13 Bankers

13 Bankers

The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown

Book - 2010
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Even after the ruinous financial crisis of 2008, America is still beset by the depredations of an oligarchy that is now bigger, more profitable, and more resistant to regulation than ever. Anchored by six megabanks--Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley--which together control assets amounting, astonishingly, to more than 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product, these financial institutions (now more emphatically "too big to fail") continue to hold the global economy hostage, threatening yet another financial meltdown with their excessive risk-taking and toxic "business as usual" practices. How did this come to be--and what is to be done? These are the central concerns of 13 Bankers, a brilliant, historically informed account of our troubled political economy.
In 13 Bankers, Simon Johnson--one of the most prominent and frequently cited economists in America (former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT, and author of the controversial "The Quiet Coup" in The Atlantic )--and James Kwak give a wide-ranging, meticulous, and bracing account of recent U.S. financial history within the context of previous showdowns between American democracy and Big Finance: from Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Jackson, from Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They convincingly show why our future is imperiled by the ideology of finance (finance is good, unregulated finance is better, unfettered finance run amok is best) and by Wall Street's political control of government policy pertaining to it.
As the authors insist, the choice that America faces is stark: whether Washington will accede to the vested interests of an unbridled financial sector that runs up profits in good years and dumps its losses on taxpayers in lean years, or reform through stringent regulation the banking system as first and foremost an engine of economic growth. To restore health and balance to our economy, Johnson and Kwak make a radical yet feasible and focused proposal: reconfigure the megabanks to be "small enough to fail."
Lucid, authoritative, crucial for its timeliness, 13 Bankers is certain to be one of the most discussed and debated books of 2010.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780307379054
Characteristics: 304 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Additional Contributors: Kwak, James
Alternative Title: Thirteen bankers.


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Dec 19, 2014

This is important book for anyone who wants to know what "structured finance" is. Tom Friedman 15 years ago said that the US has "DOS Capital 6.0" -- the most advanced operating system for the economy -- but we have unfortunately discovered all we had was Das Cronyism 6.0.

Jul 26, 2013

I'm not a Simon Johnson fan and I question many of his asides in his talks (such as Standard Oil really being broken up, other than on paper - - such as the Rockefeller family really giving away their fortune to "philanthropy"? ? - - just read the congressional studies of Wright Patman during the 1960s, to understand their creation of offshore finance centers to shelter their wealth and ownership, as Rep. Patman was pointing that finger at foundations and trusts). Johnson must also accuse their financial fraud tools, and the predatory nature of predatory capitalism. [Update: read the report dated October 2013 from the Special Inspector General of the TARP bailout funds (
SIGTARP) and you will read a scathing, absolutely scathing indictment of the banks and the US Treasury!]

Jul 05, 2013

Decent review of wall street deregulation over the past thirty years, from Reagan's "government is the problem" to passage of the Dodd-Frank finance bill under Obama/Geithner. However, not much insight to the next financial meltdown other than "too big to fail is too big to exist." As told, it took over two decades and the Great Depression to reform the banks (Glass-Steagall Act of 1933) after the financial crisis of 1907.

Aug 14, 2012

Somewhat technical but still excellent description of the 2008 financial crisis. It helps to have some college-level economics coursework to understand some of the details.

RenGrrl Apr 28, 2012

Fascinating! Such a great book that I'm going to buy it!

Jan 16, 2012

An overview with suggestions on how the finance system in the US has evolved over the past
few years. A good companion to this would be 'Fault Lines", which is just as depressing to
read. One has to wonder why the uber-class has no community sense? Greed and Grab, is
all they seem to know. Any attempt to change to add regulations is destined to fail, they are
in charge, the public is being held hostage and nothing short of a total social awareness
revolution will change anything -- or, maybe an evern worse spectacle, a finance crisis
the dwarfs the current spectacle. The authors give some solutions, but their cachet and
who they are seems to indicate they are merely giveing lip service to ideas that will never
ever reach the light of serious conscience-ness. A good read, but one of those books you
know should be in the fantasy section

Jan 20, 2011

I am a big fan of Simon Johnson through his blog (baselinescenario.com) and his appearances on NPR. This book, while an important description of the American banking system, was not a particularly interesting account of the recent financial crisis.

Other authors (Roger Lowenstein - "The End of Wall Street" and Michael Lewis - "The Big Short") do a better job of telling a compelling story of the mind boggling greed, incompetence and short-sided thinking that took place by a whole host of the very human characters involved.

Sep 05, 2010

For a non expert this book simplifies the financial crisis of the fall of 1008. It goes back several years explaining the battle between financiers and the government. The problem is that financiers now have strong political power. Much of what they do is productive, but too much is self serving and not productive. I confess that many of the details explained were not understood beforehand and I suspect the same would be true of most citizens to their detriment.


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