Looks at how deregulation led to SEC investigations of insider trading
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An unsparingly critical, albeit evenhanded, audit of the SEC's efforts to police Wall Street during the volatile 1980's; based on a series of Washington Post articles that earned its authors a 1990 Pulitzer Prize. Coll (The Taking of Getty Oil, etc.) and Vise focus on the stewardship of John Shad, the agency's chairman during the deregulatory heyday of the Reagan Administration. They give the ex- Hutton executive full marks for a number of bold initiatives, including foresighted campaigns against insider trading, establishment of a Chief Economist's office, resolution of long- running turf battles with commodities authorities, outspoken opposition to LBO/takeover excesses, and concern for shareholder welfare. But authors fault Shad on a number of counts. By their book, for example, his hands-off approach to capital markets helped precipitate the 1987 crash; he often was oblivious to conflicts of interest and the political implications of his agency's decisions; and he was an indifferent administrator whose department heads frequently worked at cross purposes. According to the authors, Shad also failed to contain a sexual-harassment scandal that could have been settled early on. Coll and Vise make clear, though, that the financial world was an eventual venue on Shad's watch. With the likes of Ivan Boesky, Carl Icahn, Dennis Levine, and Michael Milken on the prowl, they note, the SEC's capacity to enforce securities laws was stretched to the limit, owing largely to the White House's bias toward laissez-faire and lean operating budgets. Even so, the authors conclude, the agency emerged intact from a turbulent era. Despite minor errors throughout (the authors seem to believe, for instance, that any bond with a letter rating is investment- grade): a savvy, wide-ranging recap of a decade notable for a wealth of financial folly and a reluctant top cop walking the market beat. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
That this book won a Pulitzer Prize in its original serialized form ( Washington Post magazine) is difficult to believe. It is a history of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and its chairman John Shed during the 1980s, but the authors are clearly biased. Free enterprise? Capitalism? Mistakes. The SEC wasn't regulatory enough for the authors' apparent belief that with enough regulation humanity will become virtuous. They never explain this obvious prejudice, although there were advantages to some takeovers and leveraged buyouts. Among the many irritants in this book: a misunderstanding of "liquidity"; endless slanted adjectives and cliches (all buildings are "towering"; when someone they don't care for acts, it is "frenzied"); and unsubstantiated quotes (there is no real bibliography, only a thank you to "more than 250 people" used as sources). A dispassionate history of the SEC in the 1980s remains to be written.
- Alex Wenner, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Scribner, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0684193140
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