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The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  898 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
Previously published as The Trillion Dollar MeltdownNow fully updated with the latest financial developments, this is the bestselling book that briefly and brilliantly explains how we got into the economic mess that is the Credit Crunch. With the housing markets unravelling daily and distress signals flying throughout the rest of the economy, there is little doubt that we ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by PublicAffairs (first published March 3rd 2008)
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May 09, 2009 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Behind the alphabet soup of Wall Street acronyms (CDO, SIV, RMBS), what is it that our great financial engineers actually do? Charles R. Morris understands the process from the inside, brilliantly summarizing the mathed-up hocus-pocus that got us into the current mess. I found this vignette particularly compelling:

"Consider the tale of Travelport, a Web-based reservations company. The Blackstone private equity firm and a smaller partner bought Travelport in August 2006. They paid $1 billion of
Clare Fitzgerald
Jan 25, 2014 Clare Fitzgerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Looking back on my books from 2013, I realized I’d only read one book from the large pile of financial-catastrophe-related books I’d borrowed from Paul a while ago, and figured I’d need to start making better progress than that if I’m going to return them this decade. So I picked up a nice slim one, Charles R. MorrisThe Trillion Dollar Meltdown Easy Money High Rollers and the Great Credit Crash.

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown chronicles the major developments in the finance industry and in govern
Mar 16, 2013 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to rad this book after seeing the documentary 'Inside Job'. The book is not written with too much jargon, and the issues are complex are explained well. Economics is a difficult subject and one that is now on my list to understand better after reading this book. Its certainly one i will read again and perhaps with extra knowledge next time round.
Jan 13, 2016 Aron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, history
This is a fantastic resource for understanding why the economy is melting away before our eyes. And while that alone makes it worthwhile reading in my opinion, what makes this book unique is that the author doesn't seem to be biased.

No, really.

I get sick of reading the opinions of people so far on either end of the spectrum that they seem blind to even the possibility that the other 'school' of economics could have some merit. While they could be making a perfectly intelligible and convincing ar
Nov 10, 2008 Bart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Persons interested in how 9/18/08 happened
Recommended to Bart by: George Soros
This book is an excellent and sophisticated treatment of how we came to the temporary end of the free market on 9/18/08. Charles R. Morris does a fine job of explaining impenetrably difficult derivative vehicles fairly well – or at least as well as can be hoped. Though the writer’s political leanings are pretty obviously to the left of center, they serve to underscore an important truth.

Every American is a free-market capitalist, however much he may have loved the Che Guevara poster on his dorm-
Shin Furuya
Aug 08, 2011 Shin Furuya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed a lot. It is a dense and informative book.

Apart from relatively good and detailed analysis of some of the major factors/incidents of recent/ongoing subprime and credit crisis with historical context, it is interesting to see the fact that some of mainstream financial writers such as him started to question the current dominant and deeply embedded paradigm of '(regulation-) free market economy' or past decades of overtly simplified 'government evil versus market/private good' thinking m
Apr 03, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, published in roughly February 208, is a fascinatingly prescient look at the state of American financial markets. Morris provides a clear understanding of the momentous issues facing the investment community, the problems associated with it, and makes a bold prediction - which history proves to have been very conservative - about the collapse of the financial economy. While it is an interesting read to see again how these problems were not unforeseen but simply unaddressed, the final c ...more
Jul 23, 2008 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great explanation of how we got ourselves into this credit crisis. It was very thorough and really put our current financial mess into context, coming from someone who had very little idea of what was going on in the banking world. I like his overall premise of a swinging pendulum: the lefty Keynesians got us into our financial crisis of the 70s (embodied by price controls on oil) and since then the Chicago School free market right-wingers got us into the financial crisis we're in now ...more
The best thing about this book was the author's ability to describe complicated financial instruments and strategies in an accessible manner. Morris takes you through the maze of mortgage-backed securities in a fairly straightforward way, making sure to define terms and to periodically remind the readers of concepts he's covered so that they don't become lost in a sea of acronyms. He draws out the underlying causes of the financial crisis and presents them in a useful historical and global conte ...more
Jul 11, 2013 Ross rated it it was ok
Morris is obviously a very left-brained sort of guy, and to get all he says you also need some prior understanding of derivatives, futures, hedge investments, etc., and an interest to know more. As I don't, I skipped over 50% of this book. Where he is strongest for me was in explaining the basic concepts, the bigger picture stuff, and the historical background.

Good examples of the first were explaining leverage, liberalism and monetarism; the second were explaining the shift in favoured economi
Jun 19, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is deceivingly short. It is dense, like...a black hole or something. A black hole about the mortgage crisis.

Anyway, the author goes into detail about the financial mess we're currently in and how we got there. He's a banker, so I trust he is qualified to discuss such things. He also used complicated terms that I can only pretend to understand. The gist is this: several factors, most notably the increased use of complex mathematical formulas to process loans resulted in an expansion of
Feb 11, 2013 Nathan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You really cannot judge a book by its cover. . . The first couple of chapters start out with a reasoned, well toned analysis of the sub-prime mortgage collapse and the history that led up to it. The it takes a sharp turn left and becomes the soapbox for the authors agenda. I could almost swallow it except for the sarcastic, condescending and arrogant position from which the author gives his point of view. Apparently, he had no substance to back up his view because his only devise was to say the ...more
I had a hard time getting through this one. I do know quite a bit about the financial markets, but this is some strange stuff that the banks, hedge funds, etc, have been doing to totally mess up our economy!

"The question is whether the Countrywides of the world are risk-taking enterprises or public utilities. You can't be both. If the government is going to be on the hook, by means of deposit insurance, the various federal borrowing windows, or implicit federal insurance for "too important to fa
Dan Petegorsky
I stumbled on this when looking for titles to help me understand the current unraveling of the economy. Morris was prescient in not only having predicted the collapse, but at the right scale of impact.

That said, this didn't quite get me what I needed - which is more of a "financial services instruments for dummies." While parts of this relatively short book are very lucid for the economically illiterate, it didn't take long before my head was spinning in the "toxic waste" of bottom tranche synth
Feb 23, 2009 Vicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Vicki by: NYT best books of 2008
Shelves: policy, non-fiction
I loaned this book out already, so I can't quote it at length. The fact that I want to quote it at length should tell you all you need to know. This was a really great, accessible explanation of what the fuck just happened / is happening to the global economy. Morris is smart, pissed, and just the kind of crochety old "In my day..." guy I would want to be in charge of my money, if I had any. I surely wish he'd been in charge of our collective money for the last 20 years.

There are a couple chapt
Feb 27, 2015 Jennyb rated it liked it
Interestingly, when the hardcover version of this was published in early 2008, the title was the Trillion Dollar Meltdown (as in, singular). By the time this paperback came out later the same year, it was up to Two Trillion. Conclusion, regardless of which version you read: the mess just gets bigger and bigger. Although short, this book is immensely informative, and largely comprehensible, even to someone like me with absolutely no financial background. Whether you're familiar with CDOs, CMOs, d ...more
Jan 31, 2009 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in the fall of 2007, the intended-to-be shock-inducing title echoes of Dr. Evil's paltry ransom demand of "ONE MILLION DOLLARS!". Book does a reasonably good job of going into some of the details of the 3-letter demons(CDO, CLO, CDS, etc) that have brought ruin upon everyone's lives, although if you aren't familiar with some of the terminology, it might feel a bit dense to read. If you work in the industry, it will feel like a good, well-written, but long Bloomberg magazine article. Also ...more
Kathleen Gilroy
Feb 22, 2009 Kathleen Gilroy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another quick listen on audible. If you would really like to understand how the credit bubble was formed and why it is now melting down, this is a must-read. Morris simply and clearly explicates the instruments and causes underlying the crisis. Sub-prime mortgages were securitized and then rolled up into bonds where the underlying risk was masked. Greenspan (probably the biggest culprit in all) would pump cash into the economy at the hint of market downturns so that no one believed that things c ...more
Paul Tennant
Nov 26, 2012 Paul Tennant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Its a short read, that is loaded with info. Great book exposing you to systemic risk, and exploding debt dynamics. A great book on the systemic risks the world faced at the onset of 2008 in the US. You'll see the money multiplier in action and gain a deeper understanding of the money supply. You will learn the origins of cmo's, and cdo's in the Texas Saving and Loan Crisis. You'll also learn the origination of tranches within them and their purpose. Ill give you a hint "marketing" but you'll und ...more
May 03, 2015 Gmarik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read!
- Credit/debt is dangerous because it couples institutions: inability to pay interest affects creditor which may have a domino effect and have much bigger impact
- unregulated leveraging may create "too big to fail" institutions
- credit ratings agencies are prone to be overly enthusiastic: rating sub-prime mortgages as AAA-grade investments is just a crime
- finance is not supposed to be a gambling industry
- bad credit rated as a AAA one is a very quickly spreading "infection"
- b
Feb 19, 2009 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Todd by: Bart
This book more than any other has ruined my "faith" in the infallibility of Capitalism. Morris does fine job of pulling away the curtain and showing the pitfalls of high finance and how those at the top of our financial institutions used this system to transfer its wealth to themselves. He is able to explain esoteric concepts like derivatives in a way that is accessible to laymen and then go on to show how the unrestrained leverage used to invest in them has brought ruin to the system. I would h ...more
Feb 04, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this was a team effort. It was on one of the Times best books of 08...and I started it and Morris was writing this book for people who are already on the INSIDE of the Wall Street I passed it off to Jer who finished reading it and did some translating for me. Basically this guy understood everything that would and is happening now with the economy. He completed this book in the autumn of 2007-- and rushed it to publication by May of 07. It is eerie and unfortunate that some of thes ...more
Frazer Shaw
This book sells itself as an introduction to what went wrong in the run up to the economic meltdown. To a degree it manages this, however it's definition if a lay-man is based on you having a basic knowledge of economics.

It's a relatively dry book but then again it's about banking, a subject that is hard to make sexy. Other than your need to understand elementary economics and being a little slow in places this is a great introduction, you'll understand far more about what happened in the short
Jun 30, 2009 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book - you will discover that the "market" is way more complicated then you ever imagined. You'll also understand just how crazy it all is and the perfect place for a thief. Basically, the system encourages greed and greed encourages fraud. Forget the truly free market - it doesn't take into account human nature. Bernie Madoff only took advantage of a system that was ripe for the picking. Its an industry full of crooks and hucksters - - I feel sorry for the honest person who h ...more
The author spends a lot of time discussing CDOs in great detail and I definitely haven't read another book that did such a good job of explaining them. However although the subject matter is interesting, I had a hard time getting through this one. I didn't gel so well with hi writing style and it felt a little too much a chore picking it up the last few times.

It's a good book to read, but you probably need to have an appetite for learning about the 2008 crisis in depth if you want to read this
Jun 23, 2008 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mark by: Read an ad in the "Wall Street Journal" and thought it looked in
This is not an easy book to understand. The author describes the new financial asset-instriments that are currently the cause of our credit crisis. I am amazed how the sharpest minds on Wall Street can create these financial instruments, sell them, and understand how they work. As for me, if I can't understand how the investment works, I won't invest. Too bad so many others did invest and lost a "pile" of money. The author obviously knows his stuff but you better read this book twice to fully un ...more
Connie  Kuntz
Feb 02, 2009 Connie Kuntz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in our economy
What an amazing analysis of how the USA got its IOU! Although it was hard for me to remember all the acronyms, I felt inspired and informed as I read this book. It covers the pros and cons of Keynesian liberalism, Reagonomics (the birth of the free market) and government control and offered a lot of detail about how hedge funds work, student loans and the sub prime mortgage situation. I am no expert on economics and I never will be, but books like this help me feel like I have a little more cont ...more
Thom Dunn
A common theme in many of these $$ CRASH books is the power of money to overwhelm the people trading in it, jazzing them, causing them to behave like giddy, reckless children. I will believe that the quants who generate these deeply-margined, sliced, diced, bunched, tranched derivatives are neither greedy nor evil, but simply CAUGHT UP in the thrill of one Washington DC insider put it: so damn much money !
May 21, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of tough reading to get an understanding of complcated financial creations in the center of the Great Recession but the author gets his points across. Considering that this book was being written in 2007, it was an accurate predictor of what was happening in the world financial markets during the crash of 2008. The root causes, both in philosophy and practices, are clearly shown. Morris clearly shows why this house of cards had to fall.
Jan 14, 2009 Kami rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is intense. If you don't have a background in economics, be prepared to learn - quickly! I 'read' this book in audio-format, and would recommend a regular book instead, so you can take it slower and re-read parts. It provides a thorough explanation of the current economic situation (even though it was written over a year ago - scary!), but it definitely takes some major attention to process it all.
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“in the brave new world of absolute markets, it is not only dangerously naive to trust your mortgage broker, but based on recent scandals in college tuition lending, even your student aid counselor.” 0 likes
“In raw markets, the scent of money deadens all other sensory and ethical organs.” 0 likes
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