"Barbarians" summed up the junk bond era (and remains my favorite business book ever), "When Genius Failed" summed up the bondarb era. A movie (Startup.com) actually summed up the Internet era. "The Smartest Guys in the Room" (which, shame on me, I've yet to read) summed up the creative accounting era.
While we're waiting for somebody more focused and less confused than David Stockman to pick up on his tremendous ideas and sum up the causes of the ongoing financial crisis, Anita Raghavan comes in and tells us the tale of how the US Government finally got its act together and started locking up the insiders who we've always suspected creamed all the profits out of the stock market, amassing fortunes that make Michael Milken look like the enthusiastic amateur he was when it came to insider dealing.
I have no doubt that one day we'll read about SAC Capital, but for now Steve Cohen is sitting on USD 8 billion p.a. and we really don't know how his story will end. Until he's had his day in court, if he ever does, indeed, we must presume him innocent; that's how we roll.
But there's no need to wait. I don't see anybody topping this breath-taking account . The Millionaire's Apprentice sets a very high bar. The author has conducted deep research into the characters and the events, and this shows. She sat in court, she listened to the tapes, she listened to all views and I'd be extremely surprised if one fact in the entire book is wrong. When there's doubt, besides, the author presents both sides, never shying away from saying how she thinks it went.
More than that, this would be a fantastic book even if it was fiction. You get character development here. There's a plot that moves quickly. There are tons of threads that get woven together. The author has evidently left loads of stuff out (duh!), but there's just enough there to make you know there's more. This is a very fine line to walk. Any more and you'd really lose count of the names and roles and angles. Any less and you'd feel short changed. So very often I'd find myself thinking "who's this Goel guy again?" and then immediately "oh yeah, he's the guy at Intel," for example. The key point is she never lost me, this really read like a novel.
Except of course it's very much a piece of journalism. An exquisite piece of journalism, at that.
"So where's the fifth star, Athan, boy?"
Ah, yes. I don't buy at all that this book tells the story of the Indian diaspora. The author thinks she's doing two things here. First, telling us a story about insider dealing and second telling us about the "twice blessed" generation of Indian Americans. If I was one of them, I'd be furious. In my view she holds her own people to a crazily high standard here and kind of acts like an uninvited judge and jury on millions of her own.
What do I care? I'm from Greece, not India.
Well, this book purports to tell us about two things, including on its cover. The fact that it does such an incomplete job of one of the two tasks the author assigned to herself has to be a failure.
More to the point, I think the author fails in another respect. By being "plus royaliste que le roi" when it comes to judging one of her own, I think she misses out on something rather big: Rajat Gupta probably acted 100% in line with other people in his position. Yes, maybe he did not notice that the wind had started blowing from a different direction. But if you ask me, by dint of being on the wrong side of the first ever incidence of wiretapping, the poor fellow just got very unlucky. Period. He ain't a stain on all Indian Americans.
Finally, a point of order. The basic thing in a Greek tragedy is at some juncture you get presented with a choice. A choice where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. This is the "tragic" choice. You make that choice and a bunch of inevitable consequences follow and you face them with dignity or with no dignity, everybody dies in the last scene and then we all go home.
These fellows never crossed any type of Rubicon the way I see it. They got to where they got by sailing at the appropriate-for-the-time angle toward the wind, but failed to notice when the weather changed. The world changed, not them. And amen to that, of course.
Exceptional book, well written, meticulously researched, gripping from the start and reads like a financial thriller. Anita Raghavan has written a fascinating twists and turns window into the world of consulting, hedge funds, insider trading and the investigative determination of the SEC/FBI. A helpful cast of characters is given at the beginning, followed by seamless weaving of the two detailed contrasting stories of the main protagonists Rajat Gupta and Raj Rajaratnam taking the reader on a journey from Mumbai and Kolkata, revealing family stories, background and more. The reader is then transported to the USA, another world entirely. Once started, I just could not put this book down!
NB. I'm not an Indian-American just someone who appreciates an interesting and well written story.
I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a conference earlier this year at which she presented an outline of this case. It was fascinating. I have now read the book and Ms Raghavan has done an excellent job of blending what could have been two distinct stories into a single narrative. I had expected to be disinterested in the "rise" and interested in the "fall" but the entire story was gripping from start to finish. Throughly researched and very well written. Reads like a thriller and would make a very good film.