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House of Cards(2009年出版的图书)

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《House of Cards》是2009年3月10日Doubleday出版的一本图书,作者WILLIAM D. COHAN

On March 5, 2008, at 10:15 A.M., a hedge fund manager in Florida wrote a post on his investing advice Web site that included a startling statement about Bear Stearns & Co., the nation’s fifth-largest investment bank: “In my book, they are insolvent.”This seemed a bold and risky statement. Bear Stearns was about to announce profits of $115 million for the first quarter of 2008, had $17.3 billion in cash on hand, and, as the company incessantly boasted, had been a colossally profitable enterprise in the eighty-five years since its founding.

Ten days later, Bear Stearns no longer existed, and the calamitous financial meltdown of 2008 had begun.

How this happened – and why – is the subject of William D. Cohan’s superb and shocking narrative that chronicles the fall of Bear Stearns and the end of the Second Gilded Age on Wall Street. Bear Stearns serves as the Rosetta Stone to explain how a combination of risky bets, corporate political infighting, lax government regulations and truly bad decision-making wrought havoc on the world financial system.

Cohan’s minute-by-minute account of those ten days in March makes for breathless reading, as the bankers at Bear Stearns struggled to contain the cascading series of events that would doom the firm, and as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, New York Federal Reserve Bank President Tim Geithner, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke began to realize the dire consequences for the world economy should the company go bankrupt.

But HOUSE OF CARDS does more than recount the incredible panic of the first stages of the financial meltdown. William D. Cohan beautifully demonstrates why the seemingly invincible Wall Street money machine came crashing down. He chronicles the swashbuckling corporate culture of Bear Stearns, the strangely crucial role competitive bridge played in the company’s fortunes, the brutal internecine battles for power, and the deadly combination of greed and inattention that helps to explain why the company’s leaders ignored the danger lurking in Bear’s huge positions in mortgage-backed securities.

The author deftly portrays larger-than-life personalities like Ace Greenberg, Bear Stearns’ miserly, take-no-prisoners chairman whose memos about re-using paper clips were legendary throughout Wall Street; his profane, colorful rival and eventual heir Jimmy Cayne, whose world-champion-level bridge skills were a lever in his corporate rise and became a symbol of the reasons for the firm’s demise; and Jamie Dimon, the blunt-talking CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who won the astonishing endgame of the saga (the Bear Stearns headquarters alone were worth more than JP Morgan paid for the whole company).

Cohan’s explanation of seemingly arcane subjects like credit default swaps and fixed- income securities is masterful and crystal clear, but it is the high-end dish and powerful narrative drive that makes HOUSE OF CARDS an irresistible read on a par with classics such as LIAR’S POKER and BARBARIANS AT THE GATE.

Written with the novelistic verve and insider knowledge that made THE LAST TYCOONS a bestseller and a prize-winner, HOUSE OF CARDS is a chilling cautionary tale about greed, arrogance, and stupidity in the financial world, and the consequences for all of us.

以下内容为中文翻译:

在2008年三月5日上午10点15分,一位在弗罗里达的对冲基金经理在他的投资理财网站上写了一篇文章,文章中有一段关于贝尔斯登公司(美国五大投资银行之一)惊人的声明:“在我的工作簿里,他们已经资不抵债。”这看起来似乎是一个大胆而冒险的声明。因为贝尔斯登公司不停地对外声称在成立的85年来他们已经成为一个超级赚钱的公司,他们在2008年的第一季度盈利一亿一千五百万美元,并且拥有一百七十三亿的现金流。

十天之后,贝尔斯登不复存在,灾难性的2008年金融危机爆发了。

How this happened – and why –是William D. Cohan令人震惊文章的标题,文章细述了贝尔斯登公司没落与华尔街第二镀金时代结束。贝尔斯登公司像罗赛达石一样解释了风险混合投资(a combination of risky bets)是如何助力政治斗争,松懈政府管制,制定错误的决定,这一切对世界的金融系统产生了微妙的破坏

Cohan以分钟为单位地讲述着三月的那十天里发生的事情,(读者应接不暇,但又急于了解,不停地阅读),在贝尔斯登的银行家竭尽全力地控制一系列嵌套的可能是公司倒闭事件;美国财政部长Paulson开始意识到如果这家公司倒闭世界经济的悲惨后果。

但是HOUSE OF CARDS不仅仅重新叙述了第一段经济危机持续的恐慌。William D. Cohan华丽地说明了为什么似乎无敌的华尔街金融体系崩塌。他逐年叙述了贝尔斯登虚张声势的公司文化,他所扮演的在各公司财产桥梁上奇怪的核心角色,权利斗争中两败俱伤的战斗,以及贪婪和放任的致命结合。这一切解释了为什么贝尔斯登公司的领导无视公司在业界有举足轻重地位的按揭证券(mortgage-backed securities)业务存在的漏洞。

作者巧妙的描绘了许多传奇人物。Ace Greenberg,贝尔斯登吝啬的不与人为敌(take-no-prisoners)的董事,他的复古的(re-using)纸片便签是华尔街的传奇;他的死敌也是最终继承人Jimmy Cayne,拥有世界冠军级的沟通技巧(bridge skill),Jimmy是公司崛起的关键人物但同时也是促使公司倒闭的问题人物之一;Jamie Dimon,一个直言不讳的(JPMorgan Chase)的CEO,他最终赢得了这场令人瞠目结舌斗争。(曾经贝尔斯登总部比JP Morgan的所有公司总和的价值要高)

Cohan对像信用违约掉期(credit default swaps),固定收益证券(fixed- income securities)晦涩难懂的事物的解释熟练且清楚,同时也正是因为这是一款“高端菜”以及有力的叙述才使得HOUSE OF CARDS成为了与LIAR’S POKERBARBARIANS AT THE GATE同一标准的极有诱惑力的读物。

与曾经最畅销的获奖作品THE LAST TYCOONS一样,HOUSE OF CARDS有小说似的神韵和行业知识,它是对我们是一个关于贪婪,自大,金融世界中愚蠢行为及其后果的激冷警示。(翻译不妥处欢迎修改)。

WILLIAM D. COHAN, a former senior Wall Street investment banker, is the bestselling author of The Last Tycoons and the winner of the 2007 FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. He writes for The Financial Times, Fortune, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, and appears frequently on CNBC.