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Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America, by Greg Farrell Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (225 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Greg Farrell Narrator: Dan Woren Publisher: Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The intimate, fly-on-the wall tale of the decline and fall of an America icon
 
With one notable exception, the firms that make up what we know as Wall Street have always been part of an inbred, insular culture that most people only vaguely understand. The exception was Merrill Lynch, a firm that revolutionized the stock market by bringing Wall Street to Main Street, setting up offices in far-flung cities and towns long ignored by the giants of finance. With its “thundering herd” of financial advisers, perhaps no other business, whether in financial services or elsewhere, so epitomized the American spirit. Merrill Lynch was not only “bullish on America,” it was a big reason why so many average Americans were able to grow wealthy by investing in the stock market. 

Merrill Lynch was an icon. Its sudden decline, collapse, and sale to Bank of America was a shock. How did it happen? Why did it happen? And what does this story of greed, hubris, and incompetence tell us about the culture of Wall Street that continues to this day even though it came close to destroying the American economy? A culture in which the CEO of a firm losing $28 billion pushes hard to be paid a $25 million bonus. A culture in which two Merrill Lynch executives are guaranteed bonuses of $30 million and $40 million for four months’ work, even while the firm is struggling to reduce its losses by firing thousands of employees.

Based on unparalleled sources at both Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, Greg Farrell’s Crash of the Titansis a Shakespearean saga of three flawed masters of the universe. E. Stanley O’Neal, whose inspiring rise from the segregated South to the corner office of Merrill Lynch—where he engineered a successful turnaround—was undone by his belief that a smooth-talking salesman could handle one of the most difficult jobs on Wall Street. Because he enjoyed O’Neal’s support, this executive was allowed to build up an astonishing $30 billion position in CDOs on the firm’s balance sheet, at a time when all other Wall Street firms were desperately trying to exit the business. After O’Neal comes John Thain,the cerebral, MIT-educated technocrat whose rescue of the New York Stock Exchange earned him the nickname “Super Thain.” He was hired to save Merrill Lynch in late 2007, but his belief that the markets would rebound led him to underestimate the depth of Merrill’s problems. Finally, we meet Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, a street fighter raised barely above the poverty line in rural Georgia, whose “my way or the highway” management style suffers fools more easily than potential rivals, and who made a $50 billion commitment over a September weekend to buy a business he really didn’t understand, thus jeopardizing his own institution. 

The merger itself turns out to be a bizarre combination of cultures that blend like oil and water, where slick Wall Street bankers suddenly find themselves reporting to a cast of characters straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies. BofA’s inbred culture, which perceived New York banks its enemies, was based on loyalty and a good-ol’-boy network in which competence played second fiddle to blind obedience.

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Listener Reviews

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Review by Brian | 12/30/2013

    " A very good book. If you want to get a play by play of what went wrong from the investment banker point of view and the impact of power, this book will interest you. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Review by Jerry Pierce | 11/17/2013

    " If you want to know who did what to whom, this is a good resource. I understand the collapse is due to individuals, but I don't really want to learn the details on just the people. I decided to move on to a new book and did not finish this one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Review by Monicae | 9/30/2013

    " It was surprisingly readable. I don't know a lot about finance and this did help explain some things. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Review by Leslie Johnson | 1/20/2013

    " Very interesting read, but probably because I work for Bank of America and watched all of this go down from a different perspective. "

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About the Narrator

Dan Woren is an American voice actor who has worked extensively in animation, video games, and feature films. He is best known for his many roles in anime productions such as Bleach and as the voice of Sub-Zero in the video game Mortal Kombat. His audiobook narrations have garnered four AudioFile Earphones Awards.