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The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America
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The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  22 reviews
In this commanding big-picture analysis of what went wrong in corporate America, Alex Berenson, a top financial investigative reporter for "The New York Times," examines the common thread connecting Enron, Worldcom, Halliburton, Computer Associates, Tyco, and other recent corporate scandals: the cult of the number.
Every three months, 14,000 publicly traded companies repor
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Random House (first published January 1st 2003)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Stephen Easley
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome read

I read this book for my graduate business financial accounting class but I would read it all over again just for fun. It's extremely informative on the stock market. I learned so much after reading it. I would recommend to anyone interested in stocks.
Tianhang Hu
Mar 25, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid book on the history of EPS. How and why it became most of those ostentatiously important numbers for public companies, investors, and all the middlemen in the financial system. There is also right, just right thinking in this book. Berenson has a heart, at least from what I see in this book.
The narrative also deparates people because as an insider of the system, I am too aware of the stupidity of this financial world. yet, as so many powerful people fail to act upon the stupidity of the
Robert J.
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a friend and turned out to be a very engaging read. The author has a sense of humor which made the reading about financial history a bit more readable. It is sobering to read how much the accounting field is subject to "interpretations" in furtherance of earnings/share numbers and how the conflicts of interest [honest auditing vs revenue generation] within accounting firms may drive behavior in the wrong direction.
The only downside of the book is it's now 20 y
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Paints a bleak picture of the global accounting system. Seems it's only a matter of time before the same mistakes are repeated. ...more
Aug 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you own stocks you should at least read chapter 7: Options.
I always knew that stock options were just a way for management to steal from stockholders, but the author does an execellent job of explaining this process and gives outragous examples.

Most exec's sell the stock as soon as they exercise an option so it's a lie that they are alining their interests with stockholders.

And to make it worse, the cost of these options aren't deducted from company earnings so it looks like there is no c
Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Financial writing is not normally my cup of tea, but somehow accounting became pretty interesting in this book. Not many books have mild-mannered accountants as villains, after all (see Arthur Anderson and friends). It's pretty amazing how you can turn a loss into a profit simply by calling something by a different word and POOF! Instant millionaires. Although this was written shortly after a stock market plunge in 2002, it is still relevant as it helped me to understand how the even bigger cras ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting review of how corporations use and misuse accounting to compete for your investment dollars. Wish I could have rated the book higher, however, the conclusions seemed to just live with the facts some companies will misrepresent their true business profitability and that you as an investor, caveat emptor.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrifying look into how big profits and large bonuses have corrupted some of the leaders of major corporations in America. Everyone who does some investing should read chapter seven on stock options. It is really a fascinating look into the world of quarterly earnings and profit reports. That does not really sound possible.
John Canfield
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance
Does an amazing job detailing the history of the stock market. Highlights some of the major flaws in stock options and the reporting of corporate earnings. Perhaps more importantly, though, it also touches upon the human condition, how stock market crashes persist, and why history is doomed to repeat itself.
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did a re-read of this one, and yep everything in it still applies.

Surprised to see all the wannabe-Tom-Clancy novels on the author's GR page. Guess he packed it in, as far as business writing goes. Bit of a shame.
Olean Public Library
-Interesting history of the interaction of corporate America’s executives “independent auditor oversight and politics.” Tries to explain cycles of boom and bust in the S & P 500, also discusses corporate financial corruption.
Oct 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Breezy, pretty easy understand look at the history of accounting in business and how it has contributed to wider economic issues. Very rooted in the post-Internet bubble, but pre-financial meltdown time it was written.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Mark Cuban recommends it, it can't be bad. ...more
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little too flippant about some legitimate debates in accounting. But overall a great read, asking good questions and illuminating some tricky issues.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
An introductory history of Wall Street and the screwups that led to corporate scandals. I found it enlightening even as I felt out of my depth on various accounting issues. A worthwhile read.
Haider Hussain
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read! This investigative effort tells us how the investors' unparraleled love for quarterly EPS corrupted the largest listed companies. ...more
What is "The Number?" You'll have to read to find out. ...more

This is a sad book as it tells the story of Wall Street corruption. I learned most from the stories of how the Big 8 Account firms became the Big 6, the Big 5, and embarrassingly the Big 4.

Steven Foote
This is a pretty well written book, but Berenson is arrogant and cynical about everything. Everyone was ignorant and did everything wrong, except Berenson, who saw it all coming.
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“The Enterprise Fund skidded 25 percent in 1969, and Fred Carr resigned.19 Other go-go funds also went down down. (Tsai landed on his feet, though, selling his fund company to CNA Financial of Chicago for about $30 million. In the 1980s, he would repeat the pattern, twice more making deals that worked out better for him than his shareholders. “With Gerry, you don’t bet the horse, you bet the jockey,” one person who knew him said. “You invest when Gerry invests, and get out when he does.”)20” 0 likes
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