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Publisher's Summary

How the bold dream of a small tribe at J.P. Morgan was corrupted by Wall Street greed and unleashed a catastrophe....Drawing on exclusive access to J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and a tightly bonded team of bankers known on Wall Street as the "Morgan Mafia"---as well as in-depth interviews with dozens of other key players, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner---Gillian Tett brings to life in gripping detail how the Morgan team's bold ideas for a whole new kind of financial alchemy helped to ignite a revolution in banking, and how that revolution escalated wildly out of control.The deeply reported and lively narrative takes listeners behind the scenes, to the inner sanctums of elite finance and to the secretive reaches of what came to be known as the "shadow banking" world. The story begins with an intense Morgan brainstorming session in 1994 beside a pool in Boca Raton, where the team cooked up a dazzling new idea for the exotic financial product known as credit derivatives. That idea would rip around the banking world, catapult Morgan to the top of the turbocharged derivatives trade, and fuel an extraordinary banking boom that seemed to have unleashed banks from ages-old constraints of risk. But when the Morgan team's derivatives dream collided with the housing boom and was perverted---through hubris, delusion, and sheer greed---by such titans of banking as Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, and the thundering herd at Merrill Lynch (even as J.P. Morgan itself stayed well away from the risky concoctions others were peddling), catastrophe followed.Tett's access to Dimon and the J.P. Morgan leaders who so skillfully steered their bank away from the wild excesses of others sheds invaluable light not only on the untold story of how they engineered their bank's escape from carnage but also on how possible it was for the larger banking world, regulators, and rating agencies to have spotted, and heeded, the terrible risks of a meltdown.
©2009 Gillian Tett; (P)2009 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

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By D. Littman on 07-17-09

Outstanding narrative about the financial crisis

This book is one of the first you should turn to in order to understand how we got into our current economic & financial fix in the United States (and the rest of the developed world). It is well-written, well-read, moves along at a good clip, and provides an excellent explication of the derivatives/credit default swaps slice of the crisis without being too technical. It should be understandable to the lay reader. Certainly in 10 years time there will be better & more comprehensive books than this one about the crisis, but right now it is one of the best. Highly recommended.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful


By JohninMaine on 03-23-10

Finally it's making sense

I really enjoyed this book. It's an interesting history of those strange little financial devices, credit derivatives. Most of us never heard of them until they were wildly abused by bankers and very nearly brought the world's economies to a dead stop. It's a difficult and arcane subject matter, but the author did a great job explaining what happened and the motives of the different players. To her credit, she doesn't appear to paint a simple picture with bad guys and good guys, liberal or conservative, etc. She writes like a good journalist. I'd been searching for a good book to explain what happened in the financial meltdown - I wanted something to explain why and how. This book does the job.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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