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Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  24,621 ratings  ·  1,662 reviews
An epic true-tale of hubris and greed from two Pulitzer-finalist Wall Street Journal reporters, Billion Dollar Whale reveals how a young social climber pulled off one of the biggest financial heists in history--right under the nose of the global financial industry--exposing the shocking secret nexus of elite wealth, banking, Hollywood, and politics.

The dust had yet to set
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Hachette Books
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Jessy Wan Low isn't a particularly brainy guy, seeing that he stole outrageous sums of money without bothering to keep a low profile and making plans in the lon…moreLow isn't a particularly brainy guy, seeing that he stole outrageous sums of money without bothering to keep a low profile and making plans in the long-run. Throughout the book I actually feared for him because of the many close calls he encountered. I think he was only able to pull off the scheme through his knowledge of how the financial world worked coupled with a sprinkle of luck here and there.

Then, naturally, the rest kicked in; human greed, the stupidity epidemic, Najib and the Bag Lady... (less)
JAMES SMITHER Not sure where you're based? It's still not on sale in the UK - even online on Amazon UK - because Jho Low's lawyers apparently sent a threatening let…moreNot sure where you're based? It's still not on sale in the UK - even online on Amazon UK - because Jho Low's lawyers apparently sent a threatening letter to booksellers intimating they could be sued for defamation or libel if they promote it. As a result, I had to get my copy from the US where it remains available.(less)

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Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Being a Malaysian and trying to come up with a perfectly objective review is impossible when it hit so close to home. Nothing against to the wonderful people who contributed to this publication. But there has never have been a book that filled me with so much rage and disgust. Therefore, I shall not self-censor myself to the barrage of insults that I shall unleash. Because at this moment, I am too sober and too angry to be nice.

Billion Dollar Whale is a very readable and well-written condensatio
Paul Ark
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Bad Blood" meets "Crazy Rich Asians" ...more
Stacey Sim
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you have never followed the 1MDB scandal closely, you should read this to catch up. If you are bored and looking for a good thriller, you should read this book. If you are Malaysian you should read this book. If you work in the finance industry, you should read this book. If you're looking for Hollywood mixed financial crime-scandal, you should read this book. If you're looking to feel infuriated, you should read this book.

In general, you should read this book. That's it.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a hard one to rate - the story itself is astounding and outrageous, and I think an incredibly important story to know. The writing, on the other a good case study in why journalists are not necessarily authors. Full sentences repeated themselves throughout the book, countless details re-introduced over and over including exciting facts like Bangkok is the capital of Thailand (sigh). The authors twisted themselves into introducing a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter that wa ...more
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
Incredible! If you are into true crime, the big heist, this is the biggest. If you are interested in the manipulations of high finance, the greed of Wall Street investment banks, how money is hidden and manipulated in offshore accounts, this is your story. If you pay attention to government corruption and malfeasance, you’ll be hard put to find a more egregious case. If you are into over the top, unbelievable parties, pick up this book. If you like to follow the celebrities, the Hollywood set, t ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
First of all, the author makes this clear at the end, but not nearly clear enough: This is not a story about some random Malaysian conman--it's a story about Goldman sacks and hollywood and the Saudis and how greed allowed someone to lie and cheat his way to partying with Leonardo DiCaprio and Paris Hilton. Everyone can be bought. That's the moral of the story. There was some hyperbole here on the financial crime. Though Wright tries several times, he's not quite able to pull off a great explana ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Its hard to put down this book, as if the stories were fantasies. The heist commited by Jho Low is definitely bigger than Bernie Maddoff ponzi scheme, well at least Bernie’s inverstors got their ‘profits’ back.

Jho Low represents a desperate figure who wants companionship, recognition and love (even if it is fake) through money. His acts, cowardly hiding behind without holding an official position in 1MDB undoubtedly shady, but not a problem for a stupid prime minister like Najib at that time. Lo
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-politics
Since the publication of All The President’s Men, Barbarians At The Gate and Too Big To Fail, there have been few books of this genre that have gripped the imagination of the reader – until the arrival of Billion Dollar Whale. A ‘whale’ is a high rolling gambler who consistently wagers large amounts of money. High rollers often receive lavish “comps” from casinos to lure them onto the gambling floors, such as free private jet transfers, limousine use and use of the casinos’ best suites.

Farah Firdaus
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The amount of money being spent casually at the expense of the Malaysian citizens was giving me anxiety. The book is clear and well written although it kind of require some basic financial/economic knowledge throughout the pages (thanks Google!) Can’t believe that I’m living through one of the biggest financial heists in history. I hope Low and his associates are soon captured and put behind the bars for his massive graft and corruption.
Scott  Hitchcock
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Epic avarice on a global level. If you don't think the financial markets are rigged for the rich in corruption that spans continents you need to read this. The tie-ins to Hollywood and American pop culture gives a new perspective to just how rich these people are and how their greed knows no bounds and their consciences are nonexistant. ...more
Athan Tolis
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Wall Street Journal seems to be doing something right, Rupert Murdoch ownership notwithstanding, because for the second time in 2018 I find myself reading a truly amazing book that’s based on investigative work done by its correspondents.

Not only that, but it can be said with some certainty that in both instances (Elizabeth Holmes’ pseudo-science in “Bad Blood” and Jho Low’s / Najib Razhak’s stolen billions in “Billion Dollar Whale”) the Journal has played a pivotal role in shining light on
Dec 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Recommended after finishing Bad Blood, “maybe even better”. Not even close. This is in need of a good editor. The color of Paris Hilton’s nail polish or Leonardo’s ball cap add absolutely nothing to the very complicated story. I had to power through it to finish.

I've seen several reviews saying that because this was written by journalists the story was poorly told. Being a journalist does not excuse poor writing or editing; Bad Blood is a perfect example of a journalist writing a very captivatin
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
This book was an absolutely infuriating glimpse at the unhinged excesses of the global elite, through the prism of 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Bank) a sovereign wealth fund that became the vehicle for the biggest criminal enterprise on the planet. Jho Low, a young Chinese-Malaysian Wharton graduate managed to get control of billions of dollars of dollars by manipulating his relationships with his elite school contacts and Malaysia's corrupt former Prime Minister Najib Razak. He was integral in ...more
Soo Yen
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Not really loving the current hottest book in Malaysia. Too much money and too many characters/banks/fake companies /parties to keep track of. There's a lot of long technical financial details that are not easily understood for the laypeople. The book is more suited for those in the banking or finance industry. ...more
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Absolutely riveting. It plays out like a train wreck you can't tear your eyes away from.. happening in slow motion with the ppl of Malaysia being the casualties.

How everything happened is just... unfathomable.
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Interesting - YES!
Educational... hmm... maybe if you want to have a nice party...
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, scandal
A riveting read which culminates (forgivably) in a little sense of schadenfreude. Details of the myriad financial transactions and corporate structures concocted to pull off the heist seem credible. As to the non-curricular activities revealed with much gusto in the book, I have no way of verifying their accuracy. The disappointing part about this book is, towards the end, the authors seem to attempt to inject more sensationalism into their story by devolving into pure conjecture (suggesting mur ...more
Nov 22, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2021
An amazing slice of financial corruption in recent decades but my GOD DID THE AUTHORS MAKE IT AS BORING AS POSSIBLE.
Alex Givant
This book shows us time and again that people with connections and stealing millions and billions are rarely punished for that - be it US, Russia, Malaysia, etc. It shows us that bankers are driven by one and only one target - profit, you bring money - you great, you don't - you fired. And after they eventually step in pile of shit they find scapegoats to blame and continue with business as usual. All of these fines they pay is just cost of doing business and no wonders bank's charges growing ev ...more
Jie Hui
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Skillful journalism and writing that detailed the most outrageous theft of people's money from Malaysia. It is ridiculous that nobody even care to do further due diligence as long as they get a cut from the cake. I couldn't contain my anger towards the events depicted in the book, yet was amazed at the extend of human greed that would make our future generations suffer, while the beneficiaries suffer no or minimal punishment. ...more
Julian Lees
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The greed....oh the greed!
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Billion Dollar Whale is the true story of Jho Low, a wannabe billionaire who swindled the country of Malaysia out of almost 10 billion dollars through 1MDB, a state-owned investment fund. It chronicles how Low craftily set up 1MDB, keeping his name away from any official documentation, but still retaining power and control over the fund which enabled him to dip into the money and divert it into his bank accounts through different money laundering tricks. As the story progresses, we meet the nume ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
I was not super familiar with the 1MDB scandal. I had heard a little bit in the news about the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, but hadn't paid too close attention. The details of this book are unbelievable and serve as further maddening proof of the power of greed in this world. Jho Low dupes everyone, from bankers to politicians to A-list celebrities, all because they want a taste of his riches. They never ask too much about where or how he got all his money, that would spoil the fun. In ...more
Andrew Tollemache
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Wall Street 2 Gordon Gekko tells Shia Laboeuf (I forgot character name): "A fisherman always sees a fisherman from afar" which basically means it takes one, to know one. Thus we learn midway through "Billion Dollar Whale" that one of the 1st to spot that Jho Low was a fraud and was playing with stolen money was Jordan Belfort aka The Wolf of Wall Street. Ironically, Jho Low was the one who bankrolled the Leo DiCaprio movie about Belfort, "The Wolf of Wall Street".
"Billion Dollar Whale" (BDW)
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a book I would've picked up had my wife not mentioned it. As much as I found Najib's ousting a few months ago an interesting socio-political development in Malaysia, it wasn't something I was going to delve into. But then she started reading it so I thought I'd read it too.

"Truth is always stranger than fiction" definitely applies to this book. Had Kevin Kwan wrote such over-the-top skimming/stealing scheme in "Crazy Rich Asians" it would've come across as lazy and cheap plotting. Bu
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this an absorbing read. I didn’t know anything about this case but was interested because of recently enjoying Bad Blood and My Friend Anna. I find these kind of stories fascinating and beyond comprehension. The key was to let some (a lot) go over my head with the financial jargon. I understand the authors were writing facts and it was clearly thoroughly researched, but I could get the gist without attempting to understand the inner workings of offshore accounts etc. The celebrity side o ...more
Jay Pruitt
Jun 25, 2019 marked it as stopped-reading
Read the first couple chapters. The book is well-written, but I just couldn't get into it. ...more
CK Koay
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
In many ways, this was a fascinating book detailing the financial crimes of Jho Low. However, I would have liked to have had a better understanding of the man behind the crimes and why he did what he did.
Nicky Lim
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even after reading, I can't fully wrap my head around the whole scandal. If anything, this book reveals that there are unscrupulous people out there and you might meet these kind of people in your course of life. It is important to hold on to your morals and do good work, even if the temptation of money presents itself. ...more
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General discussion on issues in the book 1 27 Oct 08, 2018 05:10AM  

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Tom Wright was one of the first journalists to arrive at the scene of the raid in which Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. In 2013, he spearheaded coverage of the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,000 people, earning the Wall Street Journal a Sigma Delta Chi award from The Society of Professional Journalists. He is a Pulitzer finalist, a Loeb winner, and has gar ...more

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“The following year, Low had arranged for $170 million from the Goldman-prepared power-plant bonds to fill Najib’s account. To avoid questions, Cheah and Low had seen to it the account was marked as one used for internal bank transfers, meaning it would not be visible to compliance staff. The Australian and New Zealand Banking Group, known as ANZ, owned a minority stake in AmBank, giving it the right to appoint executives and board members. But ANZ’s management had no idea about this secret account’s existence. Joanna Yu, a middle-level AmBank executive, was tasked with taking instructions from Low about incoming wires and outgoing checks. Najib had used most of the initial infusion to pay off crony politicians, as well as on jewelry and a $56,000 expense at Signature Exotic Cars, a high-end car dealership in Kuala Lumpur. Now, with the elections approaching, the account was about to become a lot more active.” 0 likes
“In the space of a month, since Prince Turki had written Najib with his proposal in late August, a multi-billion-dollar joint-venture agreement had been completed. Such a time frame—to complete due diligence, asset valuations, and other legal checks—was virtually without parallel.” 0 likes
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