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Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  524 ratings  ·  45 reviews
The intimate, fly-on-the wall tale of the decline and fall of an America icon

With one notable exception, the firms that make up what we know as Wall Street have always been part of an inbred, insular culture that most people only vaguely understand. The exception was Merrill Lynch, a firm that revolutionized the stock market by bringing Wall Street to Main Street, setting
ebook, 512 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Crown Business (first published January 1st 2010)
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This was my version of a good, trashy novel. Though, at first, this book may carry an air of intimidation, since it was a 500 page book about the recent economic crisis, it was refreshingly a book that centered more on the main characters within that historical moment than cold, hard stats and textbook descriptions of impersonal social forces. The book dramatizes the back-room drama between men with inflated intellects and ego. The writing is pretty cheesy with its flowery descriptions that lion ...more
Satyaki Mitra
A highly informative and engaging book which takes an investigative approach to uncover the events that lead to the fall of the once mighty investment bank Merrill Lynch.
The author's journalistic tone infused with his engaging narrative, provides us with a brilliant account of how greed, pride and ignorance can often cloud our better judgement even in the face of calamity , and that was what caused the collapse of such a great institution.
The author also does a decent job at maintaining a stead
Wow, that was a fun read with all the suspense and plot twists of a Dan Brown novel. You can tell (by how good or bad they come across) which people featured were the main sources for the author, and it made me wonder about how the telling would have come across if told from other peoples' viewpoints.

A very interesting look at modern corporate culture and what the economic meltdown looked like from inside Wall Street.
Bob Pearson
Greg Farrell falls short of objectivity in this otherwise great account of a now famous saga of hubris and miscalculation during the Great Recession. Apparently trying to top his predecessor CEOs at Bank of America in growing the company, Ken Lewis in 2008 bought both Countrywide Financial and put together a takeover of Merrill Lynch, hit hard by the market panic that year. Prior to BofA's acquisition, Merrill Lynch had hired John Thain as its CEO to save the firm and avoid a forced sale. Thain ...more
This was a great book about the financial down turn, with obvious emphasis on Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. I almost couldn't put this down, which is unique when reading books on business or finance. :)

I wonder about the author's sources. For a nonfiction book, some of his statements could have only been made if he interviewed Fleming, Thain, and O'Neal. He made numerous statements about what different men were thinking, and given the negative light he portrayed some of them in, I can't bel
Leslie Johnson

Very interesting read, but probably because I work for Bank of America and watched all of this go down from a different perspective.
Christine Lynch
I was assigned to read this book as part of the MAP Program book club while working at Bank of America. To me, understanding the history of Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and how the merger came to take place put a lot of things in perspective - our current corporate culture, attitudes of senior management, the inner-workings of the 2008 financial crisis, etc.
I was amazed at how detailed Greg Farrell was able to be with some of his descriptions of events and dialogue between senior executives.
This is a fairly thorough review of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. I, like most people, was passingly familiar with the events in the global banking world that trashed the world markets. Aside from some basic facts though, I went into this book without much background. I only knew Merrill Lynch's name vaguely before this so I found Farrell's account helpful. I am once again disgusted that a handful of bad business decision made by a bunch of egomanical American jackasses managed to sink the wor ...more
Beth Gordon
My first job was at Merrill Lynch, under Komansky's reign. After I moved on, I kept my ML account because of the personal relationship I had with a broker, and that is/was the cornerstone of Merrill Lynch's success...

Until it all fell apart due to Semerci getting unfettered access to CDO investments without any oversight by the CEO O'Neal. Or that's what the author portrays.

The book is semi-interesting. It was difficult to keep all of the characters straight. It was a succession of arrogant men
The situation here is that Merrill doesn't seem to know what to do about their exposure in subprime lending. In other examples (Michael Lewis' book) we see how other brokers turned the tables and put that risk back onto Main Street. Merrill seems to have changed management and pursue buyouts (second times a charm with BofA) as if some action is better than no action.

It is another interesting telling of a large company's near collapse in the real estate bust from 2008. As it is obvious by now all
Dan Ward
This was a fascinating history looking inside the subprime lending that led to the Recession of 2008. I had a hard time putting the book down. Having lived through trying to sell a house during this time, watching my company struggle through a diminished economy and being keenly interested in how my investments were doing from 2007 til 2013, this book brought Wall Street to Main Street and helped tie my experience in with the shenanigans of 2008 that brought the federal government into the pictu ...more
John Branney
This is a superb book. This story tells the tale of the downfall of Merrill Lynch and has all of the characters a reader would expect in good fiction - there are heroes, villains, magicians, and greed mongers. The author writes this book like a good novel. The book kept me focused as I turned each page. Best book I read in a long time. Two thumbs up.
Frank Kelly
An outstanding study of the personal frailties and leadership failures that led to the collapse and sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America. I knew many of these folks well from my time at Merill Lynch. And I knew several of the senior Bank of America executives covered (but not in glory) in the book. I had to put the book down in a number of circumstances because it was so painful to read -- but it was correct and very illuminating.

What were all these people thinking? How did they allow this a
Iren Udovenko
Банк Merrill Lynch споткнулся в основном по той причине, по которой это
делают все банки: он неразумно рисковал собственным капиталом в погоне
за прибылью. Пока существуют банки, они будут ошибаться, потому что креди-
торы берут слишком много, а не слишком мало кредитов. Чем больше креди-
тов выдает банк, тем выше его прибыль, до тех пор пока он не выдаст слишком
много безнадежных кредитов, тогда отказы заемщиков от выплаты кредитов
съедают прибыль банка и собственный капитал банка сокращается. Способ
Long. Tedious. Focused on people with outsized egos and oversized pay packages. But well written.
Diane C.

I can't seem to get enough of the early 2000's build up to the 2008 crash on Wall St. This book follows Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and many prominent personalities from each. I found it absorbing, not too dense or tech-speaky, very informative and enjoyable.

A scary tale of how money and power creates a fantasy world for people to live in, driven by ego and then fear of failure.

I didn't realize B of A was originally a bank from the North Carolina created by a couple of men who thought all the
Susan Walker
It felt like you were in the bathroom, overhearing the most intimate gossip of unfolding events.
Riveting read. I am not a financial type but the clash of Wall Street personalities played out like an engaging stage drama. Informative and insightful , this was a good a read as any fiction book I 've come across lately .
Bob Gooch
This book follows the events surrounding the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by the Bank of America during the tumultuous times of the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007-08. It reads like a novel with the main characters being some of the movers and shakers of Wall Street. Farrell does cover the facts and gives us insight into the causes of the crisis and its fallout, but he also adds elements of intrigue in the relationships between people and organizations, and even threw in a little bit of suspens ...more
Merrill Lynch was an icon. Its sudden decline, collapse, and sale to Bank of America was a shock. How did it happen? Why did it happen? And what does this story of greed, hubris, and incompetence tell us about the culture of Wall Street that continues to this day even though it came close to destroying the American economy? This is a story of greed, mismanagement and egos. Quite a story and one that makes you wonder if all the mismanagement is still going on. Lots of details and characters, but ...more
Manny Bobb
excellent - this is about the crash and particularly bank of america buying merrill lynch a - a 100 year old storied firm that was brought to its knees by a group of senior executives whose personal greed ruined a fantastic company. The rank and file of the company 50,00 plus employees - many of them financially wiped out because of a small group - maybe 5 or 6 senior executives trying to profit with short term options - without looking at the long term results of their actions
Having seen this from a tangential position, I thought this book was really quite interesting to fill in the voices, personalities and extreme circumstances that led to this uneasy marriage. The author clearly doesn't like Stan O'Neal (though his descriptions make it hard to like him), highlighted the condescension from the Merrill guys to the BofA guys and actually thought he kept things pretty balanced while not hiding his incredulity in some examples.
Dean Brodhag
I liked it for its local flavor of Charlotte and BofA. the insight about NCNB and BofA leadership was a big plus. I could also relate tot he feelings of the Merrill Lynch employees as they were acquired by BofA. His descriptions resonated with me around the Wells Fargo acquisition of Wachovia and end of an era. It reminded of the earlier book on R. J Reynolds, "Barbarians at the Gate".
Good book but admittedly much more meaningful to me (an "associate/employee") than someone who is not. The really interesting part was reading about people I knew. It is an incredible example of how really well-paid people can lose complete sight on why they are supposedly well-paid. The ego factor has real consequences. Good stuff if you like this kind of topic...
Enjoyed the detail about the 2008 financial crisis and why (and why not) certain institutions were allowed to fail, or encouraged to merge. Parts of the book are tough to follow in terms of going back and forth in time. Overall though a good read for anyone interested in Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America (both historical perspective and current perspective).
Emily McCormick
I "read" this as an audio book, but this was a good, thorough look at the rapid demise of Merrill Lynch amid the financial crisis.
Scott Cole
Unbelievable details and fascinating insight in the the collapse and near collapse of two of the nations most influential financial institutions. It will make your head spin. Very thorough and difficult to keep up with all the players but overall well done.

It is reporting more than opining and mostly you are left to draw your own conclusions.
Really in-depth and (as far as I can tell) exhaustive view of the events that led up to and ultimately spawned BAML. While the author teeters back and forth in illustrative language to paint the portraits of top executives, it seems to give the reader a clear view into the corporate politics through the lenses of both employees and investors.
Kathy DePriest
This book was amazing - really couldn't put it down.

The intrigue of how business operated throughout the crisis coupled with the disgust of the greed. Helped me to understand what was really happening while my career hung in the balance. Really good read!
Paul (formerly known as Current)
This book could almost be sold as science fiction as it takes us inside a world that is very different than the one that most of us live in, a world in which the people that animate the businesses that surround us move like titans and are just as destructive.
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