House of Cards
To reach the finishing line first among those instant histories, Cohan had to research and write rapidly. If nothing else, he can be proud of getting a 468-page tome onto the shelves in under a year. — Read the complete FT review
On the evening of March 16, 2008, Bear Stearns, a swashbuckling eighty-five-year-old institution in the financial world, sold itself for an outrageously low price to the $2 trillion global behemoth JP Morgan Chase. Bear Stearns no longer existed, and the calamitous financial meltdown of 2008 had begun. What went wrong?
In House of Cards bestselling author and former investment banker William Cohan gives the reader a front-row seat at Wall Street’s catastrophic unravelling at the seams, and the end of the Second Gilded Age on Wall Street. Through the prism of Bear Stearns, he shows how a combination of risky bets, corporate political infighting, lax government regulations and truly bad decision-making have wrought havoc on the world financial system.
Cohan’s minute-by-minute account of those ten days in March makes for breathless reading, as the bankers at Bear Stearns struggled to contain the cascading series of events that would doom the firm, as the US government and federal bank began to realize the dire consequences for the world economy should the company go bankrupt.
But House of Cards does more than recount the incredible panic of the first stages of the financial meltdown. William D. Cohan beautifully demonstrates why the seemingly invincible Wall Street money machine came crashing down. He chronicles the swashbuckling corporate culture of Bear Stearns, the strangely crucial role competitive bridge played in the company’s fortunes, the brutal internecine battles for power, and the deadly combination of greed and inattention that helps to explain why the company’s leaders ignored the danger lurking in Bear’s huge positions in mortgage-backed securities.
Full of insider knowledge and larger-than-life characters, such as Ace Greenberg, Bear Stearns’ miserly, take-no-prisoners chairman and his profane, colorful rival Jimmy Cayne, whose world-champion-level bridge skills were a lever in his corporate rise and the firm’s demise; and Jamie Dimon, the blunt-talking CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who won in the end, House of Cards is a shocking tale of greed, arrogance and stupidity in the financial world, and the consequences for all of us.