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Devils are Here" Book Review
Since the financial crisis started in 2008, there have been many who have tried to write a comprehensive analysis. A new book by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera called All the Devils are Here is not a new take on the crisis, but it has the element of time on its side. Since the crisis started three years ago, now id the time to release a well-researched book about how it all happened. The authors chronologically tell the tale of how "The seeds of financial disaster were sown more than thirty years ago when three smart, ambitious men…created a shiny new financial vehicle called the mortgage-backed security" (McLean & Nocera, 2011). This book is an insightful look at "the fog behind the 2008 financial crisis" (Drea, 2011), and it helps to lift that fog by going back to the beginnings of the crisis, and listing those culpable regardless of political affiliation.
On the first page of the first chapter of the book, the authors begin to castigate the people who were the real players behind the mortgage crisis. Many of the people who could later be seen to make some of the most foolish financial decisions ever made were originally thought to be financial geniuses. The reasons that their decisions seemed sound is that they used the mortgage-backed securities scheme to make money that was actually based on a very insecure premise.
The Fidelity website describes them as "securities that allow you to invest in mortgage loans. Each security consists of a collection, or "pool" of loans made to homeowners. These loans are backed by a pool of real estate pledges that secure the loans. These real estate pledges serve as the underlying assets of the MBS" (Fidelity, 2011). This can be a good type of loan except for the fact that it is a security that can be easily undermined if the mortgages were given to people to default on them or a correction in housing prices is imminent. The reason that people made a lot of money initially on this type of investment is that the housing market was strong, but unfortunately it did not remain so. The authors quote Ranieri as saying "I wasn't out to invent the biggest floating craps game of all time, but that's what happened" (McLean & Nocero, 2011).
The authors try, throughout the book, to track down who was actually responsible for the entire meltdown, and after they detail the beginnings of the mortgage-backed securities racket, they move to how the government was also complicit in the issue much more than investors at Wall Street. They say that "it was the government, not Wall Street, that first securitized modern mortgages" (McLean & Nocero, 2011). The government had created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as vehicles that could free up capital so that more loans could be made. This can happen because it frees the banks up when the government is actually financing the mortgages that people are making. However, these institutions became more bloated than was healthy also. When the housing market began to decline, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost an incredible amount of money. Fannie and Freddie had been guaranteed the money and the loans because the two companies were staffed by Washington insiders, from both political parties. This type of insider trading was a major factor in why the crash happened (Falkenstein, 2011).
The book continues in this mode. The structure is unlike most others that have either focused on a single cause or a small group of individuals who had something to do with the crisis. The authors decided to follow some of the major players through the crisis, and that is why they listed them under the title "Cast of Characters" at the very beginning of the book (McLean & Nocero, 2011). It is like some modern Shakespearean tragedy that slowly unfolds as the characters work to see who can top the others in overall bloodshed and witty lines. The characters in this play were all intelligent men and organizations that realized that they were taking risks, but they were also thrilled by the game.
It is interesting to note that the authors continue to make use of the undercurrent of the game. Throughout…[continue]
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