Reckless Endangerment

How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon

Morgenson, Gretchen

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Reckless Endangerment
"The New York Times's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist reveals how the financial meltdown emerged from the toxic interplay of Washington, Wall Street, and corrupt mortgage lenders. In Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson, the star business columnist of The New York Times, exposes how the watchdogs who were supposed to protect the country from financial harm were actually complicit in the actions that finally blew up the American economy. Drawing on previously untapped sources and building on original research from coauthor Joshua Rosner--who himself raised early warnings with the public and investors, and kept detailed records--Morgenson connects the dots that led to this fiasco. Morgenson and Rosner draw back the curtain on Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance giant that grew, with the support of the Clinton administration, through the 1990s, becoming a major opponent of government oversight even as it was benefiting from public subsidies. They expose the role played not only by Fannie Mae executives but also by enablers at Countrywide Financial, Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, HUD, Congress, the FDIC, and the biggest players on Wall Street, to show how greed, aggression, and fear led countless officials to ignore warning signs of an imminent disaster. Character-rich and definitive in its analysis, this is the one account of the financial crisis you must read"--

Publisher: New York : Times Books, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0805091203
Branch Call Number: Non-F 332.72 Mor
Additional Contributors: Rosner, Joshua


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May 28, 2013
  • StarGladiator rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

One commenter here mentions "similar" books by Tett, Sorkin and Rogoff, and in that he is correct; they all act to reframe the actual events. Yes, SOME good information is provided by Morgenson, but like Michael Lewis, it redirects us away from the core events: the unlimited number of credit default swaps (unregulated insurance) the banks and hedge funds can purchase against an unconnected financial entity, thus allowing for massive wealth transfer and economic destruction. The same is true for the unlimited number of commodity futures contracts which can be purchased against specific commodities, thusly allowing for mass speculation and financial manipulation - - their bag of tricks-by-design is extraordinary, and until we ignore these reframing books, and look to the source, confusion will abound. The true fact is that the mortgage loan factor, while detrimental to many former and present home owners, is but a drop in the large bucket of what has, and will continue, to occur - - and that was the crux of a major part of the reframing! (I'm not at all surprised this book received positive reviews from Robert Reich, the author of that most reframing pile of crud out there, the "Work of Nations" - - a fellow who claimed, and probably didn't, understand the jobless recovery during his tenure as Sec. of Labor - - rather obvious to the rest of us: halving the jobs base in America, with exponential growth in jobs offshoring, increase in foreign visa workers and categories, and so forth.) [James Johnson, pointedly mentioned in Morgenson's book, was the business contact for American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc., (directors: David Rockefeller, Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger, et al.) according to their tax returns.]

Sep 17, 2012
  • richibi rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

how the wolves took over the chicken coop, and, outrageously, are still, without any compensating penalties or recriminations, solidly entrenched there, the meticulous text reads like a veritable thriller, it's hard to put it down, we need many more calls to arms like this

Jan 23, 2012
  • VPL Career Commons rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

There is no better summary of how the housing / mortgage debacle in the USA happened. It is easy to read as it was written in the style of a whodunnit. It is also painful to read as the authors delve into the ego and corruption that exists throughout the mortgage industry, government agencies, politicians and regulators. You will find yourself shaking your head over and over again. How is this allowed to happen? The authors explicitly name names, many of whom are still treated as rockstars, courted by media, appointed to new, more powerful positions of influence and seemingly oblivious to the devastation their actions created. Highly recommended.

Dec 29, 2011

I really enjoyed this book. If you want to understand how the 2007 financial crisis started, why it started and how it unravelled, then this is a great book to choose.

The greed and stupidity of some of the best and the brightest in this country, some of whom at least, are in positions of power and chartered with protecting the taxpayer, is just unbelievably astounding. The fact that so many of them are still there is sickening, to be honest. The book covers the roles played by mortgage brokers and realtors, but is mainly focused on untangling the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgage lenders, such as Countrywide, and Wall St players such as Goldman Sachs, in setting up the havoc played on the global financial system through the mortgage stream.

The writing is accessible, whilst also managing to explain considerable detail. The authors do not assume familiarity with financial jargon beyond the most basic, and carefully explain the roles of regulators, and what some of the incredibly esoteric securities were comprised of. I learned a HUGE amount about the mortgage process in this country, and how a few players twisted it for their own ends, and in the process corrupted Congress and then laid the whole bill in the taxpayers' lap.

The book isn't particularly politically partisan (although it would have been easy to do that), and although at its core is the premise that owning a home is not in everyone's best interest, it doesn't push it - just lays out the facts and tells the story.

One thing I really took away from this was particularly apt for the political climate at present, with Republican primaries upon us for next year's presidential election. What is the role of regulators? Do they "get in the way" of free enterprise? Or do they have to work so closely with those they regulate in order to be relevant and effective, that they lay themselves open to corruption? Are they there to ensure a level playing field, or are they there to protect the stupid from themselves? I don't know the answer really, but it's sure given me something juicy to think about.

4 stars. Great read.

Dec 06, 2011

Got a great revies from Robert B. Reich, SecLabor in the Clinton Administration.

Dec 03, 2011

greatly overrated - hints at regulatory failures but avoids specifics, blaming congressional corruption instead - disjointed chronology; possibly due to lax editing of multiple authors.
(Robert Scheer: 'The Great American Stickup' is a vastly better book.)

Aug 29, 2011

This is one of many excellent books written about the origins of the current financial crisis. I think it supplements other books because of its primary focus. The authors mention all basic reasons other writers have pointed out but emphases in different books vary.
Some suggestions for additional reading are:
Tett, Gillian, Fools Gold
Reinhart, C.M and Roggoff, K. This Time Is Different
Fleckenstein, Bill, Greenspan's Bubbles
Sorkin, Andrew Ross, Too Big To Fail.
Taleb, Nassim Black Swan is my next book to read, but I'm sure it is a must read given the critiques I have read.
Also on my reading list is Shiller, Robert, Irrational Exuberance. (I'm sure it's a must read.)

Jun 28, 2011

A ringing indictment of not only the officers and employees at Fannie Mae and many in the mortgage industry but even more unsettleing is the behavior of Congress and the Executive branch of not only overlooking problems but making excuses and killing bills based on the best research---all the sake of gifts, Board seat of the very groups they were to watch over and of course to get campaign funds and votes.
A very good and daring book---which Harry Markopolos' effort to expose the Madoff fraud, the press and regulators will overlook the evidence.


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