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Den of Thieves par James B. Stewart
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Den of Thieves (original 1991; édition 1992)

par James B. Stewart (Auteur)

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1,037714,622 (4.03)6
A #1 bestseller from coast to coast, Den of Thieves tells the full story of the insider-trading scandal that nearly destroyed Wall Street, the men who pulled it off, and the chase that finally brought them to justice. Pulitzer Prize-winner James B. Stewart shows for the first time how four of the eighties' biggest names on Wall Street--Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Martin Siegel, and Dennis Levine --created the greatest insider-trading ring in financial history and almost walked away with billions, until a team of downtrodden detectives triumphed over some of America's most expensive lawyers to bring this powerful quartet to justice. Based on secret grand jury transcripts, interviews, and actual trading records, and containing explosive new revelations about Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky written especially for this paperback edition, Den of Thieves weaves all the facts into an unforgettable narrative--a portrait of human nature, big business, and crime of unparalleled proportions.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:Joe24
Titre:Den of Thieves
Auteurs:James B. Stewart (Auteur)
Info:Touchstone (1992), 587 pages
Collections:Votre bibliothèque
Évaluation:***
Mots-clés:History, Finance

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Den of Thieves par James B. Stewart (1991)

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As with all stories about high-flying 80s Wall Street players, Den of Thieves inspired in me that peculiar mix of disgust and envy - disgust for the unethical behavior and blatant criminality that these guys thought they could get away with, and envy for the amazing lifestyles and sheer balls they had. One of the main characters has a resume created for himself with a hilariously straightforward summary: "Dennis describes himself as a person who truly loves to do two things: do deals and make money". What happens when that kind of personality is unleashed upon the junk bond market in the Reagan 80s? A lot of money is made for some, a lot of money is lost for others, and a very interesting story of finance, ethics, and the law unfolds.

I was already a fan of Stewart's from Disneywar, his superb history of the Disney Renaissance under Michael Eisner. This earlier work features his same close attention to detail and skill for narrative applied to the inherently complicated world of bond trading and corporate finance instead of the entertainment industry. One of the main reasons that Wall Street criminals are able to get away with so much is that their crimes are grounded in arcane mathematical formulas that most laymen won't bother to put in the time to understand. That's good news for them, because once you get beyond the forbidding barriers of the mechanics of risk-adjusted returns and yield curves, their day-to-day activities are actually fascinating, all the more so because their actions have vast ramifications for the economy as a whole. With the right kinds of deals, they can make or break whole companies, either allowing small companies to become powerful behemoths or destroying smaller businesses with complex debt schemes.

No one understood those debt schemes better than Michael Milken. Even to this day he's a legend for having created basically the entire market for junk bonds by himself, but the more Stewart talks about his maniacal work habits and his overpowering passion for his deals, the more you almost begin to think that his epic paydays (he once made $550 million in the single year of 1987) were deserved. Less worthy were his arbitrageur counterparts Dennis Levine and Marty Siegel, or his partner Ivan Boesky, who ended up inspiring much of the Gordon Gekko character in the movie Wall Street.

For the most part, they come off as barely competent (Levine in particular seems to have been incapable of actually performing any arbitrage, handing off much of the grunt work of making his numbers add up to assistants and making all his money off of insider trading), and while Stewart casts a sympathetic light on Siegel, it's hard to look at what these guys did and not feel more contempt than pity, especially given the utterly stupid things they and their associates did to get caught (pro tip: do not brag about having $5.3 million in off-books transactions to law enforcement officials). Stewart makes their activities as clear as possible, explaining how the seemingly benign sweetheart deals the bankers arranged for each other fit into their larger plans. Movies like Other People's Money could have been directly based on events like their leveraged buyouts of businesses such as Ntional Can Company.

One feature of the book I really appreciated was that it spent a great deal of time discussing the prosecutorial strategies of the SEC and the US attorney's office, then headed by a pre-mayoral Rudy Giuliani. Descriptions of of subpoenas, admissibility of evidence, and immunity agreements might not seem very interesting, but Stewart is good at shining a light on why prosecutions take so long. The difficulty of constructing clear evidence trails, the sheer complexity of the cases, and simple turf wars between enforcement agencies mean that what seem like open-and-shut cases of large-scale theft and fraud can drag on for years; this has obvious implications for the light sentences enjoyed by the malefactors of the 2008 financial crisis. It often seems like the only real crime is failure, so except for the fact that these bad deals meant ruined companies, it's funny and schadenfreude-inspiring to read statistics like the following:

"During the decade ending in 1990, Lipper Analytical Services reported, money invested in the average junk-bond fund grew 145%. That was, in fact, worse than the same amount of money invested in stocks (207%); investment-grade corporate bonds, so often ridiculed by Milken (202%); US treasury bonds (177%); and equal to returns from low-risk money market funds. During the decade's last years, junk bonds returned a negative 11.2%."

Stewart's typically well-sourced and and well-researched profiles ensure that now-obscure companies like Drexel Burnham Lambert are remembered for their crimes; and he's mercifully free of the awed tones of a Michael Lewis, even if he seems almost too willing to make characters like Siegel look good. Some of his reconstructed conversations seem too pat, but that's almost inevitable. However, as a glimpse into the frenetic yet occult world of leveraged buyouts, it's riveting. Seeing these multi-multi-millionaires weep hot tears as they get tagged with multiple felony counts is a true delight and would make the book worth it on that count alone, but Stewart's aims are much higher, and much more valuable. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Interesting book, although a little slanted. Another book, with a very different perspective, should be read alongside this in order to think through the different perspectives. That book is Payback, by Daniel Fischel. ( )
  Joe24 | Jul 24, 2020 |
This book is about the loss of household names such as Carnation, Beatrice, General foods, and Diamond Shamrock that vanished in takeovers that spawned criminal activity and violations of the securities laws. ... Michael R. Milken, Ivan F. Boesky, Martin Siegel, and Dennis B. Levine avoided full public disclosure by pleading guilty to reduced charges.

I stopped reading it because I decided that there are more uplifiting, higher value books that I would rather read. Sordid details are not my dietary preference. ( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
An interesting story and I learned a lot, but it is more detailed than I needed. There are whole chapters where ten or more characters are introduced on every page. For me, even though I often love nonfiction finance stories, this kind of detail was a little overwhelming.

> They had allowed Boesky to wind down his position only to encourage market stability, and to guarantee that the government would get paid its $100 million. It had never occurred to them that it would be interpreted as helping Boesky trade in advance on his own inside information that he was going to plead guilty and settle SEC charges. ( )
  breic | Nov 8, 2019 |
In a nutshell, Den of Thieves recounts the largest insider-trading scandal in the all-about-me 1980s. It is what happens when all-out avarice collides with above-the-law arrogance. Everyone has a hazy remembrance of Milken, Siegel and Freeman (to name a few) but with thorough research Stewart's book keeps the details in sharp focus.

Confessional: in this criminal climate we currently live in, I had a hard time reading about a group of individuals who had a blatant disregard for the law. Some things never change. I couldn't finish this book. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 30, 2018 |
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A #1 bestseller from coast to coast, Den of Thieves tells the full story of the insider-trading scandal that nearly destroyed Wall Street, the men who pulled it off, and the chase that finally brought them to justice. Pulitzer Prize-winner James B. Stewart shows for the first time how four of the eighties' biggest names on Wall Street--Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Martin Siegel, and Dennis Levine --created the greatest insider-trading ring in financial history and almost walked away with billions, until a team of downtrodden detectives triumphed over some of America's most expensive lawyers to bring this powerful quartet to justice. Based on secret grand jury transcripts, interviews, and actual trading records, and containing explosive new revelations about Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky written especially for this paperback edition, Den of Thieves weaves all the facts into an unforgettable narrative--a portrait of human nature, big business, and crime of unparalleled proportions.

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