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The End of Wall Street [Hardcover]

Roger Lowenstein
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 6 2010
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The roots of the mortgage bubble and the story of the Wall Street collapse-and the government's unprecedented response-from our most trusted business journalist.

The End of Wall Street is a blow-by-blow account of America's biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression. Drawing on 180 interviews, including sit-downs with top government officials and Wall Street CEOs, Lowenstein tells, with grace, wit, and razor-sharp understanding, the full story of the end of Wall Street as we knew it. Displaying the qualities that made When Genius Failed a timeless classic of Wall Street-his sixth sense for narrative drama and his unmatched ability to tell complicated financial stories in ways that resonate with the ordinary reader- Roger Lowenstein weaves a financial, economic, and sociological thriller that indicts America for succumbing to the siren song of easy debt and speculative mortgages.

The End of Wall Street is rife with historical lessons and bursting with fast-paced action. Lowenstein introduces his story with precisely etched, laserlike profiles of Angelo Mozilo, the Johnny Appleseed of subprime mortgages who spreads toxic loans across the landscape like wild crabapples, and moves to a damning explication of how rating agencies helped gift wrap faulty loans in the guise of triple-A paper and a takedown of the academic formulas that-once again- proved the ruin of investors and banks. Lowenstein excels with a series of searing profiles of banking CEOs, such as the ferretlike Dick Fuld of Lehman and the bloodless Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, and of government officials from the restless, deal-obsessed Hank Paulson and the overmatched Tim Geithner to the cerebral academic Ben Bernanke, who sought to avoid a repeat of the one crisis he spent a lifetime trying to understand-the Great Depression.

Finally, we come to understand the majesty of Lowenstein's theme of liquidity and capital, which explains the origins of the crisis and that positions the collapse of 2008 as the greatest ever of Wall Street's unlearned lessons. The End of Wall Street will be essential reading as we work to identify the lessons of the market failure and start to reb...

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From Publishers Weekly

"Beep! Beep! Sheep in a jeep/on a hill that's/steep./Uh-oh!/The jeep won't go," is a fragment of Shaw's jaunty verse, heartily dramatized by Apple's colored drawings. Ages 2-5.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Lowenstein, a magnificent business writer, creates an almost novelistic accounting of the all-too-real 2008 financial collapse…. Lowenstein has a pitch-perfect sense of the Street's monumental recklessness.”—Time



“[The End of Wall Street] is a complex but imaginative book… [Lowenstein] is able to identify the creative instruments of financial destruction with the directness that is all-important to a book like this.”—New York Times



“Think of Roger Lowenstein's The End of Wall Street as a tuition-free class in 21st-century U.S. macroeconomics... The End of Wall Street debunks the notion that no one could have seen the economic catastrophe coming.”—USA Today



The End of Wall Street is a calm, reasoned, and often witty tour of the current financial landscape and how it got that way.”—Philadelphia Observer



“In the flood of new books about the financial crisis, Roger Lowenstein's is a standout. Lowenstein, a highly accomplished financial journalist, lays out what may be the best explanation yet of the recent crash—and as good a prediction as any on what happens next.”—Barron’s



"Lowenstein’s strong knowledge of the source material and flair for the dramatic and doomsday title should draw readers who still wonder what went wrong and how."—Publishers Weekly



“Lowenstein does a great job of explaining…in understandable terms that unobtrusively avoids the injection of emotion and politics.”—Booklist



“Over the past year, there has been a steady stream of books trying to make sense of the crisis. The latest, and perhaps the most accessible and even-handed, is Roger Lowenstein's The End of Wall Street."—Washington Post



"The End of Wall Street is a good book: witty, well-written, heavily researched and often dramatic.”—Associated Press/Huffington Post



“A veteran financial/business journalist examines the past three years of economic collapse, chronicling actions and inactions from dozens of villains and a few heroes…A well-delineated chronicle likely to cause readers to ask who put the clowns in charge of the circus, and why aren’t they confined to prison cells.” —Kirkus


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Game is Over May 2 2010
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Roger Lowenstein, in "The End of Wall Street", has written an accurate and detailed version about a very recent time in American history when the financial markets almost failed. No, we're not talking the Great Depression or the big meltdown of 1987. Instead, his story deals with the momentous and staggering events involving the inner workings of a number of prestigous Wall Street firms as they conspired to take the country to the brink of financial collapse in the second half of 2008. What I found remarkable about this particular account is that the main developments in this unravelling process fit together in a fascinating plot line. No wonder the house of cards analogy is appropriate for describing those grim years of 2008 and 2009. To get there, Lowenstein does a very competent job in filling the reader in on the background to this modern tragic farce. There are a number of culprits out there, take your pick. Investment and commercial banks, lax government oversight, expanding mortgage markets, personal and corporate greed, and plain stupidity. However, most of the blame can be placed at the feet of some key Wall Street brokerages who were just starting to enjoy their new found freedom as investment banks. The Lehmans, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgans financial houses were leading the charge into the murky world of dodgy transactions that involved plenty of leveraging and risk but all supposedly covered by the convenient creation of new derivative tools like collateralized debt obligations and credit swaps. Their key operators had the found the perfect system to make mega bucks non-stop. As Lowenstein points out, Wall Street was showing the rest of the world how to repackage debt in order to make profit without risk while passing it on to some other institution to do the same. Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times."

-- Daniel 9:25 (NKJV)

"The End of Wall Street" will inevitably be compared to John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Great Crash 1929." To me, Roger Lowenstein's book is the better work, both because it came out hot on the heels of the history being described and because its evaluation of what happened is sounder.

Some will doubt that Wall Street has ended, having just heard even more reports about the vast billions in earnings that Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup are reporting and the mind-boggling pay their employees take home. Mr. Lowenstein's point is that the remaining banks only survived by being bailed out to the tune of trillions of dollars that have been pumped into the financial markets and the economy by the U.S. and other governments. We can safely assume that there will be another Wall Street crisis (and probably a bigger one) in just a few years as all of this financial liquidity causes other speculative bubbles that are expanded by ridiculously low interest rates and excess borrowing . . . and probably even more negligent and criminal behavior of the sort that led to Triple A bond ratings being given to worthless securities.

I was particularly impressed by the arguments that Mr. Lowenstein makes that it was outmoded ideas based on the 1929 crash and the Great Depression that led to the regulatory mistakes this time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another piece to the puzzle Oct. 4 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book was thorough and informative which accompanied numerous other related themes on the same topic, the legal theft of the average tax payers money by the rich bankers, corporations and some middle class greed to boot, thanks Steve.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"As in all previous booms brought about by credit expansion, it was then believed that the prosperity would last forever, and the warnings of the economists were disregarded."

The Theory of Money and Credit, Ludwig von Mises, Vienna, June 1934, English Edition

This wildly entertaining book full of first hand narrative descriptions of detailed discussions between all the players at the time of the Wall Street shakeout of 2008 and beyond, leaves any Austrian economist perplexed as to why the apocalyptic title would even be used given the fact that credit busts are the end reality of all economic expansions recorded throughout the ages.

In typical American fashion, the ending of financial institutions long held to be indestructible creations of the American industrial complex, the author has chosen such a foreboding title to describe events that has been commonplace for much of the financial history of the American Republic. Indeed American economic history is replete with banking failures that in their time were as equally unthinkable as the events and institutions described by the author in this volume.

As the reader wanders through the pages immersed in the intimate details and discussions one has the sense of being right there alongside the champions of the financial oligopoly as the fall of banking institution after institution begins! Bringing the Republic and world commerce to a screeching halt to the outcries of humanity and central bankers everywhere of this just can't be happening in my lifetime!
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
198 of 203 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Origins and Story of the Financial Crisis April 6 2010
By AdamSmythe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One of the differences between Roger Lowenstein's 2000 book, When Genius Failed, and his latest book, The End of Wall Street, is that when Genius was written it plowed a lot of new ground describing the events that led up to (and followed) the collapse of the improbably-named Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) hedge fund back in 1998. (At that time, the LTCM saga was a very big deal, although the seriousness of the event has certainly been eclipsed by the more recent financial crisis.) The fact that Lowenstein was--and remains--a gifted writer just made Genius all the better. Today, in contrast, the events of the recent financial crisis are reasonably well known, and I've lost count how many books have been written on the subject. Is there room for one more? Sure. However, don't expect blinding revelations. Really. There is little new material that you probably haven't seen elsewhere. Fortunately, The End of Wall Street is well written, as you would expect from Lowenstein, so be prepared to enjoy a thoughtful, well-researched and engaging story. I haven't downgraded The End of Wall Street because it isn't the first book on its subject (although some may want to do that), but rather have rated it on the basis of how enjoyable it is. Frankly, I don't think it's quite up to When Genius Failed standards, but it's still a good effort.

This 298-page book begins with a list of its cast of characters that's over eight pages long. However, many of them--like Ben Bernanke, Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Barney Frank, Timothy Geintner, Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and others--hardly need an introduction. Lowenstein accurately tells the reader than it wasn't so much what followed the Lehman Brothers failure that was most important, but what preceded it. So we go back--way back--to the history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie, for example, dates back to 1938. (Freddie was created in 1970.) Latter, in 1968, Lyndon Johnson wanted to sell shares to the public in order to get Fannie off the government's books. Obviously, Fannie wasn't all good news, even back then.

Although I am taking some liberty at dividing the book, here are some of the main topics through which Lowenstein tells his story: (1) Fannie, Freddie and the somewhat toothless and ineffective OFHEO (Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight) that was created to watch over them; (2) Subprime loans, complete with the stories of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's CEO, NINA (no income, no asset) loans, New Century Mortgage, CDOs, etc.; (3) Other lenders, including JP Morgan and its more cautious CEO, Jamie Dimon; (4) Lehman before its fall; (5) The increasingly aggressive and competitive atmosphere among major banks, with special emphasis on CitiGroup; (6) The government takeover of Fannie and Freddie; (7) Lehman's collapse and its many aftershocks; (7) Hedge fund turmoil; (8) The TARP; (9) The Wachovia deal; (10) Bernanke and Paulson; (11) The Great Recession; and (12) The end--of Wall Street. It's not the really the end of Wall Street, of course. This is literary license. Interestingly, Lowenstein includes mention of Hyman Minsky's provocative "Instability Hypothesis," which is plus for the reader.

The book starts and ends with mention of Robert Rodriguez, the manager of two mutual funds for First Pacific Advisers (and amateur race car driver). According to Lowenstein, here was a man way ahead of his time in regards to seeing the building financial crisis. That may well be true, but Mr. Rodriguez isn't quite the investing genius he may seem in the pages of this book. In 2008, for example, with the conservative Mr. Rodriguez's stock-oriented mutual fund approximately 40% in cash for most of the year, he managed to lose almost 35%, compared to the (100% invested) S&P 500's 37% loss.

In closing, if what you are looking for is a lot of fresh meat regarding the recent financial crisis, I wouldn't buy this book. However, if you enjoy reading a lively, well-written and solidly informative summary primarily of the events that led up to the crisis, this is a good choice.
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So far, the definitive book on our Great Recession and its causes April 14 2010
By John E. Drury - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Roger Lowenstein, an accomplished journalist on issues related to high finance and Wall Street, pens a concise, analytical and thrilling overview of our Great Recession culminating in the pinball like events of September and October 2008. While his protagonists are Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner, he neither fawns nor is overly critical, providing understanding and appreciation to their roles and the outcomes of their policies. He examines the excesses of Fannie and Freddie and the legislative refusal of Democratic Congressional leaders to reign them in. He examines the vital role of the three major rating agencies and how their failure to flag the vulnerabilities in the mortgage securities contributed to the mess. AIG and its tentacles in all areas of the financial world are probed making its highly controversial bailout understandable. When Paulson yanks its blameless president's multi million dollar bonus, the reader murmurs "ouch." Lowenstein ferrets into Morgan Stanley's teetering position explaining its final sale of stock to the Japanese. The Big Three's 10/13/08 meeting with the banks forcing the federal government's investment in them is the capstone of governmental intrusion in this time of crises. He deftly plays out his timeline from 2007 through the Obama election never allowing the reader to get lost in the narrative. Without explication, for an adroit writer like Roger Lowenstein is too subtle, it is clear that the events of this two month crisis period keyed the election of Barrack Obama. His superb closing chapter ends with an observation about the prominence of finance in the last two decades and how its central role has diminished now; thus, the title of the book. The future ramifications of the Great Recession can neither be wholly foreseen nor predicted but Lowenstein does an excellent job of forecasting the future by explaining the past.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From Icarus to Cassandra May 22 2010
By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When Genius Failed, Roger Lowenstein's previous book on Wall Street, was a tale of hubris. It told the story of the rise and fall of LTCM, a hedge fund led by financial superstars, which failed and was bailed out in 1998 because its managers had placed excessive trust in their models. They thought they had found the ultimate money-making formula, but they fell on the rare event nobody had anticipated: the Asian financial crisis and Russia's default on its government bonds.

The book had a hero: John Meriwether, the brilliant bond trading manager who assembled a team of financial whizkids and Nobel prize winners. John Meriwether gained a measure of fame in Michael Lewis' book Liar's Poker, where he is described by Lewis as a Salomon Brothers fixed income guru and master of Liar's Poker, a game of bluff involving the guessing of numbers on hundred dollar bills which came to define the money culture of Wall Street at that time. Meriwether had grown up a bit by the time he created LTCM, but When Genius Failed retained the youthful energy that made trading floors sound like a college students' lounge, brimming with practical jokes and laughter. Greed and arrogance were tempered by team spirit and irreverence.

By contrast, The End of Wall Street is a story of cynicism and abuse, deception and fraud. The youthful enthusiasm is gone, and all is left are the cold calculating strategies of consenting adults bent on abusing each other. In Lowenstein's rendition, Meriwether was a modern Icarus, who burned his wings by trying to reach the sun. In The End of Wall Street, the book's hero is a modern Cassandra who regularly warns his contemporaries on upcoming catastrophy. This prophet of doom is named Robert Rodriguez, a fund manager who appears at every juncture of the book to foretell the troubles ahead. He interprets a nightmare on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's absence of audited financial statements as a fateful omen and moves clear of their government-backed debt as early as 2006. He warns of an "absence of fear" and scrubbs his bond portfolio clean of "suspicious" mortgage-backed securities in mid-2007. He consistently underscores that the core issue of the crisis is capital deficiency and not just liquidity, well before the Fed and US Treasury became ready to consider injecting capital in banks. But he is an outsider to Wall Street, and all he can do is haplessly watching the crisis unfold from a distance, while protecting his investors from the ripple effects.

To me, the most eye-opening chapter was the one on the subprime lending boom. Here I learned about NINA loans (as in "no income, no asset", referring to loans for which the borrower did not provide documentation of either) and option ARMs (for "adjustable rate mortgages") and other financial products from hell by which borrowers usually ended up owing more than they had borrowed. The method by which lenders ensured that borrowers would use their property as a primary home, described by one commercial agent as a "very serious process", was reduced to, simply, checking a box. The waiting period by which borrowers who had filed a personal bankrupcy could qualify for credit was shortened from two years to just one day. Clients could state their income and wealth without being asked to document it, making some credit officers refer to these so-called stated loans as "liar loans".

The weakening of standards and suspension of disbelief by which bankers usually scrutinize potential borrowers was not reduced to the mortgage industry. It was also extended to complex financial products, for which high ratings replaced independent judgment, and to the whole financial system that was believed to have reached a state of permanent stability, leaving the risk of a serious downturn definitively behind. High leverage and excessive risk-taking was fueled by excessive trust in the market and by Wall Street's indulgent compensation practices. And regulation of derivative products was seen as not only unnecessary, but also as potentially damaging.

The End of Wall Street is not the best book on the 2008 financial collapse. The author couches his story in moral overtones and vents his indignation at every corner, with rather gratuitous attacks on academics such as Milton Friedman and Michael Jensen. The day-to-day account of the events immediately preceding and following the Lehman shock have been described in more detail elsewhere, and sometimes read like a me-too account. The title greatly oversells the book, and no attempt is made to explore the overall significance of the disappearance of investment banks from the American financial landscape. Likewise, the web of cross-obligations and the countless conflicts of interests that still mar Wall Street and make its banks too connected to fail are not touched upon. The author concludes, without further elaboration, that "the Wild West model was supplanted with a more European-seeming arrangement, in which a few elite players thrived within government's embrace". I am not convinced.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed it by that much............. May 20 2010
By Anthony Baird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The title promised so much more than the book actually delivers. The dustjacket uses such words as 'sizzling', 'damning' and 'searing' to describe the book's revelations but Emile Zola this book is not. At the time of writing, no custodial sentences had been passed on any of the parties responsible for the Great Financial Crisis and sadly this book will not be the one that leads to the lights being on at midnight in the offices of ambitious prosecutors. That said, it covers the ground and to the layman it is a well written history of a time when the banking industry and Wall Street lost their heads and any trace of ethics.

Roger Lowenstein employs the eighteenth century economist Adam Smith's famous phrase - 'the invisible hand', but credits this to the author of a book written only last year. Perhaps this is not the author's fault; merely the usual careless Penguin editing.

I did enjoy reading the book however, although it is not "J'accuse". Written with more passion, this book could have been truly great.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Okay June 2 2010
By Dad5 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Apparently, the three-star rating means "its okay", which basically sums up this book. The inside flap of the book indicates that the author combines "deep analysis" with "sizzling narrative". Frankly, I didn't think it did either. But, for someone who simply wants an overview of the economic activities of the 2008 financial collapse, this book does a decent job. The author also does do a nice job of explaining mortgage-backed securities, CDOs, etc.- just don't expect a whole lot of sizzle in this book.
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