Felix Salmon

Judging Greg Smith’s book by its cover

We don’t know much about the new book by Greg Smith, Why I Left Goldman Sachs. But we do know what its cover looks like. And there’s no mistaking the fact that the font on the cover of the book is very similar to the font used in the Goldman logo:

Financial fiction

Near the beginning of Capital, the new novel from John Lanchester, we’re introduced to banker Roger Yount, and are treated to a wonderful three-page riff on the million-pound bonus he’s desperate to receive:

The Fear Index

I tend to find fictionalizations of high finance disappointing. I wasn’t a huge fan of Margin Call: it seemed to me oversimplistic and often quite silly in its portrayal of a how a bank like Lehman Brothers operates. And Adam Haslett’s hugely ambitious novel Union Atlantic was worse. In both cases, a series of senior bankers behaved in ways that senior bankers simply wouldn’t ever behave in reality.

Did Michael Lewis libel Wing Chau?

Is this a case of reality copying satire? A couple of weeks ago, Michael Lewis caricatured the dissenters from the FCIC report:

How AIG died

Many thanks to Roddy Boyd for sending me over e-galleys of his new book on the implosion of AIG, Fatal Risk. (If you want me to read a book — I’m looking at you, publishers — then sending it over in electronic form makes it much more likely I’ll do so. I would never have read Zero-Sum Game, for instance, Erika Olson’s insider account of the CME-CBOT merger, had she not sent it to my Kindle. But she did, and I did, and I’m happy I got to read it.)

Where’s today’s hellhound of Wall Street?

My review of Michael Perino’s new book about Ferdinand Pecora, The Hellhound of Wall Street, is up now chez B&N. I liked the book a lot, and learned a lot from it, and ultimately came away saddened that history can’t and won’t repeat itself this time round. In 1933, Pecora was the hero of the financial crisis: the man who brought the banksters to book. Today, there’s no such hero. And while Dodd-Frank and Basel III are all well and good, they’re not remotely as far-reaching and revolutionary as the Securities Act, and the Exchange Act, and the creation of entities like the SEC and the FDIC.

The Big Short

After my review of Michael Lewis’s new book was posted on Friday, Sandrew asked for a bit more detail on this bit, about the people who shorted the subprime mortgage market:

Dead Bankers

I was off the grid for most of the long weekend, which allowed me to curl up with a pulpy thriller for the first time in many, many years. I’m by no means an expert on the genre, but if you’re a reader of this blog and you like such things then there’s a good chance that Dead Bankers, a novel by Philip Delves Broughton, might be exactly for you; there’s a paperback version here if you don’t have a Kindle.

The Flaw of Averages

I’m not generally a fan of management books, maybe because I’m not a manager. So it’s probably just as well that I didn’t realize that The Flaw of Averages, by Sam Savage, was a management book before I started reading it. The highest praise I can give it is that I finished reading it — all the way through — which is something I don’t think I’ve ever done with a management book. Savage is a clear and gifted writer, which helps, and I’m interested in the subject matter, which also helps.