A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011
One of The Economist's 2011 Books of the Year
The New York Times's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist reveals how the financial meltdown emerged from the toxic interplay of Washington, Wall Street, and corrupt mortgage lenders
In Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson, the star business columnist of The New York Times, exposes how the watchdogs who were supposed to protect the country from financial harm were actually complicit in the actions that finally blew up the American economy.
Drawing on previously untapped sources and building on original research from coauthor Joshua Rosner—who himself raised early warnings with the public and investors, and kept detailed records—Morgenson connects the dots that led to this fiasco.
Morgenson and Rosner draw back the curtain on Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance giant that grew, with the support of the Clinton administration, through the 1990s, becoming a major opponent of government oversight even as it was benefiting from public subsidies. They expose the role played not only by Fannie Mae executives but also by enablers at Countrywide Financial, Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, HUD, Congress, the FDIC, and the biggest players on Wall Street, to show how greed, aggression, and fear led countless officials to ignore warning signs of an imminent disaster.
Character-rich and definitive in its analysis, this is the one account of the financial crisis you must read.
Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times business journalist Morgenson and Rosner, a financial and policy analyst, turn the financial meltdown of 2008 into a whodunit as they cast about for motives and culprits. Their character-driven account even begins with a cast of craven characters (as in a mystery novel): Fannie Mae executives, subprime lenders, and regulators. Morgensen and Rosner dig into the wreck and come up with key moments President Clinton's 1994 landmark speech (and his embrace of a "corrupt corporate model") aggressively promoting home ownership and motives, chief among them the eagerness of subprime lenders to extend loans to people "based on their credit future, not their past," the laxity of regulators, and the timidity and cupidity of policy makers. The book ends with a withering look at current "reforms" (ironically enough "sponsored by the nation's most strident defenders of Fannie Mae," Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd) and a prediction that we'll "most certainly" have another 2008-style crash "because Congress decided against fixing the problem of too-big-to-fail institutions when it had its chance." A sobering account of some sordid recent history that's so clear and detailed that pros and novices will find its account rich and informative, and deeply depressing.