Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves
11 Sep 2010
Confession: I didn’t read this book, it’s too long I had to use the audio book. 22 hours of personal stories and minute-by-minute account of what happened from the collapse of bear stern to the TARP program. Lots of background stories about the participants and there’s a loooot of them. Let me list some issues and observations I have on the book:
There’s way too many characters and way too many details to a level that cast doubt on the author’s ability to collect all that information. To his credit, he puts a disclaimer that some of the stories are sourced by only one source with no way to prove them. This makes the book a way to understand the circumstances of the crisis not to make a historical account of what actually happened.
If you’re new to characters, try to find pictures of them (which is available in the hard cover and the paperback)It helps remembering who is who.
The book mentions nothing about what caused the crisis. This was a disappointment for me as I was looking forward for that part.
The book gives a kind look at the heads of financial institutions that participated in the crisis, their history, their families, their short comings in their careers and lives. Sometimes it make them look like the people who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in the middle of a perfect storm and not the ones who caused it. Though at the very end, the book describes the executives insistence on avoiding limit on bounces and reveal that the true intension of quickly paying back the TARP money is actually their desire to access their bounces, it generally gives executives a favorable treatment as people who are racing to save the financial system.
One of the things that struck me is the ease with which people on such high level managing huge financial institutions deal with important decisions. The number of possible merges between huge companies is big. Meetings over the weekend, phone calls to ask “Do you want to buy JP Morgan/Lehman Brothers/etc.?”. It just amazes me. Read the book but don’t count it as the only account on what happened, it’s only one version of the story. The story of what happened, not what caused the crisis and who’s to blame.