Reading this book is kind of like visiting a place for the first time after hearing glowing reviews from your friends. Den of Thieves is comparable to Barbarians at the Gate in many waysthickness, setting Guinness World Records for number of names contained in a book, subject matterbut the story is muddled by litigation and can't be placed on the same plane of greatness.
It was interesting to return to this book over twenty years after first reading it. For some reason I consumed the many tales of greed that were published at the time...Barbarians at the Gate, Mr. Diamond, Liar's Poker.
One surprising tidbit that surprised me was how Milliken and others manipulated the press to achieve movement in stock prices and to get what they wanted. They discovered that the SEC had permitted Boesky to sell $400,000,000 of his position for a couple of reasons: the SEC wanted to make sure he would have money to pay the $100,000,000 fine he had agreed to in his plea, and they were worried that if news got out prematurely the market would tank and many investors would get hurt. As it was, his investors made a lot of money and the fine was paid. Boesky today lives in California and as a result of his 1991 divorce settlement, his wife (!) paid him $23 million and $180,000 per years.
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found to be particularly insightful: Even now it is hard to grasp the magnitude and the scope of the crime that unfolded, beginning in the mid-1970s, in the nation's markets and financial institutions. It dwarfs any comparable financial crime, from the Great Train Robbery to the stock-manipulation schemes that gave rise to the nation's securities laws in the first place. Financial crime was commonplace on Wall Street in the eighties. The code of silence that allowed crime to take root and flourish on Wall Street, even within some of the richest and most respected institutions, continues to protect many of the guilty. Nor should the financial implications of these crimes, massive though they are, obscure the challenge they posed to the nation's law-enforcement capabilities, its judicial system, and ultimately, to the sense of justice and fair play that is a foundation of civilized society. But they failed, thanks to the sometimes heroic efforts of underpaid, overworked government lawyers who devoted much of their careers to uncovering the scandal, especially Charles Carberry and Bruce Baird, in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, and Gary Lynch, the head of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Lynch, the head of enforcement at the securities and exchange ness of crime on Wall Street after a decade of lax enforcement sometimes overwhelmed their resources. So stock prices Stayed low even as inflation pushed the value of income-producing assets ever higher. Coupled with low-priced assets was the tax code's very generous treatment of interest payments on debt.
If all it took was a major Wall Street scandal to bring down the center of United States financial institutions, it would have ended with the insider trading scandal covered in James Stewart's Den of Thieves. Stewart, a reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal while Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken and company plundered millions from junk bonds and selling secrets of financial transactions during the Decade of Greed this is just limited to the 1980s?
But Europe and soon the United States are heading in the opposite direction, where financial markets falsely persuade "customers" (that's us, the people) that financial needs and solutions are the only possible solutions to society's financially-induced problems.
Stewart painstakingly lays out the principal actors, the actions they took, sins committed and what the consequences were of the junk bond scandal.
Not ashamed to say this tale of Michael Milken's 1980s junk-bond shenanigans was one of the more entertaining books I have ever read.
If you're a reader who only feels right when they can leave a book at a chapter mark, you will too! The books' main narrative largely covers an even more exciting one for this reader: the tension and relationships between the criminals and those charged with ensuring they pay for the damage they've caused.
Stewart is a graduate of Harvard Law School and DePauw University.