Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets

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9780805072679: Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets

From the bestselling author of F.I.A.S.C.O., a
riveting chronicle of the rise of dangerous
financial instruments and the growing crisis in American business
The still-unfolding financial story is terrifying. One by one, major corporations such as Enron, Global Crossing, and Worldcom are imploding all around us, prey to a greed-driven culture and dubious or illegal corporate finance and accounting. Our financial system has suddenly reached a perilous crossroads.
In a compelling and disturbing narrative, Frank Partnoy brings to bear all of his skills and experience as a securities attorney, financial analyst, law professor, and bestselling author to tell the story of the rise of the trading instruments and corporate financial structures that now imperil the economic health of the country. Starting in the mid-1980s with the introduction of the first proto-derivatives, and taking us through such high-profile disasters as Barings Bank and Long Term Capital Management, Partnoy traces a seamless progression to today's dangerous manipulations. He documents how each new level of financial risk and complexity obscured the sickness of the company in question, and required ever more ingenious deceptions. The story becomes more alarming with each passing day, but Partnoy offers a clear vision of how we can step back from the precipice.

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About the Author:

Frank Partnoy is currently a professor at the University of San Diego Law School. He has worked as an investment banker, derivatives broker, and corporate securities attorney. He also consults on regulation of the markets and white-collar crime. His expert testimony before the Senate committee investigating the Enron collapse has been widely cited in the media. Partnoy is the author of F.I.A.S.C.O.: Blood in the Water on Wall Street. He lives in San Diego, California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From Infectious Greed:

By 2002, the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange was barely relevant, as securities traded 24 hours a day, around the world. The largest markets were private, and didn't involve regulated exchanges at all. Financial derivatives were as prevalent as stocks and bonds, and nearly as many assets and liabilities were off balance sheets as on. Companies' reported earnings were a fiction, and financial reports were chock full of disclosures that would shock the average investor if she ever even glanced at them, not that anyone—including financial journalists and analysts—ever did. Trading volatilities were sky high, with historically unrelated markets moving in lock step, increasing the risk of systemic collapse.

In just a few years, regulators had lost what limited control they had over market intermediaries, market intermediaries had lost what limited control they had over corporate managers, and corporate managers had lost what limited control they had over employees. This loss-of-control daisy chain had led to exponential risk-taking at many companies, largely hidden from public view. Simply put, the appearance of control in financial markets was a fiction.

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Partnoy, Frank
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