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Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,310 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews

A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011
One of The Economist’s 2011 Books of the Year

The New York Times's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist reveals how the financial meltdown emerged from the toxic interplay of Washington, Wall Street, and corrupt mortgage lenders

In Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson, the star business columnist of The New York Times, ex

Kindle Edition, Reprint Edition, 352 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Times Books
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You should read this 5 Star spear in the chest of every slimy bureaucrat, politician, mortgage originator, Wall Street investor, Federal regulator, lawyer, etc. You, your kids, grandkids, probably great- grandkids will be paying off the debt and bailouts for so many years ahead—you might as well know the names of the asshats who did this and how they were able to do it. We will not recover and get our economy going again until the housing industry comes back to life. This book details in very re ...more
Charles Blumberg
If you want to understanding the housing meltdown, read this book.

Plenty of blame to go around and chronicles all the events:
(1) President Clinton (and continued by Bush) makes it gov't policy that everyone should be able to buy a home
(2) Fannie Mae buys Congressional influence to reduce restrictions on loans for the poor
(3) Wall Street jumps in believing that the high risk on loans has been greatly reduced
(4) The financial industry ignores the warning signs from the auto loan sub-prime meltdo
If you have ever questioned what really caused the downward spiral of the US economy in the past few years, look no further. This is, by far, the most un-biased and well researched book I have read on the topic to date. The research is thorough, but not dry. This book actually reads more like a good fiction story because you just can't believe you are reading about true actions and events. It was eye-opening to see how many different moving pieces there were to the crisis and how long ago it was ...more
William Young
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can blame the current economy pretty much on one person: James A. Johnson. This asshole is a former CEO of Fannie Mae and is singularly responsible for setting in motion the sub-prime mortgage crisis which ultimately crashed the US economy.

And he hasn't been charged with a crime of any kind.

Because he's a well-connected Democrat.

Yeah, while there were a lot of people engaged in destroying the economy in the name of stealing money from the unknowing and unwitting, it was Johnson's idea and he
William Ramsay
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like scary movies or stories that keep you from going to sleep at night, this is the book for you. It's not a horror novel and will never be made into a scary movie, but it frightened me half to death. It's the story of how a relatively few people (there are, after all, about 350 million of us) almost destroyed the world economy and made life miserable for millions of people. It's, of course, the story of the financial crisis brought on by the sub-prime mortgage bubble. Before reading the ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading for those who want to understand the origin of the Great Recession of 2008. Lays blame equally at the foot of government bureaucrats, corrupt leaders at Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, investment bankers, and mortgage bankers. I found the stories about double-dealing on the part of Goldman Sachs to be particularly galling and help understand the frustration against banks felt by most of the country.

Overall, one of the most depressing books I have read. Not because rampant greed, self-
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a challenging read for me and my limited understanding of financial markets. It is a great book, but left me seething. So many of the people that drove the economy into the ditch were rewarded with huge retirement packages or powerful management positions in new companies. Most aggravating are the ones that were either too stupid or lacked the basic morals to make the right choices in the crisis that have now been rewarded with powerful government positions. Meanwhile, many of the peopl ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I don't think I've ever read a book that is so devastatingly thorough in its details and yet so hard-hitting in presenting all the spin, just facts. Amazing how much research must have gone into this book. An incredible story of all the ins-and-outs of what led to the housing and economic collapse of 2008, starting way back in the early Clinton years. At first I thought it might be somewhat boring and dry, but it's far from it! Really opened my eyes to all the massive corruption ...more
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
The facts Ms. Morgenson relates are disturbing. Every voter needs to be reminded of the ties between our elected officials, regulators, and business as detailed in this book, so that we can put their self serving words in perspective. Although the subject is complicated, Ms. Morgenson ably recounts the financial dealings which led to the "Great Recession." According to Ms. Morgenson, not much has changed since the collapse of the financial system, which is a scary thought.
Jul 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
If you were looking for an explanation of our current economic mess, I’d advise you to be very cautious when reading this book. In 300 pages, the authors spend the first 200 condemning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for their misdeeds, giving every impression that Fannie and Freddie caused Economic Armageddon. However, in the final chapter they blame Wall Street. They have an explanation for this, but it’s kind of confusing.

A brief summary of the book goes like this: Fannie and Freddie colluded wit
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I've read quite a number of books by reputable authors to try to understand our economic meltdown. I don't understand it but neither do these authors nor anyone else on the planet. Our economic Armageddon is incredibly complex and the causes are more so. This particular book focuses on Fannie Mae. It tried to lay a lot of blame on Fannie but, in truth, Fannie was just another cog. The story, however is fascinating but flawed. Fannie had enormous clout thanks to its pre-meltdown leader, Jim Johns ...more
I liked this book. The authors say that theirs is the history that explains the entire housing crisis clearly and comprehensively. I think they mostly follow through on that pledge, although I think they omitted some pieces of the puzzle. I do recommend the book and it may be the best out there on the subject.

I enjoy reading business history, especially when the stories are told in an interesting way, and this book does that. The authors keep the reader interested throughout. Books in this genre
I really enjoyed this book. If you want to understand how the 2007 financial crisis started, why it started and how it unravelled, then this is a great book to choose.

The greed and stupidity of some of the best and the brightest in this country, some of whom at least, are in positions of power and chartered with protecting the taxpayer, is just unbelievably astounding. The fact that so many of them are still there is sickening, to be honest. The book covers the roles played by mortgage brokers a
Phil Mullen
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since the Great Recession of 2007, I've been among the people who've tried retroactively to understand who did it, & why -- plus, how likely is it to happen again.

Of the half dozen books I've read since then on those topics, Gretchen Morgenson's & Joshua Rosner's Reckless Endangerment is one of the best researched, focusing on Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, the two huge GSAs, & on Fannie's "successful" (& hugely compensated)
CEO, Jim Johnson.

The identified culprits (executives who
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner tells all, names names, and explains why it can, and probably will, happen again. The Wall Street-Washington revolving door continues to spin, lobbyists continue to buy votes, and too-big-to-fail banks grow ever larger. “It is indeed one of the most frustrating aspects of this story … The cast of characters that helped create the mess continue to hold high positi ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me angry. I learned sooooo much about why and how our economy tanked in 2008. No it wasn't George Bush's fault. The foundation for the disaster began in the early 90s when Congress passed laws to make home ownership "affordable" for people who wouldn't normally qualify for a mortgage. Underwriting criteria were loosened tremendously. Banks would be fined by the Feds for not writing enough subprime loans to minorities so they wrote loans they knew people could not repay just to mee ...more
S.B. Lerner
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I didn't read this word for word. I had the best of intentions, but it's a dense book with a lot of detail, and I just don't have the time, and frankly, it was frustrating to know that however incensed I was, there isn't much I can do about it.I read through enough of it to get the general idea, which for me, was that our government is frighteningly easy to manipulate. There were people who saw the mortgage meltdown coming, who tried to enact laws t ...more
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This is an eye opener. Not only do the authors describe in detail the circumstances that led to the housing crisis, they name names. Unfortunately the key characters that helped fuel the crisis escaped under the radar. The ring leaders are James Johnson, Angelo Mozilo, Henry Gonzalez, Robert Rubin, etc. Morgenson and Rosner take you from the beginning, when Fannie Mae grew into the mortgage giant with the help and support of the government and the regulators who were charged with their over ...more
Sarah Anne Grossman
Up to page 121:

So far this is a frightening story of the last 20 years preceding the financial crisis detailing its root causes and actions taken by its perpetrators. The intertwined and incestuous nature of large financial institutions involved in the housing, mortgage, and securities business is both disgusting and understandable. The people involved are portrayed as morally unsound; which makes it read like a never-ending juicy gossip column exposing all the dirty behavior made by top executi
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I agree that the attack on Fannie Mae is somewhat myopic and insufficient to claim that this and only this was the cause of the bubble, I do believe that the author has correctly shown the environment of cronyism and political favoritism that led to de-regualtion for its own sake. The idea that all regulation is de facto "bad" is simply absurd as evidenced by any reading surrounding the "tragedy of the commons." Bottom line, being able to chose your regulator is simply wrong. Had Fannie ha ...more
Jan 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jesse by: The Economist
I picked up Morgenson's book as an uninformed American, seeking to understand the reasons behind our present recession. At first, I took a College finance course. And while I passed with an A, the class was poorly taught and did little to elucidate the meaning behind the subprime mortgage crisis. So I sought a better alternative. This book proved quite useful for my needs. It presents a readable, journalistic account of the Washington-Wall Street-Ratings Agency troika that so injured the US econ ...more
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If it possible for anyone not to feel physically ill after reading about the most atrocious and corrupt acts of the past decade, I challenge them to do so while reading this book. While her writing has a polemical tone and may be a bit over-reaching for pure journalism, Morgenson's thorough and relentless research leaves the reader with no other conclusion to draw than, "it's all their fault, and it is all of our fault at the same time." American democracy is no longer. We live in a political sy ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed history of the cause and resulting meltdown from the housing bubble in the U.S.
I have a strong feeling that the FDA should require a physician's approval for anyone wanting to read this book. It causes extreme rises in blood pressure and stomach sickness, with constant heavy pain as you go through this horror story.
The great sadness here is that the U.S. government caused the problem, then made it worse, and then botched the fix. The even greater sadness is that it is going to happen
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read many books about the GFC,
this is probably the best.

Unlike many of the books which read like a bunch of newspaper stories pasted together, the authors of this book did a lot of research
and tied many different actions into a seamless result.

The corruption in Washington DC and the greed and venality on Wall street leave me feeling the future of this country is grim.

The rich are different from the rest of us,
they have an arrogant sense of entitlement.

And this is going to take us to an
Elizabeth Sulzby
A strong disturbing book on our economy and the wreckless greed that is driving us farther and farther from democracy with a sense of one's rights and social obligations "for the common good."

I have read a number of other books on this topic and this one reflected material in others but added its own facts and interpretations. It is a book I will keep to return to, from time to time, for updating. I have mentioned this book a number of times in Facebook discussions.
While not as good as The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine this was a pretty decent look at how Wall Street and Washington wrecked the economy with a special focus on Fannie Mae's role in the whole mess. Too many anonymous sources though.
Gayla Merrick
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing insight into the bad behavior of Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Just what I had suspected ---now I know the details. I now have a lot more sympathy for the poor davis who were tricked into mortgages they could not possibly repay.
Oct 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
can anybody say "let's burn some books!"

Did Fannie Cause the Disaster?
October 27, 2011
Jeff Madrick and Frank Partnoy
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Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon
by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner
Times Books, 331 pp., $30.00

PBS NewsHour

Joshua Rosner and Gretchen Morgenson, Washington, D.C., June 2011

Amid the current financial turmoil, the causes of the crisis that just preceded it—the bursting of t
Jun 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This was a worthwhile read, and a nice companion to The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, if you are looking for accessible discussions of the financial crisis. In particular, I find myself horrified by the notion of the "ratings agencies," which strike me as institutions that dramatically increase systemic fragility, in a Taleb-ian sense, because people instinctively trust the judgments of their proclamations from on-high and can then magnify the consequences of their misjudgments.

I did h
Doug Cornelius
So what caused the 2008 financial crisis? We know that the direct cause was the meltdown in the US housing market. I think we are still trying to put together the pieces and point the finger of blame. It was a big bubble and the explosive reaction when the bubble burst. It took many different forces to get the bubble so big.

In Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner take their turn looking at the outsized ambition, greed, and corruption that lead up to the crisis. They point
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Gretchen Morgenson is a business reporter and columnist at The New York Times, where she also serves as assistant business and financial editor. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her "trenchant and incisive" coverage of Wall Street. Prior to joining the Times in 1998, she worked as a broker at Dean Witter in the 1980s, and as a reporter at Forbes, Worth, and Money magazines. She lives ...more
More about Gretchen Morgenson...