When a true story seems unbelievable, we often say, "You couldn't write this sh*t!" But they have, and it's mind-blowing to read about one man's audacious greed.
It's a book that doesn't necessitate a deep understanding of finance, but an ounce of care in what's wrong about the world and what needs to change. When Tom Wright and Bradley Hope set about unravelling the 1MDB scandal, they exposed such a massive global heist that it's no surprise that it often reads like a thriller.
Comparisons to things like 'The Wolf of Wall Street' take on a whole new level of irony given that movie's funding - and hideous glorification of opulence and self-indulgence - are so clearly linked to this Jho Low story. And here we are some time later, with him still not facing up to what he's done. Some of the associated celebs have taken steps to try and scrub away at their tarnished reputations, yet the self-serving 1% continue with their daylight robbery.
I might not be well-versed with some of the financial intricacies of this book, but that's where its strength lies: in dealing with these important details for all of us to access in such a jaw-dropping page-turner. This is such a huge story, that everyone needs to know about it. It's therefore encouraging to hear that it's going into movie production: it lends itself to the medium well, and that will ensure an even wider audience.
Am only partway through, but already this is a thoroughly gripping, fascinating and extremely readable story of an incredibly audacious con. The scandal is jaw-dropping, encompassing the highest levels of government in Malaysia and the UAE, A-list celebrities from the USA, and major global financial institutions.
I’m not surprised this was short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize - it’s investigative journalism at its finest.
Ok - I'm biased: I used to be a colleague of Tom and Bradley's. That said, this book is by any standards a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand how the rich and powerful are able to get away with corruption on a monumental scale.
The book succeeds on several levels. Having been a financial journalist for several years, I have -- for my sins -- read a number business books. Most are so badly written they are practically unreadable, but that is emphatically not the case with 'Billion Dollar Whale', a quintessential page-turner with a cast of extraordinary characters. Wright and Hope have managed to explain a complex international fraud in a way that readers can readily understand.
What the book also does is to highlight the way that the checks and balances within the global financial industry collapse when greed takes over. Bankers, lawyers, accountants, company executives, politicians, regulators, even Hollywood types -- all could have rumbled the 1MDB scam had they acted with even a modicum of professional integrity. Few did. The authors take time within the narrative to pause occasionally to put all of this into perspective.
The greatest testament to the authors' work is that it contributed to the astonishing Malaysian election which saw PM Najib and his cronies drummed out of power -- at least for now. But the book also raises as yet unresolved questions: How, for example, can we prevent frauds like 1MDB in a world of free-flowing capital and inconsistent regulation? A number of Goldman Sachs executives now face charges related to 1MDB -- but will they and others really be punished for their negligence? The depressing possibility is that the legal process is likely to play out over many years of appeal and counter-appeal, with the seriousness of the crimes fading out of the collective memory.
Let's hope that doesn't happen: Meantime, do read this much-needed book. If it doesn't fill with you with righteous anger at the way the 'system' works, nothing will.
You couldn’t make the plot of this book any more entertaining if you tried. And it’s a true story! I was a bit worried that my lack of a detailed understanding of finance and banking might make it a challenge to read. But far from it. A page turner from the very beginning, not only was it a highly entertaining read - I particularly enjoyed the bits featuring Leonardo DiCaprio - I now also understand a lot more about state investment funds, the world of finance and how they benefit the lives of the mega wealthy. Recommended for all - this is a thriller, a character study and a non-fiction work on the pitfalls of modern money markets all in one.
This is a superb story, well told and full of OMG moments. It raises serious questions about corruption and the international financial system, but wraps it in a tale of hollywood, celebrity and simple venality. (Full disclosure - I provided feedback to the author on an early draft of the book).