Why Wall Street Matters by William D. Cohan

The Blurb On The Back:

”This is my effort to pry open the black box that Wall Street has carefully constructed around itself in the last generation, much to its detriment.  It’s a black box that makes it almost impossible for the average American to understand what goes on there, why it is important to nearly everything we hold dear, and why we wouldn’t much like to live in a world without Wall Street.”

If you like your smartphone or your widescreen TV, your car or your pension, then, whether you know it or not, you are a fan of Wall Street.

William D. Cohan, bestselling author of House of Cards, has long been critical of the bad behaviour that plagued much of Wall Street in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, and, as an ex-banker, he is an expert on its inner workings as well.  But in recent years he has become alarmed by the vitriol directed at the bankers, traders and executives who keep the wheels of our economy turning.  Why Wall Street Matters is a timely and trenchant reminder of the actual good these institutions do and the dire consequences for us all if the essential role they play in making our lives better is carelessly curtailed.

In a brisk, non-nonsense narrative, Cohan traces the history of Wall Street from a handful of traders on a cobblestone street in downtown Manhattan to the global financial behemoth it is today.  Along the way, he argues that Wall Street and the big banks, with their important interstitial role between those who have capital and those who need it, are the invisible, albeit flawed, engines that power our ideas.  Instead of denigrated, they should be celebrated and made to work better for us.

Maybe you think the banks should be broken up and the bankers held accountable for what happened in 2008.  Maybe you hate the greed of Wall Street but know that it’s important to the world economy.  Maybe you don’t really understand Wall Street, and phrases such as credit default swap make your eyes glaze over.  Maybe you think President Trump is America’s saviour or believe that he will destroy everything.

Whoever you are, whatever you think, the blunt, brief and utterly accessible Why Wall Street Matters will be your beacon through the fog.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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The Fix by Liam Vaughan and Gavin Finch

The Blurb On The Back:

”The first thing you think is, where’s the edge?  Where can I make a bit more money?  You want every little bit of money that you can possibly get because, like I say, that is how you are judged: that is your performance metric.”

– Tom Hayes, convicted former trader for UBS and Citigroup

The Fix, by award-winning Bloomberg journalists Liam Vaughan and Gavin Finch, is the inside story of the Libor scandal told through the journey of the man at the center of it – Tom Hayes, a young, scruffy, socially awkward misfit from England whose genius for math and obsessive personality made him a trading phenomenon but ultimately paved the way for his own downfall.   

In the midst of the financial crisis, Hayes and his network of traders and brokers from Wall Street’s leading firms engineered the biggest financial conspiracy ever seen.  As the rest of the world burned, they came together on secret chat rooms and late-night phone calls to hatch an audacious plan to rig Libor.  Without the persistence of a rag-tag team of investigators from the US, they would have gotten away with it …

Based on hundreds of interviews opening up unprecedented access to the traders and brokers involved in the scandal, the regulators and central bankers who failed to stop it and the investigators who caught up with them, The Fix provides a rare look into the dark heart of global finance at the start of the 21st century.

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Nothing But A Circus: Misadventures Among The Powerful by Daniel Levin

The Blurb On The Back:

In this eye-opening exploration of the human weakness for power, Daniel Levin takes us on a journey through the absurd world of our global elites, drawing unforgettable sketches of some of the puppets who stand guard, and the jugglers and conjurers employed within.  Most spectacular of all, however, are the astonishing contortions performed by those closest to the top in order to maintain the illusion of integrity, decency and public service.

Based on the author’s first hand experiences of dealing with governments and political institutions around the world, NOTHING BUT A CIRCUS offers a rare glimpse of the conversations that happen behind closed doors, observing the appalling lengths that people will go to in order to justify their unscrupulous choices, from Dubai to Luanda, Moscow to Beijing, and at the heart of the UN and the US government.  

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