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

4.5 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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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: 20 x 2.5 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover
The book's content is less ambitious that its titles suggests. It is about how a team of derivative experts at J.P. Morgan contributed to the development of the securities, including credit default swaps and options, which led to the financial crisis. That's reasonably interesting, but it's a fairly narrow perspective on what happened. The collapse of Lehman is covered in a few pages. She doesn't even mention that the major banks were manipulating Libor. At points it sounds like she is writing to protect her sources. There is a lot about what a great CEO Jamie Dimon is at JP Morgan chase. She says the JPM team shouldn't be blamed for other banks misusing the derivatives they created. I've never heard anyone blame them for it.
There are a few mistakes: the internet bubble of 1999 was equity driven, not debt fueled. She uses acronyms too often, and there are no anecdotes explaining why the subprime default rates were so high. Indeed, she is very light on what happened in the subprime sector. The corruption there could have really livened up her book, and illuminated the causes of the crash. I learnt more about the crisis from the introduction to Niall Ferguson's Financial History of the World.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 complex financial products, J.P. Morgan.

The elite and its ideology
As G. Tett rightly states, `in most societies, elites try to maintain their power not simply by garnering wealth, but by dominating the mainstream ideologies.' The ideology of the financial elite is `free markets'. Their gospel pretends `that market prices are always right' and that `markets can correct excess far better than any government.' This gospel was translated in deregulation (repeal of Glass-Steagall), in poor bank and mortgage regulations and also, importantly, in accountancy rules, like `mark-to-market.'

The magic formula: leverage
Monstrous leverage means `potential' monstrous returns (unfortunately, also negative ones) and potential monstrous bonuses for the top management.
But, how to create monstrous leverage in banks where the capital/asset ratio is limited? First, by creating new products like derivatives - CDSs (credit default swaps) and CDOs (collateral debt obligations) based on all sorts of credits and mortgages; secondly, by putting these products in off-shore and off-balance vehicles, like SIVs (Structured Investment Vehicles); thirdly, by financing long term loans with short term debt.
The Fed chairman was against the regulation of derivatives because he believed that they made markets more efficient. A maestro stroke.

Profit hunger
All over the world, banks could not get enough of CDOs and their fat profit margins. But, the number of households that could afford prime mortgages was limited.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good technical and historical account of the events leading up to the financial crisis of 2007 / 08 - and events thereafter. However, if fails totally in addressing / describing any criminal or moral fault (the title is misleading) - giving me the impression that she has been sponsored by the banking fraternity. Matters that are not even mentioned are: "The Fed" is privately owned and, in fact, controlled by Wall Street. Also not mentioned is the extraordinary influence that Goldman Sachs has in Government. No mention of the moral hazard of the banks being bailed out with public money, 100 cents on the dollar - absolutely incredible. No mention of the disgraceful bonuses they continued to pay themselves WITH PUBLIC MONEY. Disgraceful - still needs to be addressed.
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