas Herold “An Inside Look Into The Masters of The Financial Sandbox”, 30 August 2011



“Das' irreverent and sardonic wit permeates the book, making it an enjoyable read despite its dark tone.”

Barbara Whelehan “Money books for holiday giving”, December 16 2011


" absolutely brilliant examination of the world of money and finance... a realistic, confronting and amazing critique of the machinations and workings of the global financial industry.. an enlightening dissection of the world of high finance, policy making, and supposed regulation, and reveals how illusory is the ability of central banks and governments to control and manage economies ... The amount and depth of information in this book is amazing. It is essential reading for all those with an interest in the financial markets, delving into areas and subjects that most writers with a vested interest in the markets don't and won't cover.."

Your Trading Edge (May-June 2012)




From the Back Cover

'A true insider’s devastating analysis of the financial alchemy of the last 30 years and its destructive consequences.  With his intimate first-hand knowledge, Das takes a knife to global finance and financiers to reveal its inner workings without fear or favor.'

-Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at NYU Stern School of Business and Chairman of Roubini Global Economics


'Das describes the causes of the financial crisis with the insight and understanding of a financial wizard, the candor and objectivity of an impartial observer, and a wry sense of humor that reveals the folly in it all.'

Brooksley Born, former chairperson of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)


Once upon a time human society built things. We engineered beautiful objects and created authentic goods. Now this real industrial engineering has been replaced by financial engineering: shuffling money in an endless process of debt, trading and speculation. It’s enabled vast fortunes to be made for a few, while the risk was borne by ordinary people – the 'privatisation of gain' and 'socialisation of losses'.


Extreme Money tells the story of spectacular and dangerous money games and those elite bankers, traders and financiers, the so-called Masters of the Universe, who continue to play them. Written by an insider, Extreme Money will show you how, little by little, we’ve all become slaves to financial alchemy and have been enchanted by our own illusory creation: the cult of global finance.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
Satyajit Das' new book "Extreme Money" has weaknesses, but these do not stop the book being a five-star read. The book is essential reading by anyone (everyone?) who has an inkling that the western world's financial market system over the past 25+ years has evolved into a giant Ponzi scheme. The book proves your inkling is correct and does so with the presentation of well-compiled and convincing evidence at the level of both illustrative individual transactions and of the financial system as a whole.

Das is one of the few people in the world who has the knowledge, skills and practical experience to go substantially beyond making generalized and unsupported pronouncements. He's a details person and these details help the rest of us understand aspects of market behavior that are not self-evident. For instance, read of why (swap) derivative transactions are off balance sheet transactions (page 242) and of Lehman Brothers' flip clause in its legal documentation (page 255).

Das' book is outrageously critical of virtually every entity that has been associated with "extreme money" creation over the past 25 years, regulators included. But his criticism is warranted. The financial leverage the western world has experienced in recent years has been extraordinary and most of us have been happy to ride the wave of (apparent) prosperity for all it was worth ... until now.
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Format: Paperback
Extreme Money : The Masters of the Universe & the Cult of Risk is a fascinating account of how money and debt have come to dominate and potentially overwhelm the real economy. Securitisation, sub-prime mortgages, junk bonds, leveraged buyouts, derivatives, investment bankers, central bankers, financial regulators, Chicago school economists , option models, hedge funds, Nobel laureates and rating agencies are all roundly castigated and critiqued with devastating lucidity for their contribution to the wall of liquidity that the world is now struggling to confront. A sobering account that is essential reading for all those seeking some form of context for the sub-prime and sovereign debt crises and the asset bubbles that preceded them. The linkages between the worlds of real industry and money are explored with humour and devastating but insightful cynicism.
The analysis is current to August 2011 and helps the reader draw his or her own conclusions as to "how long the governments [could] keep the economic life support system switched on." The effectiveness of the Volcker rule and other regulatory, monetary and fiscal interventions are discussed in an analysis that is real time for us all. Das' conclusions include that the world has unsuccessfully tried to defy financial gravity and that the ability of governments and policymakers to control the world economy is questionable.
A highly recommended read for all those involved or affected by the financial markets.
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Format: Paperback
Satyajit Das's magnum opus is a must for those in the financial world as well as for those who are laypersons. The first category will have relive their experiences and the second category will know that they are not missing anything glamourous.

Das's writes in a racy and lucid style exploring transactions, events and personalities and exposing the lies perpetrated by all the players. The book's major appeal is that it simplifies the complex deal so that anyone can understand the basis of it. Only a master can make the difficult so easy, and Das is a supreme commander of all he surveys.

It is to the credit of Das that he has remained untouched by the glitter and glamour that high finance portrays and has walked away from it as he is a person with a conscience and disgusted with the con games being played.

I highly recommned this book it offers an insider's insight into capital markets and is a literary masterpiece at the same time.
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If I could vote 4 1/2 stars I would have done. This is a great book, one of the best in its genre, and the argument is extremely persuasive. I doubt that even the most ardent fan of liberalised financial markets could read it and not come away feeling that root and branch reform of the world's financial system is necessary. With 15 years working in various city roles from pit trader to hedge fund analyst I can honestly say no other book comes close to describing our deeply flawed industry.

However, it is let down by some sloppy editing. An exhaustive list would unfairly dominate this review so I shall mention just a few. Global GDP is under-estimated by a factor of 1000 when being compared to global FX volumes. There are also some strong unsubstianted claims such as "the gold standard was the basis of money for substantially all of human economic history" which given silver's dominant role in Europe, the US and Asia until the C19th at the very least needs more explanation. Paragraphs are often overladen with quotes so the flow is lost. These are all issues that I would have hoped that Prentice Hall would have tidied up.

However, these problems are small relative to the brilliant insights this book provides. Extreme Money is a must read for anyone who wants to comment knowledgably on financial markets.
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