How Money Became Dangerous
The Inside Story of Our Turbulent Relationship with Modern Finance
From a veteran of the trade, a provocative and entertaining voyage into the turbulent heart of modern money that sheds new light on the rise of our threatening and complicated financial system, how money became our adversary, and why finding a new course is crucial to a healthy society
In the not too distant past, money was simple. You might have had a bank account and a mortgage, perhaps some basic investments. Wall Street didn’t have a reputation for greed and recklessness. That all started to change in the eighties, as our financial systems became increasingly complex, moving beyond the understanding of the general public while impacting our lives in innumerable ways. The financial world began to feel like an enigma—a rogue force working against us, seemingly controlled by no one.
From an industry veteran who’s had firsthand involvement in the events that shaped modern money, How Money Became Dangerous journeys from the crime-ridden LA jewelry district to the cutthroat Salomon Brothers trading floor, from the high-stakes world of investment banking to the center of the technology boom, capturing the key deals, developments, and players that made the financial world what it is today. The book illuminates the dark, hidden forces of Wall Street and how it has dehumanized and left behind everyday Americans. A fresh and enlightening take on how we reached this point, How Money Became Dangerous also makes the case for why Wall Street needs to be saved, if only to save ourselves.
Former Citigroup executive Varelas debuts with a discursive insider account of the financial industry and the fiscal perils facing America today. Varelas joined Bank of America in 1985 as a corporate loan officer servicing L.A.'s diamond and gold wholesalers. One of his clients would later be convicted of laundering money for Colombian cartel boss Pablo Escobar, a lesson that Varelas says helped to prepare him for the "rationalized immoral behavior" of Wall Street. Tracing his rise to head of Citigroup's technology, media, and telecom investment banking division, Varelas chronicles such high-stakes deals as Northrop Aircraft's 1994 acquisition of Grumman Aerospace, and laments the technological (computer-based analytics) and structural (private Wall Street partnerships going public) changes that he believes have made the finance industry more complex and less humane over the past 30 years. Colorful anecdotes, such as the time an executive delivered an entire presentation based on a fortune cookie or the private jet ride Varelas shared with social media influencer Logan Paul, brush up against somber reflections on the bankruptcies of Orange County and Stockton, Calif. The result is an entertaining memoir that doesn't quite live up to its inflammatory title.