Blogging the Bookshelf

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Everyone Left Rich – “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” – Michael Lewis

July 29th, 2011 · No Comments · Economics, Policy

What’s strange and complicated about it, however, is that pretty much all the important people on both sides of the gamble left the table rich. Steve Eisman and Michael Burry and the young men at Cornwall Capital each made tens of millions of dollars for themselves, of course. Greg Lippmann was paid $47 million in 2007, although $24 million of it was in restricted stock that he could not collect unless he hung around Deutsche Bank for a few more years. But all of these people had been right; they’d been on the winning end of the bet. Wing Chau’s CDO managing business went bust, but he, too, left with tens of millions of dollars—and had the nerve to attempt to create a business that would buy up, cheaply, the very same subprime mortgage bonds in which he had lost billions of dollars’ worth of other people’s money. Howie Hubler lost more money than any single trader in the history of Wall Street—and yet he was permitted to keep the tens of millions of dollars he had made. The CEOs of every major Wall Street firm were also on the wrong end of the gamble. All of them, without exception, either ran their public corporations into bankruptcy or were saved from bankruptcy by the United States government. They all got rich, too. What are the odds that people will make smart decisions about money if they don’t need to make smart decisions—if they can get rich making dumb decisions? The incentives on Wall Street were all wrong; they’re still all wrong.

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