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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great business read
So what if this book is 14 years old? If you are looking for a good business book that reads like an exciting novel, this still does the trick. A great insight into Wall Street and the insider trading scandals of the 1980s. Sure it goes into loads of detail and is perhaps a bit too long, but there is no denying that Stewart is an exceptional writer. If you liked The...
Published on Oct. 24 2006 by Rob Nicol

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much in common with Wall Street today, I Hope!
Criticisms of this book center around the details of bond trading, specifically the authors miscalculation of commissions. Also, perhaps, some hearsay is included as facts. The author states that no anonymous sources are quoted, but there were un-named and 'not-for quote' sources used.
You either believe that the main characters (Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Martin...
Published on Nov. 22 2000 by Amazon Customer


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much in common with Wall Street today, I Hope!, Nov. 22 2000
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
Criticisms of this book center around the details of bond trading, specifically the authors miscalculation of commissions. Also, perhaps, some hearsay is included as facts. The author states that no anonymous sources are quoted, but there were un-named and 'not-for quote' sources used.
You either believe that the main characters (Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Martin Siegel, Dennis Levine)said what they said in the book or not. It's relevant because if true,Levine was a bigoted racist as well as a common thief. Not only did he rummage in associates desk drawers and files looking for inside information but he is quoted as saying that he could not understand a banker friend (who was interested in international lending to Third World countries)because all he wanted to do was "help the niggers and the spics." How's that for your respectable Investment Banker?! The point of the quote is this - Levine was not representative or typical of the 'new' banker but his comment shows that motives such as self interest and personal greed would certainly have found fertile ground to flourish in.
The book accurately portrays the characters (including the seedy ones),their backgrounds and the environment they found themselves in. Wall Street of the late 1970's and early 80's was changing.The Wall Street establishment of old money investment houses (Goldman-Sachs,Morgan Stanley,Kidder Peabody, Merrill Lynch, etc)and stately (maybe even stale)banks such as Citibank and First Boston were being forced to make room for investment brokers and arbitrageurs (Drexel, Burnham & Boesky & Co. etc).
New products, new people, new methods were being introduced. The new bankers were not your starched white shirt, conservative, Ivy League trained, WASP corporate types. They were first of all, younger and from different class, educational and ethnic backgrounds. Many of them were from immigrant or Jewish working or middle class families and felt themselves to be ostracised and generally outside of Wall Street. They were not all motivated by greed and certainly were not all Dennis Levines, but for a few, given the opportunity,the positions of power and the money, and now that they were 'In' they were going to change things around. Sales techniques and hustle was now more important than where you graduated from. Presentations to corporate boards were out, replaced with speadsheet analysis of cash flows and trades over the phones. The movement was towards allowing some who were previously spurned by Wall Street to get in on the action. They were going to shake up the system and as Milken himself said "tee up GM, Ford and IBM and make them cringe".
I don't find the book villifying Milken as the Devil himself but then again it doesn't portray him in a positive light either. I don't have any problem with that because I am of the view that he was a crook. A brilliant, driven, powerful and extremely wealthy and well connected financial innovator but... still a crook.
Overall the book is written with a bias towards the SEC investigation and uncovering of the insider trading scandal and the subsequent arrests of Levine, Boesky and Milken. From the perspective of 10 years on, the book is of more historical interest. All of the principals have served their time and most of the companies are gone (merged or metamorphosed). There are some interesting vignettes of people who since then have gone on to bigger and better things. You can read about Robert Rubin when he was still at Goldman Sachs, Rudy Giuliani when still US Attorney and Chuck Schumer when still only a Congressman who was critical of the SEC. There are also 8 pages of photos of the major players.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great business read, Oct. 24 2006
By 
Rob Nicol (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
So what if this book is 14 years old? If you are looking for a good business book that reads like an exciting novel, this still does the trick. A great insight into Wall Street and the insider trading scandals of the 1980s. Sure it goes into loads of detail and is perhaps a bit too long, but there is no denying that Stewart is an exceptional writer. If you liked The Smartest Guys in the Room, you will love this, too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and Accurate, Jan. 28 2004
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
Having re-read this book last week, it took me back to a time and a place I really didn't want to visit but found I should. Having been lured to Drexel, Burnham as a senior executive (from Morgan, Stanley in 1986) only weeks before the scandals hit -- and having witnessed the lava-roast at that firm -- it amazes me how Mr. Stewart was able to re-create events. Along with Predators' Ball, this book serves as an example of the power of quality investigative journalism. Filled with my own stories of similar dealings, I understand fully that his observations hit dead-center at the bullseye of the truth of that decade.
One comment in the Epilogue struck me as almost sad. Mr. Stewart says, in the wake of these scandals: "Wall Street has given every sign of being severely chastened." Too bad that wasn't the case.
Now myself a writer with somewhat less courage, perhaps, than Mr. Stewart (I've written about abuses/dangers on Wall Street, but write them as financial thrillers and opinion pieces -- it's safer, I think), I can only hope that with each scandal we get a little more honest, a little more chastened. Too bad I don't see that happening. Not yet, at least.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reality Check for every decade., May 11 2003
By 
"info@goshadesign.com" (Plano, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
I would like to begin by saying that it is amazing what kind of copious and exhaustive research has gone into the writing of this book. James Stewart weaves a story of greed, lies, betrayals, and human frailty. The books accounts for the most significant events on Wall Street thoughout the 19080s, detailing various schemes of insider trading and more devious manipulations of the market that can be hardly understood by people not in the invenstment field. Even today the ramifications of the acts of then household names such as Boesky, Siegel, and Milken cannot be fully realized. It is a book that would make people weep who lost everything in the wake of of "high yield" bond depreciation, and to caution others to take most things told to them by investment bankers, arbs, and other financial figures with a grain of salt. Many who read this book feel that Milken was unfairly treated and got the short end of the stick at sentencing time. However, I would argue that no one in the schemes outlined got anywhere near the punishment that they deserved. All of the criminals in this book, and criminals they were of greatest magnitude who stole from investors, their employees, and the American people untold sums, came out wealthy and little shaken by the experience. It is interesting to note that the book treats everyone kindly on some level other than Dennis Levine who is nothing but villiefied throughout the book as stupid, ineffectual, overweight and crass. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who are thinking about going into the field of investment, businessmen, and people who want to know more about Wall Street in the 1980's, ...
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Den" of Inequity, May 16 2002
By 
Patrick Graham (Gainsville, Fl United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
In Den of Thieves, James Stewart gives us a gripping account of the insider trading ring that almost brought down Wall Street.
As a student studying finance, I was told to read this book by my cousin who worked in the financial world. After I finished, I had a more realistic view of the intensity of Wall Street. This intense competition and desire for money drove some people over the edge. Such was the case for Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Terry Mulheren, and their cohorts. To a certain extent, these men were driven to cheat and steal by insatiable greed.
You do not have to know much about the financial world to enjoy this fast paced thriller. The joy in this book is in the hunt. Once the SEC became aware of Milken's activities, they had to find a way to prove it and then had to take Milken down. Once Milken was taken out of his office in handcuffs and Rudy Guliani began to build his case, Milken's "associates" began to sing like canaries in the hope of cutting a deal with the government.
I love reading books about criminals who get what is coming to them. Michael Milken and friends deserved every bit of jail time they got. This definitely a book about criminals getting what they deserved. James Stewart draws you in within the first 20 pages, from there I hope you have some spare time because you will not be able to put it down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at a complex and amazing scandal., Dec 10 2001
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
The 1980's were known as the "Greed Decade" but, for many, the true excesses of that greed were never fully known or are now only a distant memory. James Stewart's book, "Den of Thieves" provides a comprehensive, fascinating and readable look at the insider trading scandals of the 1980's which brought words like
arbitrageur and LBO into the mainstream and people like Boesky and Milken household names.
Stewart begins by looking at the rise of some of Wall Street's highest fliers and, in many cases, providing exhaustive details of how the prevailing mantra of "greed is good" led them to orchestrate their own downfall. The audacity of many of these people is almost breathtaking, as is the wealth they accumulated. Stewart moves on to detail the process by which the government, in the form of the SEC and then-US Attorney Rudy Giuliani, brought this house of cards tumbling down. The various players in the game are portrayed with varying degrees of sympathy. However, the government authorities are not necessarily portrayed in the most flattering light and Stewart raises a number of questions about the overall handling of the investigations.
One word of caution - readers should not get too bogged down in the details of the story. The insider trading scandal involved
hundreds of players and transactions and schemes that were unbelievably complex. It is almost impossible to assimilate the entire story without getting somewhat confused. Nevertheless, the book is at its most effective when you take a step back and look at the grand scheme of the insider trades, the methods by which the perpetrators were brought to justice and the punishment they suffered from their crimes. In many ways, the book was published before the story reached a final conclusion and it would be worthwhile for a revised edition to be published, updating the status of the actors involved and the fallout of the revelations which the investigations brought.
Overall, this is a fascinating and well written book which raises fundamental questions about the way business was, and is, conducted and the way in which the justice system operates. I would highly recommend it as the definitive account of the insider trading scandals of the 1980s.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Only 22 months?, Oct. 9 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
Michael Milken served only 22 months of a 10-year sentence? Unbelievable! His time served surely doesn't send a message to those who consider the potential consequences of their criminal activities. The book was hard to put down - the author's research was in-depth and fascinating. The book can really get your blood boiling, such as when Milken introduces his "good friend, Jesse Jackson" - an obvious P.R. strategy intended to influence a potential jury of minorities. In fact, Milken's entire P.R. directed campaign makes you sick. Milken is indeed a talented financier, and there was no need for him to act criminally. How many millions, excuse me, BILLIONS, is enough? The author's work is a necessary read for those interested in business history and for those working in the financial services industry. Many feel that history will judge Milken in a favorable light - but I hope that our society never views tax evasion and fraud in a positive light. The book gave me a new appreciation for those serving the public, as the author tells us about the hard work of officials at the SEC and at the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York. Business can be conducted with trust and integrity, and when combined with good old-fashioned hard work, becomes a success story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Superbly good read, Feb. 11 2001
By 
Richard Wu "civicrule" (USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
James Stewart resounts the intricately tangled web of insider trading on Wall Street in the 1980s with vivid detail. Infamous personalities include M. Milken, M. Siegel, I. Bowsky, and D. Levine. Each character of the vast cast is introduced and interweaved with the rest of the plot seamlessly, making the pages turn by themselves once started.
The game begins with a young investment banker at CSFB. Levine's inexorable desire to achieve extraordinary wealth soon drove him beyond the legal limits of ibanking, rounding up insiders at various other banks, law firm, and even one graduating HBS student. Through the ring of informants, the insiders exploited their access to proprietory information to great length, engaging in numerous insider trading transactions, which eventually yielded in the millions across a span of just a few years. Yet, compared to the big boys, Levine's ring can only be considered toying. Legendary financier Boskey, junk bond king Milken and others take insider trading to a whole new level, arranging numerous "parking" transactions, inflated invoiced, tax evation schemes, feeding each others accounts while manipulating the stock prices of various publicly traded companies.
The story takes the readers through a who is who on Wall Street and even travels off south to Bermuda and Cayman Islands for a couple of times. Through an occasional suspicious transaction at two of Merill's brokers, New York DA Giuliani and his team were able to slowly sort through a vast web of insider trading activity, and implicate more and more Wall Street types as the investigation went on. After all the twists and turns, the bankers are sent to jail one by one, and finally, Milken was indicted, putting an end to the jonk bond king and the corporate raid bonanza.
Put aside a couple of afternoons and treat yourself to this piece of great storytelling.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Read on the "Greed" Decade, Sept. 3 2000
By 
Benjamin Koppel (Naperville, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
The book was an excellent narrative, first off. Stewart does a fine job with the "action" part of the story. While it might be true that some of his analysis is off (see other reviews), it still gets the point across.
While obviously Stewart has a pro-U.S. Attorney and SEC slant, if the book was entirely truthful (which indications say is so), then readers really have no choice but to come away with the verdict that Michael Milken, albeit a visionary in some sense and a great salesman, was really a crook who cost the taxpayers billions and unfairly ruled the junk-bond market with an iron fist. Especially interesting is Stewart's theory on how junk bonds contributed to the S&L debacle in the late '80's.
All-in-all, the narrative is great, and the analysis seems to be decent. It really makes the blood boil, however, to learn how Milken especially duped the system and then got away with a too light sentence (although it actually could've been shorter had Milken had more common sense)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended - Easy for the Layman to Understand, May 18 2000
This review is from: Den of Thieves (Paperback)
James Stewart has a knack for storytelling. Even something that could be potentially dry as all get out he explains clearly and without a lot of hoopla. It is, what it is and that's the truth. Some people think his work is biased but I was knee deep in all of this when it was happening. I saw the after affects of all the mergers and buyouts. I worked in a large financial institution that provided some of the funding for these deals and I was able to see the deals up close and personal. Stewart doesn't exaggerate a thing so all you guys out there crying he's biased you need a reality check. What he documents is how corporate America lost its soul. How the average worker was further displaced, how corporate america quietly lost (and couldn't figure it out later) the loyalty of its work force. The affects of downsizing (reduction in force) are exacting a terrible price today. Ever wonder where customer service went. It went out the window when workers realized that 30 years with a company meant nothing and that a CEO could get paid 5 million for just being there and he didn't have to be competent.
Read it and think about it especially now that some time has passed since it was first written and tell me you don't get a chill down your spine.
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Den of Thieves
Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart (Paperback - Sept. 1 1992)
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