Slate, December 2010
"With those books, you'll never need to read anything that emerges from the FCIC. But if you do, read the good stuff: the interviews in which it grilled executives from Wall Street and the housing industry. The commission called in the loan-makers and bankers that caused the crisis and forced them to answer questions about their businesses—all for the public record. (It also subpoenaed thousands of pages of documents from Wall Street firms, though it is not clear if it will make those public.) There's no need to get the narrative from the FCIC. But if you want, say, to hear former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld try to defend himself, that's the place to go.”
NPR’s Morning Edition
“The majority report reads a lot like a book, and a bit of a potboiler at that. The commission conducted hundreds of hours of interviews, with industry insiders, policymakers, whistle-blowers and regulators. And the pages of the majority's report are strewn with quotes from these interviews — foreboding, eye-popping quotes.”
Official Government Edition
The definitive report on what caused America's economic meltdown— and who was responsible
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent generalist - level survey of all the factors behind the financial crisis,
This review is from: The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, Authorized Edition: Final Report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States (Paperback)I would describe the book as really two books. The first 40% or so is more of an analysis of developments in economy and finance over the 20 or so years leading up to the crisis of 08, and the last 60% is more of a narrative of the events of the crisis in the last half of 08. The latter portion heavily reminded me of Sorkin's book, Too Big to Fail. It similarly relies heavily on interviews with high level executives, officials and so on. I understand that, if you are trying to write something that you want the general public to read, you would opt for the chronological narrative of the second half of the report. However, having read Sorkin's book, I felt a little frustrated that there was little added insight here, considering the time, resources and investigative power the commission had.
As far as the analysis goes, it is decent enough if not particularly dazzling. There aren't a lot of surprises here if you have followed the issue over the past 2-3 years. There is nothing like the explosive effect of the Pecora report in the 1930's, on which this commission was modeled. I think that is in part due to the much more active media we now have now; compared to the 1930's, so much in here has come out more or less already.
The only real function that the analytical section performs is to package up what has already been disclosed and assert in a general way what weight should be given to what cause(s). Every factor gets mentioned and given some role; the different political appointees on the commission apparently disagree over how much weight should be given which factors. Although there seems to be a good deal of conversation about that disagreement in the blogosphere, having now read the report, it was frankly a little too general to me, and I have more sympathy for the dissenter who said, in effect, "if everything is a cause, nothing is". Although everything does get mentioned, a number of areas go unexplored in detail. For instance, on page 6, the report notes "The time-tested 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, with a 20% down payment,
went out of style." But they never really explore why (fixed rate loans went out of style due to interest rate volatility in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the down payment threshold was lowered for two reasons, (1) in the 1980s, advocates for expanding home ownership, such as ACORN, targeted that kind of mortgage as too restrictive, associated it with "redlining" and racism, and pushed for a lowering of origination standards to expand home ownership and (2) real estate developers lobbied for obvious reasons for the lowered downpayment).
The analysis section is a blend of organization by topic and by chronological narrative. This makes it relatively easy to read. However, it might have been more in keeping with the purpose of the commission, as I understand it, to have been less concerned with general readability and provide more quantitative analysis on each topic. I would have loved to have seen something more incisive, although it may be the nature of a commission report that throwing everything in is needed to get even 6 of the 10 to agree on the final text. It took decades for the economics profession to come up with a coherent evidenced account of the causes of the Great Depression, by which I mean Milton Friedman's, and perhaps that is just going to be the case here as well.
I felt the report does not display a good understanding of several areas that were particularly relevant. The chapter on Lehman, for example, begins with statements by the commission about valuation that are excruciating to read if you have worked on valuation analysis (valuation is an opinion about what something will bring in a particular context and thus valuations differ based on the context, especially depending on whether the context is one of an orderly market and orderly marketing into it, or if you are assuming a forced sale in a disorderly market). Similarly, they do not understand CDS's well at all. When they repeatedly describe AIG's CDS's as "new fangled" and so on, they demonstrate that superficial understanding. Credit default swaps are simply a means of credit insurance and financial institutions have been writing credit insurance since the Renaissance if not earlier, just with different documentation. That said, the commission does correctly understand the difference here was that AIG's CDS's were not written by a regulated insurer or financial institution that had to reserve capital against the exposure. At the same time, since regulators repeatedly and systematically failed, as the report says, where they did have jurisdiction, it is not clear that the mere fact of CDS regulation would have changed the outcome for AIG.
The report reads as if someone who wanted to be a novelist or journalist but was not very good was given responsibility for the final draft. There are too many passages that read like someone's attempt to spice things up for the sake of spicing them up. E.g. after laying out an analysis by Paul Krugman on the role of foreign capital in fueling the housing bubble, the report adds a one sentence paragraph: "It was an ocean of money". What a useful observation, huh?
In sum, I think the report is a fine generalist-level survey of the factors behind the financial crisis although not a source of much additional insight.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Dances around the fundamental cause-Completely unregulated speculation in derivatives,
This review is from: The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, Authorized Edition: Final Report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States (Paperback)This report spends over 500 hundred pages to reach a conclusion that basically targets the rating agencies as the main culprit in the economic collapse that is now referred to as the Great Recession.The real problem was the passage of legislation that eliminated the firewalls erected in the mid 1930's to prevent what happened .Three major problems can be identified.It is clear that if these three types of events had not occurred,then the Great Recession could have been prevented.
The three major factors making the Great Recession inevitable were (a) the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act(GS) of 1933 in 1999 , (b) the passage of the Commodities Futures Modernization Act (CFMA) of 2000,and (c) the planned and organized restructuring of the American banking system ,started by Jimmy Carter in 1978,to create megasized banks through periodic waves of mergers,acquisitions and takeovers.It should be emphasized that the major supporters of these actions in the late 1980's to 2000 were Bill and Hilary Clinton,F D Raines,Rubin ,Summers, Senator Dodd,Barney Frank,Senator Schumer and the usual array of Libertarian Republican supporters of Wall Street casino capitalism ,such as Phil and Wendy Gramm.Repealing Glass Steagall allowed the private commercial banks to again set up investment bank units to engage in financial speculation.This was the primary problem that occurred in the mid to late 1920's.Highly speculative,leveraged ,margin account loans financed the stock market bubble while balloon payment loan financing of mortgages created the bubble in housing.This double bubble led directly to the Great Depression of the 1930's. The same type of double bubble led to the Great Recession of the 2000's,as well. The Japanese Great Recession of 1993-2004 was also the direct result of a double bubble in real estate and stocks.
The CFMA removed derivatives and credit default swaps(CDS's) from any regulation at the state and federal level.Derivatives,CDS's and CDO's(Collateralized Debt Obligations)played the role in the 2000's that margin account financing of stock options had played in the 1920's.The subprime mortgage loans game ,along with the constant efforts of Countrywide Financial and Ameriquest to convert the fixed rate mortgages of low income citizens to adjustable rate mortgages by constant refinancing,played the role of the balloon payments game of the 1920's .
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars UNREADABLE PRINT!!,
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This review is from: The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, Authorized Edition: Final Report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States (Paperback)WARNING: The print size and quality of this publication will make it unreadable to many people (as it is for me).
The main font is tiny, and the font for the footnotes is vanishingly small. The cheap printing method has also resulted in a font with very low contrast. A further problem is that the margins are narrow even near the spine, so the lines of print curve out of sight as you try to read them.
I am able to read all sorts of books and have reading glasses to do so, yet I am unable to read this book. The Amazon entry for this book should warn potential purchasers of the readability issue.
Unfortunately, the version of the report from the Government Printing Office uses the same format. This is a travesty.
For many people, the best choice at present is to download the entire report for free (as a single PDF). On screen, the print size can be adjusted at will. That is how I intend to read the report. If I need to excerpt some pages, I can print them from the PDF. Pages printed from the PDF at least have excellent contrast, even though there is no way to adjust the font size. The report can be downloaded here: [...]
In addition to the readability issue, potential purchasers should be aware that this Authorized Edition from PublicAffairs does not include the index to the report. The index must be downloaded (as a PDF) from the publisher's website.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fairly Good Overview Geared towards the Layman
This sizeable book (approximately 550 pages in length in terms of text) provides a fairly good overview of the major factors contributing to the financial crisis of 2008. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Yoda
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of the 2nd Holy Roman Empire?
Before this report was published, the debate over whom or what caused the Recession of 2008 was at a fever pitch. Read more
Published 13 days ago by !Edwin C. Pauzer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Analyses -
This report summarizes the causes of the current financial and economic crisis in the U.S. The instructions for its preparation include 22 topics, beginning with determining what... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Loyd E. Eskildson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good report, but poor partisan politics and no prevention measures
It's a good doc, of course. Every citizen, taxpayer and voter should read it, or at least the summary.
I have a couple of issues with the whole saga, though. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Carl Hanger
5.0 out of 5 stars Partisan Politics - Republicans trash the commission
By the way, you can see this book on-line if you want. The Conclusions are 14 pages long and scary as heck. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Mack the Knife
3.0 out of 5 stars Smokescreen
The FCIC's report begins with a tedious, disorganized rambling, with much unnecessary material, about the Commission's Mission and Background, Intentions of the Report, Impact of... Read more
Published 26 days ago by W. Howden
4.0 out of 5 stars A Vital Piece of the Puzzle
The Financial Commission Report is useful as an initial set of perspectives on the US financial crisis of 2007-2008. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Chellis
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty disappointing
Like many, I have been following the parapatetic hearings of the FCIC over the past year, and while I didn't expect this report to be completely earthshattering, I also didn't it... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amy Lamar
5.0 out of 5 stars Report of the Century
Reading more like a financial thriller than a dry, academic treatise, The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report may well be the best historical work you will read this year. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ryan M. Ferris
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it or be doomed to repeat it
A very readable analysis of an incredibly complex subject. If we all paid attention to this cautionary tale, perhaps we're not doomed to repeat some incarnation of this crisis in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by J. M. Ulmer
94% buy the item featured on this page:The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, Authorized Edition: Final Report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States
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