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House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  5,268 Ratings  ·  239 Reviews
Written with the novelistic verve and insider knowledge that made The Last Tycoons a bestseller and a prize winner, House of Cards is a chilling cautionary tale about greed, arrogance, and stupidity in the financial world, and the consequences for all of us.

In March 2008, Bear Stearns, a swashbuckling eighty-four-year-old financial institution, was forced to sell itself to
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ebook, 0 pages
Published March 10th 2009 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2009)
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Kemper
After I read Too Big to Fail, I just hadn’t gotten enough stories about greedy assholes so I figured I‘d read this to angry up my blood some more.

Actually, Too Big to Fail began after the Bear Stearns meltdown so even though there was some background there, I felt like I hadn’t gotten the whole story so I picked this up to try and complete the picture. The two books dovetail nicely with this one concentrating on the history of Bear Stearns and how it became the warning alarm that something bad
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James
Jan 02, 2011 James rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-in-amerika
I've read at least 6 other books about the financial crisis of the last 3 years,
This is by far the worst of all.

The story starts on May 1st 1923,
and the author retells everything others have written and added a story of just about every cough, sneeze, and fart that occurred on Wall st since then.

This book clearly wasn't edited.
At 430 painfully long pages it just covers too much unimportant drivel.

About the only interesting thing he brought to attentions was the attitude of BS's exec's when t
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Rebecca
Mar 16, 2010 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads needs a new Bookshelf Tag....Abandoned! I struggled through half of this book for a week and a half and just couldn't do it anymore. The first few pages are fascinating. We get a behind the scenes look at the negotiations behind the collaspe and rescue of Bear Sterns. It is unbelievable how these companies operate, selling and borrowing on securities leveraged out the ying-yang. It was also exciting...before most of us have hit the alarm, billions of dollars have already been traded.
B
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Abhishek
Dec 25, 2011 Abhishek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the Wall Street stories emerging post the subprime crisis are plentiful, reading about them at length may not always be captivating for the common man. And that is why each book is required to do something different, tell something that the previous book did not, fill in the gaps left in other stories. House of Cards tries to tell the complete tale of the rise and fall of Bear Sterns. And William Cohan does a pretty good job of it! The best part that I liked about the style of narration is ...more
Harold
Jul 15, 2009 Harold rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book appears to have been raced out, and is somewhat disorganized, covering much of the material twice. It isn't a compelling read, but if you are interested in the subject matter specifically of the fall of Bear Stearns, it covers it pretty thoroughly. But it just deals with the fall of Bear Stearns, not any of the other troubles on Wall Street, so if you are looking for an overview of the street in this century (and the debacle of our current economy), this is not your book.
Kayla
My fascination with the 2008 financial crisis is probably leaning towards the unhealthy side of the scale, but I'm okay with that. I will continue to read books and watch movies about it, and continue to be shocked at how it all happened and the dumb decisions so many people made that allowed it to happen. The final few sentences of this book actually sum up the whole thing pretty well...
But these things happen and they're big, and when they happen everybody tries to look at what happened in t
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Derek
Jan 14, 2013 Derek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Cohan, a former investment banker, gives us in "House of Cards" a chilling, almost minute-by-minute account of the 10, vertigo-inducing days that one year ago revealed Bear Stearns to be a flimsy house of cards in a perfect storm.

He shows how quickly rumors about liquidity led to a run on the bank, and how fears that a bankruptcy of Bear Stearns could wreak fiscal havoc around the world led the Federal Reserve to approve a $30 billion credit line to help JPMorgan Chase acquire the ailing
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Cathy
Jan 16, 2017 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three stars just because it was w-a-a-a-a-y over my head, but I understood enough of it to be horrified.
Greg Talbot
Jun 24, 2012 Greg Talbot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As Robert Schiller wrote in Irrational Excuberance, when you look at what Americans were reading in the 1930s, there was a critical focus on books and writings about the economy and how the run on the banks had unfolded. Starting in the beginning we see where the dust has settled and JP Morgan has bought out the remaining equity from the former premier bank Bear Sterns. What Cohen brings is the inner storm; the restless economic changes throughout Sterns run, and the ferocious battle their leade ...more
Corinne
Mar 29, 2010 Corinne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I knew nothing about how the financial collapse happened--at least not in detail of how the subprime mortgage securities were structured, and ultimately, how Bear Stearns and Lehman failed. I figured it had to be more than people taking out mortgages on houses they couldn't afford since the losses were so much greater than the value of the loans.

So I picked this up. The first 150 pages on the fall of Bear I found really interesting, if for no other reason than the author clearly has top level co
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Abi
Sep 18, 2016 Abi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not the House of Cards I thought I was checking out from the library, but somehow still relevant to my interests! Non-fiction drama about the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers at the beginning of the global financial crisis of 2008 precipitated by the repeal of Dodd-Franklin and the genesis of adjustable rate/no money down mortgages rife with fraud on the part of the bankers writing the loans, then packaged into CDOs rated as AAA, though most were not filled with only AAA tranches.

An
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Aharon
Jul 01, 2009 Aharon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you took out the verbatim email reprints, verbatim half-page chunks from articles in CEO Magazine, and verbatim rambling quotations, this would be about 20 pages long. And the parts that Cohan himself actually wrote are kind of unfortunate: on the second page of this book about mortgage-induced financial collapse, he confuses one kind of mortgage for another. It's like a term paper in a class the author's taking pass/fail.
Ibrahim Suleiman
"[A] definitve account of the most profitable and influential investment bank of the modern era....recounts these events capably.....[and explains] Goldman's cultivation of a reputation for brilliance unique even in the rarefied precincts of Wall Street.....gives readers the information they need to ponder whether investment banking has moved in a constructive direction."--The New York Times Book Review


""Destined to be a runaway bestseller...There's no shortage of Goldman clients, rivals, and fo
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Michael Hoffman
It was ok. I was hoping for something more "hubris and wretched excess" than the book delivered, I assumed it would focus on the intricacies of the collapse, but it is more about Bear Stearns and its evolution from beginning to end. It did have some interesting information on the mortgage crisis and gives its own unique view, but that doesn't seem to square with the name on the tin.

Worth a read if you've already read "Too Big To Fail", "The Big Short" and maybe another book or two and wanted to
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Xx
Jan 01, 2017 Xx rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book to start with. The first few chapters are fascinating, a peak into the unwinding of 2008's financial crisis. However, the editing of most of the chapters are poor, e.g too many repeated phrases.
Randy
Apr 22, 2009 Randy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began reading financial journalism on a semi-regular basis during the Enron collapse, and began watching CNBC after the panic last fall. I have absolutely no background in business or finance, but the ups-and-downs of the markets fascinate me. Given my lack of any background, I know whether a particular book or article is well-written based on whether I can actually understand it.

William D. Cohan's "House of Cards: A Tale of Wretched Excess on Wall Street" ranks with Bethany McLean's "The Smar
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Jenny
Feb 10, 2010 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-read
Wow, I totally recommend this book! The story of the downfall of Bearn Sterns and the bursting Wall Street bubble in 2008. This will make you wanna Occupy Your Town! Now granted, I felt like I had to read about 1/3rd of the book twice in order to try to understand the technical finance language. Did you know they use words like "reyphothecate"? According to the Farlex Financial Dictionary, that's "To pledge securities as collateral for a loan when the same securities have already been pledged fo ...more
Jerry
William Cohan's epic account of the 2008 collapse of Bear Stearns is a fantastic, illuminating read. With an insider's perspective ( Cohan spent years working on Wall Street ) we are taken step-by-step through the implosion of the ( then ) No. 5 largest investment bank in America. This disaster marked the beginning of an economic domino effect that would plunge the entire world into the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression.
'House of Cards' will no doubt stand out historically a
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Dan Petegorsky
I found this to be a very frustrating and disappointing book. What I hoped for was a clear and cogent account of Bear Stearns’ history and role in the markets and what its rise and fall means in the context of the global economic collapse. Instead, Cohan’s book provides a painfully close up look at the inner workings of Bear’s upper management – sometimes in an hour-by-hour (if not minute-by-minute) account of key incidents, sometimes in more jerky/episodic rambles through the firm’s history.

As
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Mazola1
Sep 22, 2009 Mazola1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

George W. Bush reportedly said of a proposed fix for the financial meltdown of 20008, "Why am I supporting a program I don't understand?" Whatever you may think of Bush's intellect and leadership, his remark is right on target in what it reveals about the complexity of the problem and the difficulty of arriving at solutions. Along with most of his fellow Americans, including many of those working on Wall Street and those supposedly regulating Wall Street, Bush found himself bewildered by the "su
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Simon Wood
BEARING ALL?

William D. Cohan, a journalist for the Financial Times and Fortune magazine and formerly an "investment" banker on Wall Street, has written an account of the financial company Bear Sterns from its inception to its demise during the initial stages of the recent financial crisis.

Cohans starts of his tale at the end with an account of the goings on as Bear Sterns attempted to stave of liquidation before going on to tell the story of it's inception and life, finally ending on where it b
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Frank Stein
Jul 20, 2011 Frank Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, I've definitely reached burnout on books about the financial crisis. I swear this is the last one.

This book recounts the rise and fall of Bear Stearns, once the fifth largest investment bank in America and now a mere rounding error on JP Morgan's balance sheet. It centers around Jimmy Cayne, the aggresive CEO of Bear Stearns for the 15 years preceding its collapse, and, importantly, a renowned international bridge champion who spent much of the firm's crucial days perfecting his game.

Cohan
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Owen
Jun 06, 2011 Owen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book will shock and anger you, as it demonstrates that Wall Street is a shell game of people borrowing money from each other to buy things from each other. Having had some education in the subject, with folks from my grad program scheming to be quants on the Street during the heyday of the real estate boom, I was always leery of money for nothing. Seemed liked smoke and mirrors destined to fail. Of course I had no idea it would fall apart like it did (almost ruining the world economy, eatin ...more
Daniel
May 09, 2009 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very inside view of the collapse of Bear Stearns told in a way that even a layman can understand. I really liked this book even if it felt at times that Cohan had gotten a little too close to his subjects. There is an awful lot of empathy for all the characters involved which may have been the sentiment at the time, but certainly isn't any longer. There is a very palpable sense of hopelessness that Cohan is able to capture. He is able to portray the main figures at Bear Stearns very much like ...more
FrankH
Jun 03, 2009 FrankH rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a skillful, highly readable presentation of the personalities, policies, and neglect leading to the demise of Bear Stearns. My only quibble is the lack of depth and detail on how the new credit instruments were reshaping the entire financial services industry in a way that few of its leaders could completely grasp -- let alone the rest of us.

Cohan has a point of view on the excesses of Wall St. and the need for better regulation -- a recent NY Times op-end piece co-written by the author
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J
May 17, 2015 J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
BEWARE of spoilers. (Or is that possible when writing about a piece of non-fiction that deals with known historical events?)

Hubris is the operative word.

I read this in order to get a better handle on the economic meltdown of the late 2000s, the Great Recession, whatever you want to call it. I figured a readable account would do more for my comprehension than a dry economic treatise.

Shameful behaviors by multiple players.

I didn't feel much pity for the thousands of Bear Stearns traders/analysts/s
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Ed
Jul 12, 2009 Ed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I liked this book but wish it was a lot better. Cohan deserves credit for winning the cooperation of high-ranking sources. But his account of the specific decisions & events that lead to Bear's collapse is inadequate, suffers significantly from the obvious non-cooperation of two actors at the center of events, Warren Spector & Ralph Cioffi.

I worked as a bond salesman at Bear Stearns in the late '80s/early '90s, so I'm familiar with many characters Cohan introduces. After having reread t
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Samantha
Jul 25, 2010 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, business
This book was riveting, despite the fact that much of the lingo went right over my head. Written like a novel and crammed full of interesting real-life characters, I found this book utterly fascinating. Cohan has a knack for bringing what could've easily been a very dry subject to life.

When the American housing boom ended abruptly, the good times enjoyed by many of the Wall Street giants ended. One of these giants was Bear Stearns, a smallish investment bank (among other things) that had a good,
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Eric
Jun 29, 2009 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After finishing this book I had a much greater understanding of Bear Stearns’ loss and the subsequent breakdown of the world’s financial markets. Some blame Bear Stearns for this breakdown. The author unfolds through firsthand accounts that though Bear was a part of the problem there were many players involved at every level. The order of the book was absolutely fantastic. It began with the most recent events of the crisis and secondarily told the history; rise and fall of Bear Stearns. This my ...more
Laura Lorber
May 21, 2010 Laura Lorber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still reading this, so here's my take so far. It literally took until about page 200 of the 450 page book to get into it. The beginning was so incredibly depressing, as it goes into extreme detail about the last two weeks of the life of the firm, particularly the painful last weekend of negotiating its sale to JPMorgan. Just about every page includes the sentence: "We're f--ked," or the equivalent. It's really hard to take -- maybe because a close family member lived through it and I closely fol ...more
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William David Cohan (born February 20, 1960) is an American business writer. He has written three books about business and economics and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

Prior to becoming a journalist, he worked on Wall Street for seventeen years. He spent six years at Lazard Frères in New York, then Merrill Lynch & Co., and later became a managing director at JP Morgan Chase. He also w
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