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This is a favorite genre of mine (when well done): the large-canvas history of business firms, their structure and financing, their experiments and excesses, strengths and weaknesses (and key personalities) through the challenges of time and shifting environments. Here we follow the tendency of corporate leaders in various times to take high-flying "Icaran" risks, rolling the dice on the fortunes of their companies (and of the various stakeholders), for personal glory or riches or various other motives, mixing with counter-waves of regulation trying (in ways sometimes more enlightened or effective, sometimes less) to contain this behavior.
Samuel Insull, for example, was a corporate empire-builder of the 1920s, taking the novel complex tiering of utility holding companies to new risk-laden heights, prior to the whole structure collapsing around his ears, and the arrival of New Deal legislation tying utilities' hands. Another surge in creativity emerges with the roaring 1980's, well described here with Michael Milken's innovations at center stage. Similar time is spent with Enron. Such events are woven well in this book into larger historical contexts. Whether the reader agrees with the authors' biases or not, there is plenty of factual content here to chew on. The book ends with the arrival of Sarbanes-Oxley, i.e., post-2000 but before the biggest runups of the subprime fiasco and 2008. I would like to see an update along these lines from the author, noting there is an audible book by him on 2010's Dodd-Frank legislation I rated highly.
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