Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009

House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street

By William D. Cohan (Doubleday)
One of two telling books on the collapse of Bear Stearns (the other is the excellent Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns by Kate Kelly), Cohan's broader saga of the fall of the Street's renegade bond house is great reportage. He lets the incredible characters who inhabited Bear — especially Jimmie Cayne, its last chairman — tell their stories, and they are amazing. Bear's bridge-obsessed leaders ultimately realize they are stuck with an unwinnable hand tied to subprime mortgage bonds. They narrate their own demise at the hands of their bloodless rivals — the last words of the condemned before their execution.