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13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown
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13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  2,688 Ratings  ·  198 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Pantheon (first published 2010)
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I don't know why I keep reading about the financial crisis of 2008, it just makes me angry. Anyway, this is a one of the several good books I've read on the subject. It has a longer term focus than some, including a section on the history of banking in the United Staes since the founding of the republic, and doesn't give a blow by blow description of what happened in the week that Lehman brothers failed. Rather, it is more about how the banks and the regulatory system got into this fix in the f

Jan 15, 2017 Vaishali rated it really liked it
Shelves: global-dynamics
A saucy/misleading title, as the book is more balanced than renegade... and thank goodness. For students of the markets, the authors give a brief history of U.S. banking, explain macro-level derivatives, and why Uncle Sam always bails the banks out. Less data utilized than I'd have liked.

Excerpts :
“Banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies.” - Thomas Jefferson

“Like all businesses, banks needed to invent new products that were not yet commoditized and could command hi
Elaine Nelson
Some things that I bookmarked while reading:

"the core function of finance is financial intermediation -- moving money from a place where it is currently not needed to a place where it is needed. The key questions for for any financial innovation are whether it increases financial intermediation and whether that is a good thing." (continues to talk about "innovations" in credit cards mostly being ways of making pricing more complex)

"much of the positive effect of homeownership is due not to owner
Leo Jacobowitz
Oct 23, 2010 Leo Jacobowitz rated it really liked it
Is the American form of government a democracy and secondarily, is the economic system a market capitalist one?

According to the authors of 13 bankers the answer to both questions is a resounding, "No!" Kwak and Johnson are well known in financial circles for their highly influential blog, the Baseline Scenario. The authors clearly detail the causes behind the global financial credit crisis which has persisted since 2008. To the authors, the primary reason for the crisis can be traced to the poli
Dec 27, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the second book I've tackled regarding the 2008 financial crisis. I liked this one. The research and info came across nicely and it was presented in a way that anyone could understand. The author focused on the banks and their risky behaviors, all to make the next dollar. I found it interesting how the author talked about the government bailouts, but still, the bigger fish swallowed up the weaker ones.
Jun 23, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: economics, nonfiction
Rather than a review of 13 Bankers, I am wrestling with understanding the response to the book. It makes me feel like I’m missing something and did not get the secret decoder ring.
Unlike most books that explore the 2008 financial collapse, this book looks back to the political viewpoints of Jefferson and Hamilton. In a nutshell, Jefferson didn’t trust big government. In addition to that, he didn’t trust any highly centralized power and this included the banks. In contrast, Hamilton did trust a
Kathy Scantle
May 04, 2010 Kathy Scantle rated it really liked it
The authors' basic premise in this book is that the only way to prevent future financial crisis is to downsize banks that are too big to fail. They describe the history of banking in the US concentrating on the presidencies of Jefferson, Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. The authors see the big banks as oligarchies with enormous political power. (Surprise, I laugh.) The book was tedious reading at times and I'm glad there ...more
Jun 14, 2010 Raghu rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I have read on the recent financial crisis of 2008. The authors present a historical study of how and why it happened and show why it will happen again if the US govt does not go through with breaking up financial institutions which are 'too big to fail'. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have allowed the big banks to remain BIG thereby allowing them to bring the world economy into crisis again by taking the extraordinary risks that they took to get us there in the fi ...more
Satyaki Mitra
This book penned by two of the most vocal commentators on the 2008 financial crisis, takes a systematic approach to uncover the causative factors which helped trigger the crisis and brought the entire American economy to a standstill.

The book starts with the origin of modern banking in the United States, dating back to the late 18th century and the First Bank of the United States, and henceforth goes on to narrate the influential role that finance would come to play in the future; the contrastin
Jul 18, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: business-finance
This is a superb explanation of how the supremacy of Wall Street, and its cosiness to Washington, helped cause the financial crisis, and made true reform afterward much more difficult. Johnson and Kwak go back as far as Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson to examine the nexus of politics and banking. They explain why bankers and politicians are so close, and why politicians always seem to bend to the will of the banksters: it's not just about campaign contributions (traditional capital), or the ...more
Douglas White
Sep 22, 2011 Douglas White rated it liked it
While I think this book is a good history of the regulation changes that occurred in banking from the mid to late 90s, I do not think this book does that great a job explaining the recent banking crisis. The authors clearly believe that the changes in regulation and lax regulators caused the crisis and that better/stronger regulation would fix it. They however fail to explain how if the regulators are so co-opted by the big banks that regulation on its own will work. I also feel that the authors ...more
May 21, 2010 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
What happens when free market true believers meet predatory bankers? Financial oligarchy, says Former IMF economist Simon Johnson and that describes the USA today. For example, how many high-level government officials are former Goldman Sachs people? Lots. And if the government officals aren’t Wall Street insiders, they are free market ideologues. Take Alan Greenspan for example. He was apparently so convinced that markets could regulate themselves that he believed rules against fraud were unnec ...more
Apr 26, 2010 Tommy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economy, non-fiction
This book was terrific overview of the history of the US financial system going back to Hamilton and Jefferson and goes in depth to describe how we got where we are. Simon and James do an amazing job of diagnosing the problems.

They contend that too big to fail banks simultaneously pose too much systemic to the economy AND have too much political sway to make effective regulation and oversight possible. This is very much in line with the views of Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krug
Greg Linster
Dec 15, 2011 Greg Linster rated it really liked it
Oligarchy, n., a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

The United States is ruled by an oligarchy that, despite almost wrecking the world economy, has only grown more powerful and more resistant to change. Perched atop this structure are 13 bankers who are involved with the six mega-banks (Bank of America, JPMorgan, Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) that have been rendered “too big too fail”. How did this h
Mary Jo
May 31, 2010 Mary Jo rated it it was amazing
I think this is the best book on the economic meltdown as it provides historical, political and societal context. It reminds me that the proposed financial fixes are unlikely to fix the broken system.
Oct 23, 2010 Ob-jonny rated it really liked it
This is a very smart book describing why the financial crisis happened and why it will likely happen again because of how little has been done with the so-called financial reform.
Jun 06, 2010 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simon Johnson should run Treasury.
Apr 30, 2010 Lynn rated it liked it
Before opening the book I knew what I was getting into. The two authors were guests on Bill Moyers and I chalked up their more blatant biases as deference to Moyers. It was unlikely that I would find a fair account of the financial crisis, but I hoped to obtain a clear understanding for the reasons why most of the blame should be placed on Wall Street. I did obtain a clear understanding of the thought processes of the authors, but they were not clear or honest when supporting their beliefs about ...more
Justin Tapp
Johnson and Kwak's blog was essential reading during the financial crisis, and is still quite educational. This book is also required for Money & Banking in the fall. (I'm a bit sad because I went way over the Amazon clipping limit, so 314 of my highlights are invisible via the website.)

Johnson approaches the U.S. financial crisis from the point of view of a former Chief Economist of the IMF. That perspective allows him to see the irony of how the U.S. and the IMF advised East Asian countrie
Jan 22, 2015 Arbraxan rated it liked it
Published in 2010 by Simon Johnson and James Kwak, this book describes the alleged takeover of the U.S. financial industry, the regulatory institutions tasked with supervising it and the political system supposed to elect independent legislators by a small group of megabanks. It is to this financial oligarchy, which has become even more concentrated (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and J.P. Morgan Chase, I'm looking at you) since the 2007-08 financial cris ...more
Max Novendstern
Jun 14, 2010 Max Novendstern rated it really liked it
There are a lot of reasons to care about -- and be angry about -- America's outsized banking sector. A short list might include:

- financial bubbles, moral hazard, systemic risk
- massive misallocation of talent
- rising social and economic inequity and the gutting of the middle class
- a new golden age of greedy self-regard, the 1980s till now

This is all quite right, more or less -- but 13 Bankers suggests that there is more: a financial sector that's "too big to fail" is a threat to our liberty.
Jul 07, 2010 Gregory rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, politics

I read Simon Johnson and James Kwak's 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, which is a very good, albeit repetitive (in the sense that they repeat certain points over and over), overview of the 2008 economic crash, focusing on the problem of having a small number of financial institutions that are "too big to fail." It is not a fun read, particularly since the recently passed financial reform addresses the problem only
Nov 19, 2010 Jeff rated it liked it
This book provides a strong argument for better regulation of financial institutions and markets. The authors pose the ideas of democracy and free markets in opposition, citing trends over the past 100 years of institutional lobbying, congressional campaign donations, deregulation, and soaring profits for firms. Americans have changed their perception of Wall Street as well. What was once considered scandalous compensation for executives in investment firms in the 1980s is now worshiped and expe ...more
Todd Martin
Apr 16, 2010 Todd Martin rated it liked it
I would not categorize “13 Bankers” as ‘interesting reading’; it’s about as dry and factual as a book could be. However, for those with a background in finance, it does do a good job documenting the failures that lead up to the financial collapse and the failures of those in charge to enact meaningful reforms. There are no surprises though – there was a general consensus in both government (among both political parties) and in business that free markets could regulate themselves (they can’t) and ...more
Apr 06, 2012 Matthew rated it liked it
A good, functional history of financial deregulation and more broadly, of the financial sector, in the US since the 1970s. Interestingly the opening traces the tension between regulation and deregulation back to the animosity between Hamilton, America's first Treasury Secretary who also created its first central bank, and Jefferson, who argued against a central bank not on economics but on the political argument that a powerful financial institution would come to use its economic heft to gain po ...more
Sep 20, 2015 Owen rated it liked it
This is yet another book outraged at the moral hazard of the banking crisis, and the government’s impotent regulatory response to it. The titular gimmick refers to there having been 13 bankers in meetings with the Treasury Secretary across several crises. It's a pretty accessible read, but approaches the crisis from a slightly different perspective than previous books I've read on the subject.

This author appears to have a much better sense of the regulatory environment than any of the other book
Jun 13, 2010 Andy rated it really liked it
A decent read, though not earthshaking if you have read much else in this genre. For instance, the author mentions trader-turned-law-professor Frank Partnoy and one of his works on the subject - the ground-breaking FIASCO, Blood in the Water - where Partnoy surfaces the use of the phrase "ripping his face off" when it came to traders burning clients and making huge piles of cash while doing it, and does some of the first modern-day muckraking around derivatives and those who profit from them.

Colleen Clark
It took me forever to finish this book. I'm not sure why- cuts too close to the bone. It's complicated and detailed about banks and finance and therefore not easy to follow. But in the end it's a devastating story of dishonesty and greed and the failure of individuals and of our political system to take any measure of responsibility. Here's on predatory lending and why the banks pushed it. p. 129 "...Citigroup provided the money for owns to borrowers with credit scores below 450 (national median ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it
One of the most scholarly books on the financial crisis, Johnson and Kwak reference nearly every sentence in the book. This puts a flavor of simply documenting a series of pieces of information behind the book, rather than telling a compelling story. The information is good, though I can’t imagine reading it as the first and/or only book on the financial crisis. They do an excellent job of stating the fact that this challenge of large banks in America is not original; they cite at least three ot ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Laurie rated it really liked it
Ronald Reagan – Alan Greenspan; deregulation.

Bill Clinton – balanced budget; home ownership; Goldman Sachs in his administration.

George W Bush – Iraq War; Afghanistan War; financial meltdown; more Goldman Sachs.

Barak Obama – T.A.R.P.; financial bail out; more Goldman Sachs.

DEregulation and DErivatives = DEpressed economy!

(This is the text version of a diagram I sketched in my paper Book Lust Journal, and this is also the last post to be transferred from that journal to here!)

Banks took crazy ris
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Simon Johnson is a British American economist. He currently is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has held a wide variety of academic and policy-related positions, including Professor of Economics at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. From March 2007 through the end of August 2008, he was Chief Economist of the International Monetar ...more
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