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4.2 out of 5 stars
66
4.2 out of 5 stars
All The Devils Are Here: Unmasking the Men Who Bankrupted the World
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on 18 January 2016
Brilliant!
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on 28 November 2012
I enjoyed reading All the Devils are Here, it is very complex and at times hard work for the non-economist. However it did repay the effort and gives a good insight into some aspects of the current financial problems in the US
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on 17 September 2014
amazing
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an interesting piece of investigative journalism. The heroes of the story are financial monstrosities, institutions whose names begin with four letter acronyms and equally ugly names of various financial products. Would you know what or who HOEPA is? Well, the book conveniently provides a list of key names at the beginning, which is helpful. The book also shows faces of all those involved in many recent financial problems. And, boy, do they look ugly, just as their institutional names and acronyms. Well, it is worth a read.
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on 18 September 2016
Great!
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on 27 March 2012
Just finished reading and wow, great book. As a relative financial layman with an active interest in understanding the reality of this crisis rather than the media scapegoating I found this to be a highly accessible and surprisingly interesting book. I would recommend it to all as essential reading about the causes of the crash.
Additionally, I found the description of the individuals involved not just interesting from the perspective of understanding their motivations (which often went beyond greed) but more importantly in the devastating impact that strong individuals can have on seemingly invincible companies in changing their cultural practices. For me this expose of the impact of different management styles on previously stable and conservative companies was as interesting as the actual technicalities of the causation of the crisis (they are of course inextrable) and is something which other books in my experience have not addressed with this level of detail.
The only mild criticism I would have of the book would be that because it is so important to understand the cultural practices and histroy of each of the institutions and parties involved in the crash, each chapter has to almost begin again with a historical discussion going back to cover in some cases 20 years of corporate history. This had the effect I feel of making some of the chapters almost feel standalone which by the time you reach 300+ pages into the text when the crisis breaks, made it challenging to remember the details of some of the individual players from the first chapter. This is of course as much of a compliment about the level of detail included in this text as it is a criticism and I have no idea how this structuring could have been addressed differently without losing the incredibly important discussion about the individuals involved and the change in culture in each organisation.
All in all a brilliant book and a must buy for those with any curiosity about what happened and is happening.
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VINE VOICEon 15 August 2011
It would be an understatement to say that the financial crisis has had a huge impact on the world economy. The ongoing chaos in the markets and economies seem to have their roots on what happened from 2006 onwards, and these events led to massive government (and thus taxpayer) intervention in support of an industry that was supposed to be a servant of our money. I have had nagging questions at the back of my mind since it happened: What was actually happening to the money? Where did it go? And can there really have been such huge losses on mortgages, even sub-prime ones?

I'd read Ward's "The Devil's Casino", and whilst it was valuable as an insight into the human side of what happened, it didn't give much in the way of technical information. McLean and Nocera's book, however, goes a long way towards answering the questions. The nature of the financial entities - debt swaps, collateralized debt obligations, synthetic CDOs, structured investment vehicles - are explained in as close to layman's terms as it's perhaps possible to get. There is plenty of insight into the personalities of the players, which came to shape the businesses. The absurd way in which mortgages guaranteed to fail were sold is spelt out, as is the way in which "market forces" led to the erosion of the standard of regulation, and debt that was almost certainly going to be "bad" was packaged, sold, repackaged and resold until it could be bought by investors who should have been more cautious than they were.

McLean and Nocera don't come up with a simplistic finger-pointing analysis, although there are clearly characters that have earned their respect (Hank Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary from 2006-2009 is one such). They do, however, highlight the continual financial drive for higher yield investment, and the huge bonuses that many of the players benefited from in the run-up to the crisis.

What do I think at the end of the book? My questions have been answered, largely - although I could really do with somebody showing me in diagrams what some of the financial vehicles look like in terms of how money moves around, and I'm somewhat overwhelmed with the names (there is a convenient dramatis personae at the start of the book, along with a glossary of abbreviations). A helpful and readable book, although it took quite a lot of concentration.
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VINE VOICEon 6 October 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
How many people actually knew what the 'credit crunch' was? How many people actually knew who, or what, was to blame? If you didn't know, and even if you think you did, this book will provide you with the answers.

This is a detailed work that requires concentration. Understanding credit default swaps does not come easy unless you are a bookie. It builds slowly and deliberately ranging across rating agencies to sub-prime mortgages. At times it felt like reading a manual on how a Chernobyl occurred. Every component was explained, how it fitted and how it failed, leading to the melt down.

A remarkable feature is that the book is written only two years after such cataclysmic events. The freedom of access to documents allows such an American response. Please note that this is most definitely an American look at America's role in the crisis. Northern Rock in the UK and IKB in Germany are almost the only non-USA references and they merit barely a page.

Despite the necessity of technical language the authors retain the capacity for memorable lines; using your home as a piggy bank, the 'firestorm' of resistance to any form of Regulation, a 'slime' creeping over business and above all the pervasive 'Devil take the hindmost' greed.

The book is designed to be a detailed study of the causes of the financial crisis in 2007/8 and as such it was sickeningly addictive. It will remain on my bookshelf for future reference.
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VINE VOICEon 9 October 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book is subtitled `Unmasking The Men Who Bankrupted The World', which is exactly what the authors try to do. I have seen it referred to as if it were a crime novel with a direct writing style and a gripping narrative. If criminal incompetence is a crime, then much of the activity described is criminal, and the prose is as direct as it can be given the subject. But as a read it is more engrossing than gripping, though we can't blame the authors for failing to achieve the impossible. They are dealing here with information on a large scale and, as far as I can tell, they have done this very well.

The cast is large: one hundred main characters are listed, with many others getting a mention while not in the list. There is also an abundance of detail concerning companies, state agencies, financial products and regulation. So while this book may not have you on the edge of your seat, the authors have done an excellent job in accounting for the financial collapse of 2008, the aftershocks of which impoverish us still.

They trace the rise of the sub-prime mortgage in the United States, so their starting point is several decades back. In the course of their explanation, several factors stood out for me. The first is the baleful effect of the disconnect between borrower and lender. In the old days, when bankers had banking qualifications, the lender would try to ensure that money lent would be returned. If he failed to do this he would have to answer to his depositors. However, when derivatives appeared on the scene, risk was farmed out to others so the lender was no longer constrained by the ability of the borrower to repay. It was believed by some that complex mathematical risk models were the solution to this problem. Others didn't care as long as their commissions and bonuses kept coming, knowing full well they would not have to pick up the pieces.

The sub-prime mortgage market was a United States phenomenon, so the book covers all the factors involved in its inception and expansion, which ultimately led to the credit crunch. Unfortunately for readers outside the US, much of the narrative involves semi-public agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which have no counterparts in other countries. And there is a strong political element, with endless political lobbying involving all the main institutions, mostly private. Much of this lobbying was amazingly aggressive and some of it downright vicious. Also, since the events described took place in the US there is a strong element of faith in the free market, entailing vigorous opposition to any regulation at all of derivates and other synthetic products. For example, Alan Greenspan believed in the free market, not surprising in someone who, early on, had bought the Ayn Rand line. (I wonder what he made of the ludicrous `Shangri La' section of Atlas Shrugged?)

The role of the ratings agencies is exposed, perhaps the easiest factor to explain. Since those who were issuing the bonds paid the agencies for their ratings, the issuers could play one agency off against another in their bid to secure triple A ratings. Worse, it was in the agencies' financial interest to award good grades to their clients. That way their fees kept rolling in.

Also, buyers of bonds came to rely on agency ratings rather than doing their own research. Given the agencies' record on Enron and WorldCom it is hard to believe that anyone trusted them. Yet after the crash of 2008 the markets still rely on them. Whoever `the markets' may be, they don't seem to learn from experience.

It is now clear to most that financial markets cannot be left to regulate themselves since, when they fail, which they have on many occasions, the majority of us, who were not involved, are left to pick up the tab through our taxes. And still the bankers pocket their bonuses. If this is the reward for failure, what would be the reward for success?

A long time ago, capitalism entailed people with money lending it to people who needed it to run businesses. A good case can be made for that still. Much financial activity now concerns buying and selling financial products as an end in itself, benefiting no one but the players and certainly not society at large. Capitalism is under attack from parasites of its own creation. The opinions in this last paragraph, which I had before reading this book, have been reinforced by reading it.
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book explains the reasons behind the 2008 credit crunch, talks the talk, walks the walk and names the names.
The Economist described it as 'The comprehensive and authoritive account'. There have been forests of books about the crunch but this one is way ahead, starting off by giving the reader a crash course in, and history of, the financial and bond markets, mainly in the USA since the 1970's. This it does in an educational manner not assuming that we are all up to par on the workings of Wall Street and the City of London. It is written for the layman not the expert.
The breadth of detail and research is amazing, the book reads more like a literary thriller than a dry economic tome which is one of the reasons it is such a joy to read. You do not need to be an economist or financial whiz kid to understand how the world got filled up with toxic debt. I failed GCE maths twice but with a bit of concentration I made plenty of sense out of this book, a lot of people got ripped-off, a few companies and banks were selling each other parcels of 'fantasy debt' at hugely exagerated prices( most of it sub prime and very high risk), a few banks, hedge funds and individuals made hundreds of billions, the bubble burst as they always do and taxpayers around the world were left holding the baby because the banks were 'to big to fail'. Nobody has been to prison, none of the money has been paid back and Wall Street and the financial markets carry on as if nothing has happened.
Many insiders and some Government regulators were warning for years that the whole sub prime scam was unsustainable but as usual, greed won the day. Particully galling are the activities of the Credit Rating Agencies who gave all this toxic crap Triple A ratings mainly because they were making billions out of it themselves. The same Agencies that are now downgrading National economies around the world because Governments spent all their cash (our cash) bailing these greedy bastards out in the first place!
Then there are the so called 'experts' like Alan Greenspan whose word was treated as if he was some sort of God and in my opinion seemed to believe his own publicity. This book does not pull any punches but is not written from any particular political viewpoint, certinally not from the left or anti capitalist pulpit, it is just a factual account of what happened, does not moralise too much.
The authors are well qualified, Bethany McLean was for 13 years a journo for Fortune magazine, worked for Goldman Sachs Investment bank and wrote the definative account of the Enron scam 'The Smartest Guys in the Room: the Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron'. Joe Nocera is business columnist for the N.Y.Times, has won all sorts of awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2006.
The book is an education, a page turner and as I see the banks carrying on business as normal, with no attempt by any government at meaningful reform, I have to ask what happens next time (and there will be a next time) and the governments have no more money for 'quantative easing'? Also I must ask where has the billions/trillions already pumped into cash starved banks gone? It certainly has not gone into manufacturing or job creation as flat line growth both here and the U.S. shows, my fear is it is being used for the latest craze in bundling collateralised debt obligations and playing pass the toxic parcel again. Would not be at all surprised!
The other thing I learnt from this book is what the markets and finance industry does, contary to popular belief, is not that complicated. These people are basically just well spoken/ well educated conmen who by slight of hand have made whole countries economies and millions of peoples livelihoods dependant on their success, or lack of it, in the world financial casino. There has to be a better way.
A great read, stirs a lot of emotions, anger, sadness, amazement, disbelief to name but some. If you have any interest in finding out why you are paying more taxes, why public services are being decimated, why the National Health Service will become the Private Health Service within a few years, where the money went and is still going, why property prices went thru the roof both sides of the Atlantic then give this compelling book a read because all today's and future 'austerity' is directly linked to the credit crunch. The rich just get super rich and the poor pay the bill. Maybe old Karl had something right when it comes to this lot?
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