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With one notable exception, the firms that make up what we know as Wall Street have always been part of an inbred, insular culture that most people only vaguely understand. The exception was Merrill Lynch, a firm that revolutionized the stock market by bringing Wall Street to Main Street, setting up offices in far-flung cities and towns long ignored by the giants of finance. With its “thundering herd” of financial advisers, perhaps no other business, whether in financial services or elsewhere, so epitomized the American spirit. Merrill Lynch was not only “bullish on America,” it was a big reason why so many average Americans were able to grow wealthy by investing in the stock market.
Merrill Lynch was an icon. Its sudden decline, collapse, and sale to Bank of America was a shock. How did it happen? Why did it happen? And what does this story of greed, hubris, and incompetence tell us about the culture of Wall Street that continues to this day, even though it came close to destroying the American economy? A culture in which the CEO of a firm losing $28 billion pushes hard to be paid a $25 million bonus. A culture in which two Merrill Lynch executives are guaranteed bonuses of $30 million and $40 million for four months’ work, even while the firm is struggling to reduce its losses by firing thousands of employees.
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By Charles on 04-04-13
A Dizzying Story About the Fall of an Icon
Crash of the Titans is a spiraling story that spans the 80 year history of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America in a back and forth, non-linear path. Understanding the back story and living through the storm as a Bank of America associate during the Great Recession, I was able to follow the cast of characters and timeline of events with ease. But I can't imagine someone outside of the firm being able to make the same connections as easily without having to re-read (or re-listen) to many sections.
But if you can follow the timeline of events, understand the basics of the banking terms and functions of capital markets, the story is awesome. It is a can't miss thrill ride that puts a human context around the headlines that splashed the front pages of newspapers for weeks between 2007 and 2008. Everyone we though were villains were not necessary so. Everyone we thought were hero weren't so innocent either.
Dan Woren speaks life into this very intriguing story written by Greg Farrell. Unlike some narrators of business books, Woren was no overly dry or stiff in tone. For those of us who enjoy business and non-fiction audiobooks, the narrator is key. And Woren's performance kept me going and gave feeling to each of the Wall Street bankers her spoke for.
In all, this audiobook was well worth the credit, but it is not for the faint of heart. The story treats the reader (listener) as if they understand the basics of capital markets and jumps around with the timeline. But the holistic story of how an icon like the Thundering Herd of Merrill Lynch who helped restore confidence in the market by middle America after the 1929 stock market crash until its own demise is enthralling for those of us who lived through it.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
By Stephanie on 12-19-10
The author needs an outline or timeline
This book needs a timeline and the author should stick to it. Farrell goes in and out of decades like the dow chart on a volatile day. It was very difficult to keep the flow of the story in my head because in one paragraph he's discussing 1992 and in the next 2008 and back again before the next indent. It was difficult enough to remember the hundreds of names of all the players, but when you add the mixed up, back and forth, far past to near past recounts, I ultimately listened just to get what I could out of the facts. An outline would have been helpful for the reader and the author during his writing.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful