Too Big To Fail — Andrew Ross Sorkin

Too Big To Fail"Too Big To Fail" is by far the best retelling of all the events surrounding the financial crisis. 

I’ve read Meltdown, Fools Gold, House of Cards, The Quants, The Big Short, and even Paulson’s “On The Brink” which is a wonderful documentary of these events but still limited to his singular perspective. 

Sorkin goes way beyond anything I could image by taking us inside all the conversations at the Treasury, the Fed, and the highest levels of the banks and investment banks at the center of this disaster.  The extent of his research must have been enormous.

I could feel the panic, the shock-and-awe, and determination not to mention the patriotism of so many people as they struggled to understand what was happening and triage a solution that would hold the system together. 

This is truly a well-written story.

My takeaways:

– There are countless heroes who had to work for weeks on 3-4 hours sleep per day and make gut-wrenching decisions that affected the entire world financial system.

– Just like in any industry you or I work in, there are idiots everywhere and in this case most of them were creating and trading risk and financial products they had no intelligence to understand.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.48.22 PMDick Fuld is an idiot for refusing an acquisition offer months before Lehman’s implosion and instead choosing to ride the hopes of a better deal right to the end, like the captain of the Titanic.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.46.06 PMVikram Pandit is another idiot purely based on his behavior and lack of understanding of Citi’s tenuous situation and his inexplicably lowball offer of $1 for Wachovia.  I’m glad Wells Fargo jumped in to prove Pandit’s incompetence.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.44.59 PMJamie Dimon is Mr-Cool in what must have been the hot-seat of a lifetime.  His sharp grasp of all the dynamics, foresight at what was coming and how JP Morgan needed to be positioned, and pure wit makes him my hero.  If I had any money to manage, he would get all of it.

– It is critical to anyone’s personal success to surround yourself with a small group of brilliant and trusted people.  Clearly that element is present with all the leaders of the “winning companies” who persevered and prospered through this challenge.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.43.56 PM Thank you Mr. Sorkin for the tireless research and bringing the facts of this unbelievable event to light.  This work will serve many generations to come.

-Mark

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