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House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street

House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street

Written by William D. Cohan

Narrated by Alan Sklar


House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street

Written by William D. Cohan

Narrated by Alan Sklar

ratings:
4.5/5 (8 ratings)
Length:
25 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Apr 20, 2009
ISBN:
9781400181681
Format:
Audiobook

Description

In March 2008, Bear Stearns, a swashbuckling eighty-four-year-old financial institution, was forced to sell itself to JPMorgan Chase for an outrageously low price in a deal brokered by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who was desperately trying to prevent the impending catastrophic market crash. But mere months before, an industry-wide boom had "the Bear" clocking a record high stock price. How did a giant investment bank with $18 billion in cash on hand disappear in a mere ten days? In this tour de force, Cohan provides a minute-by-minute account of the events that brought America's second Gilded Age to an end.



Filled with intimate portraits of the major players, high-end gossip, and smart financial analysis, House of Cards recounts in delicious narrative form the dramatic events behind the fall of Bear Stearns and what it revealed about the financial world's progression from irrational boom to cataclysmic bust. House of Cards is the Rosetta Stone for understanding the dramatic and the unprecedented events that have reshaped Wall Street and global finance in the past two years.
Publisher:
Released:
Apr 20, 2009
ISBN:
9781400181681
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

William D. Cohan is the bestselling author of Money and Power, House of Cards, and The Last Tycoons. He has appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, CBS This Morning, ABC Evening News, Good Morning America, and more. He has also been featured on numerous NPR programs, including Marketplace, Diane Rehm, Leonard Lopate, and Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson. In addition to being media savvy, Cohan is himself a Duke alum who worked on Wall Street for seventeen years.


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Reviews

What people think about House of Cards

4.4
8 ratings / 7 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    A book that examines one of the seminal events of the 2008 financial crisis; the run that eventually led to the collapse and forced sale of Bear, Stearns & Co. to JPMorganChase. The book starts with the days leading up to the collapse, and then, in the second part, looks at the evolution of Bear, Stearns, going all the way back to the founding of the firm in the 1920s, and following the careers of some of the key players in the firm, like Cy Lewis and "Ace" Greenberg, and then, in a later generation, Jimmy Cayne. The author, I think, does a very good job of exploring the personalities and their quirks; the chemistry of the leadership of Bear, Stearns directly led to some of the issues that led to the firm's downfall. A lot of the financial terms that are involved in an explanation of why the firm went bust are a bit abstruse (I know some other commenters were puzzled by them), but again, the author does a pretty good job in explaining them. I happened to be on the very edges of what was going on here -- I was an employee of Merrill Lynch at the time. I can say that the author does a good job of evoking what was going on. Recommended for financial history mavens.
  • (3/5)
    Highly detailed account of the rise and fall of Bear Stearns. Awfully hard to follow for those of us who don't understand the market just because of all the market lingo used, but hey, that's the nature of the book so I can't complain. I just personally couldn't follow a lot of the monetary jargon. Other than that, I think this is one of the most highly day-to-day detail filled books I've ever read: what someone did for morning, for lunch, what games they played. One really gets the feeling of know some of these individuals and that's not necessarily a good thing - it is a tail of corporate greed and the ruthlessness and ambition of some of the BSC members is appalling. The book does a really good job of explaining - in its thoroughness of character detail - why the markets can get so unfathomable and how there is such a disconnect between the haves and the have-nots. One extremely telling point was when the BSC people were complaining about a deal of $2/share when "... the building itself was worth $10/share!" and how they should *at least* get that, don't cha know!. Hmmmm... tell me again about how the 1000s of everyday people who got *at least* the fair market value for their homes when they were foreclosed on - oh yeah, didn't happen. But wow, the compensations, the retirement packages, the perks, the self-righteous "I deserve that!" attitude, the intense ladder climbing - you really really get a good feel of that from this book and you start to understand how corrupt these guys really are. So even though the money stuff got me lost I got a feeling of "knowing" the lives of Wall Street money men (and back then they were almost exclusively men)I recommend this book but with the warning that it is so highly detailed, it sometimes gets you lost in the day to day minutiae - if that's your thing, this is a great book.
  • (3/5)
    The level of detail in this book is amazing and probably only of interest to a very few in the world. The reason? So much of what's covered pertains to finance. Cohan covers every single significant event (and even the no-so-significant ones) as they pertained to the collapse of Bear Stearns and much of Wall Street in 2008. If you ever need your family life written, Cohan is more than able to do the job. House of Cards shows clearly how out of touch the men who work on Wall Street really are. They see dollar signs and testosterone as the only measuring sticks in life -it's all the rest which is immaterial.

    Barbarians at the Gate still holds the top spot for me as a book that explains the wretched hubris men of finance have.
  • (4/5)
    If you weren't already angry enough about how greed rules our society, this book will help get you fired up. A simply amazing story that would almost be unbelievable- except that we are living through it! It helps me understand the government's attempts at finally regulating Wall Street, and confirms my conviction that most of these top guys should go to jail...
  • (5/5)
    Wall Street has long been a source of fascination for me and many people. It's kind of frightening to think that the money you earn and spend, the money you invest in pensions and savings, and the debts you incur are all influenced by the actions of a relatively small group of (mainly) men located in financial centres like Wall Street.House of Cards tells the story of Bear Stearns, a global investment bank, which was the first major casualty of the recent crisis in the financial markets. Bear Stearns was a pioneer in the area of securitisation and asset-backed securities which initially resulted in bumper figures at the bank, but ultimately led to its downfall in 2008. This resulted in the bank being sold in a firesale to JP Morgan Chase.The story starts in 2008 and recounts the mounting pressure on the bank's executives as they faced an unparalleled liquidity crisis in the overnight lending market, resulting in the sale of the proud and historic bank, all in the space of just 10 days. Having established the present, Cohan then starts to take us through the history and key personalities of Bear Stearns.What emerges is a portrait of how powerful and dominant personalities came to be in charge of billions of dollars. One of the main figures in the rise, and ultimate downfall, of Bear Stearns is long-serving CEO Jimmy Cayne. Named as one of the worst American CEOs of all time, Cayne is endemic of both the brilliance and faults that lay at the heart of the bank. A championship bridge player, he was playing in a tournament when B.S. hedge funds experienced difficulty, and it was clear to see that he did not comprehend the financial instruments upon which the success of Bear Stearns had been built.Cohan paints a picture of character over integrity, forcefulness and personality over knowledge and regulation. It is a scary world, full of folly. Many people are confused about recent events, but House of Cards is a wonderful place to start to learn. It is well researched, detailed and well-written. Cohan does not eulogise, but simply presents the personalities and facts. There is no need for embellishment - the outcomes of recent years speak for themselves.
  • (4/5)
    Well written, if dry. I enjoyed reading about the men behind Bear Sterns, but I didn't enjoy the history of the company and the minute detail Cohan used when describing their abrupt bankruptcy. Greenberg and Cayne had an interesting father/son relationship, so I enjoyed particularly when Cayne lopped off his father's head and took his mother, so to speak. Seeing the petty ways Cayne kept himself in power by undermining those gaining status below him added another dimension to Jimmy Cayne, the man.If anything, I would have liked to have heard more of the author's voice, or seen some kind of moral in this story. Instead, Cohan is treats the subject in a very hands-off way and shows us a company run by men, some of them scoundrels, that came to ruin at their hands, perhaps unfairly, or perhaps not.
  • (4/5)
    Excellent book. The first third of the book details the 10 days before the Bear Sterns collapse. I found this part difficult to read and follow because it was such an intense period of time and so many people were involved, which gave me just a glimpse of chaotic it must have been to be there and experience it.The second third of the book details the rise (and fall) of the 3 main leaders of Bear Stearns, Cy Lewis, Ace Greenberg, and Jimmy Cayne. This people were such unique individuals that this part of the book read like fiction. These people were true characters.The last third talks about the Bear's fall from grace, including a detailed account of the hedge funds collapse. It also discusses what happened in the months following Bear's collapse, particularly the Lehman BK.