Nightmare on Wall Street: Salomon Brothers and the Corruption of the Marketplace

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9780671781873: Nightmare on Wall Street: Salomon Brothers and the Corruption of the Marketplace

In the 1980s Salomon Brothers was the epitome of modern Wall Street. Traders became bankers, wielding the trader's weapons of guts, merit and luck, and broke through all the traditional barriers and built a financial giant. In the summer of 1991, Salomon was a world power with $170 billion in assets, a force in London and Tokyo as well as New York, and by far the largest dealer in US government securities. But Salomon had also become the self-indulgent corporate bully skewered in "Bonfire of the Vanities" and "Liar's Poker", hated for its arrogance and feared for its clout. Its top executives began to think they could write their own rules. When the firm manipulated the government bond market in a $10 billion scandal, they destroyed not only careers but the reputation of their house in a business where reputation is everything. This book looks at Salomon Brothers' influence and power.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

While the old gray Mayer (Whatever Happened to Madison Avenue?, 1991, etc.) ain't what he used to be, there still are few to rival his command of high--and low--finance--and so his account of how Salomon Brothers rigged the unregulated market in government securities represents an informed, if sometimes exasperating, contribution to the literature. With little of the cool irony that lit up his best work (The Money Bazaars, 1984, etc.), Mayer recounts how a celebrated trading house's fake bids in Treasury auctions enabled it to corner markets in US government obligations, squeeze short interests, and book millions in illicit profits. He goes on to offer a short-take appreciation of how Salomon Bros. (or ``Solly,'' as it's known on Wall Street) outgrew its roots and developed a dollar-denominated, anything-goes corporate culture that made involvement in a megabuck manipulation all but inevitable. Along his anecdotal way, the author puts paid to any notion that senior management had no idea a scandal was brewing--pointing out, for instance, that someone had to approve borrowing the billions required to carry the positions Solly amassed by abusing its trust as a primary dealer. Nor does Mayer spare federal authorities whose lax oversight stemmed from a different sort of hubris, exemplified by the surveillance official who assured the House Banking Committee that ``people don't lie to the FRB.'' But while the author makes market arcana comprehensible to lay readers, he's irritatingly preachy (albeit not off-base) in his deadly earnest evaluations of lawless investment's implications. On balance, though, an instructive briefing on a capital crime and its punishment. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In painstaking detail, bestselling business author Mayer ( The Bankers ) traces the spectacular rise of Wall Street's most powerful investment house and its ignominious fall in the 1991 scandal involving a $10 billion manipulation of the U.S. Treasury note and bond market. Mayer finds that Reagan-era deregulation, combined with second-generation greed and cynicism at Salomon Brothers, encouraged the development of various "bells and whistles"--investment embellishments which tended to mislead clients, disguise illegalities and obscure "terrific markups." Among those involved in this "conspiracy against the tax-paying citizenry" are such colorful characters as "Billy" Salomon and John Gutfreund. But Mayer also recounts the larger story of the evolution of finance "from a context of relationships to a context of transactions" designed for pure profit. Though some of the market complexities can occasionally make it heavy going for the general reader, this is a landmark treatment of the money world, pegged to one particularly dramatic and alarming case history.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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