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

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  3,369 ratings  ·  214 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
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Jan 10, 2017 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

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

Thomas Ray
13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, Simon Johnson and James Kwak, 2010, 304 pp., ISBN 9780307379054, Library-of-Congress HG2491.J646.2010 College Library. Dewey 332.10973

Every plan we've heard from Treasury amounts to the same thing--an attempt to socialize the losses while privatizing the gains. --Paul Krugman, pp. 175, 181, 183.

CEOs of 13 financial institutions met with President Obama 2009.03.27 to ask for bailouts: American Express, Bank of America, Bank of
Laura Gembolis
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
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 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 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. ...more
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Kathy Scantle
May 04, 2010 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
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an easy to read account of how wall street and Washington got so cozy and some historical perspective as well. Thorough and well-written. I will be assigning it in my banking class this semester.
Jun 14, 2010 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
Douglas White
Sep 22, 2011 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 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
Jul 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Read in 2012 - pre-Goodreads.

Review 11.30.17 - I was very interested in the financial meltdown as I work in the finance industry. It was a rough time.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was well written, informative, and for the most part, easy to understand. I did learn a lot about terms I had heard before, but weren't too familiar with, as well as the impact of various factors on the financial downturn a few years ago. I'm not sure the book was accurately titled, as the focus was not really on 13 specific bankers, as I thought it would be.

I was shocked to learn that the financial institutions are allowed to choose their owns regulators and select which agency to re
Apr 26, 2010 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
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent overview of how we got to where we are. I don't think the proposed solution will go anywhere (i.e., "too big to fail" is too big), due to the political capture issues also discussed, but I like the emphasis on "we need to start talking about this sensibly and figure out a solution," rather than some sort of ideological rant on why solution X is the only possible solution and everyone else is stupid for not agreeing.

On that note, I also think that any reviewer who says that this book is
Greg Linster
Dec 15, 2011 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
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
The banks really do run the place. Simon Johnson dissects the financial oligarchy that controls our economy and the government, and makes plain why it is that, despite the massive financial fraud scheme that collapsed the world economy, nobody went to jail or was ever in real danger of prosecution. And he shows how nothing has changed. If anything, the main result of the financial collapse is that banks that were already 'too big to fail' are now bigger and more powerful than ever. ...more
Jay Rain
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rating - 8.4

A smart indictment of the financial services industry that is more factual than emotional; The authors really could have went to town on the greed/corruption but instead focussed on the structural issues

The recommendations to limit the size & power of banks is contentious & likely not to result in change, however the conversation needs to be had; Interesting points on what the fundamental of banking is
Mary Jo
May 31, 2010 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.
Jun 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simon Johnson should run Treasury.
Oct 23, 2010 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.
This is one of a number of books that I have read about the financial meltdown of 2008-2009. This book focuses on the large U.S. banks and financial institutions like Citicorp, Wells Fargo. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan etc. The main argument of this book is that there should be no banks that are “too big to fail.” Since Reagan, efforts at bank regulation were significantly loosened or eliminated. Oversight was problematic. Too many bankers became part of both Republican and Democr ...more
Apr 30, 2010 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 countries th
B. Henry
Before you decide to start reading this title, remember the following.

1) The title is quite misleading. The book is about the formation of major six megabanks after the financial crisis of year 2008. I think by giving the title as 13 BANKERS, the author is enjoying triskaidekaphobia of possible readers.

2) Instead of "clearly and emphatically" going through the officials of these six megabanks, the author is relying on the facts which is generally available to the public. (May be the author is fe
Jan 22, 2015 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
Neil Johnstone
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you want to know about the crash of 2007 then this book is fantastic it helped that i read paper promises before this as this book is more in depth. Not only is its explanation facinating and eye opening as to some very questionable if not profit making schemes, but its also provides some ideas of avoiding the next crash but as this deals with the usa they will not do the things and the revolving doors between government and wall street will continue.
I will read a book that concentrates on th
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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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“1980s. As it turned out, the Garn–St. Germain Act, by allowing S&Ls to expand into new businesses, prompted many of them to gamble on high-risk investments. S&Ls lacked experience in these businesses, as did their regulators, and over 2,000 banks failed between 1985 and 1992, with a peak of 534 in 1989. (By comparison, only seventy-nine banks failed during all of the 1970s.)63 Ultimately, over one thousand people were indicted and thrifts suspected of fraud cost the government over $54 billion.*64” 0 likes
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