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Money and Power
Cover of Money and Power
Money and Power
How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World
Borrow Borrow Borrow

The bestselling author of the acclaimed House of Cards and The Last Tycoons turns his spotlight on to Goldman Sachs and the controversy behind its success.

From the outside, Goldman Sachs is a perfect company. The Goldman PR machine loudly declares it to be smarter, more ethical, and more profitable than all of its competitors. Behind closed doors, however, the firm constantly straddles the line between conflict of interest and legitimate deal making, wields significant influence over all levels of government, and upholds a culture of power struggles and toxic paranoia. And its clever bet against the mortgage market in 2007—unknown to its clients—may have made the financial ruin of the Great Recession worse. Money and Power reveals the internal schemes that have guided the bank from its founding through its remarkable windfall during the 2008 financial crisis. Through extensive research and interviews with the inside players, including current CEO Lloyd Blankfein, William Cohan constructs a nuanced, timely portrait of Goldman Sachs, the company that was too big—and too ruthless—to fail.

The bestselling author of the acclaimed House of Cards and The Last Tycoons turns his spotlight on to Goldman Sachs and the controversy behind its success.

From the outside, Goldman Sachs is a perfect company. The Goldman PR machine loudly declares it to be smarter, more ethical, and more profitable than all of its competitors. Behind closed doors, however, the firm constantly straddles the line between conflict of interest and legitimate deal making, wields significant influence over all levels of government, and upholds a culture of power struggles and toxic paranoia. And its clever bet against the mortgage market in 2007—unknown to its clients—may have made the financial ruin of the Great Recession worse. Money and Power reveals the internal schemes that have guided the bank from its founding through its remarkable windfall during the 2008 financial crisis. Through extensive research and interviews with the inside players, including current CEO Lloyd Blankfein, William Cohan constructs a nuanced, timely portrait of Goldman Sachs, the company that was too big—and too ruthless—to fail.

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  • Chapter One Wall Street has always been a dangerous place. Firms have been going in and out of business ever since speculators first gathered under a button­wood tree near the southern tip of Manhattan in the late eighteenth century. Despite the ongoing risks, during great swaths of its mostly charmed 142 years, Goldman Sachs has been both envied and feared for having the best talent, the best clients, and the best political connections, and for its ability to alchemize them into extreme profitability and market prowess.

    Indeed, of the many ongoing mysteries about Goldman Sachs, one of the most overarching is just how it makes so much money, year in and year out, in good times and in bad, all the while revealing as little as pos­sible to the outside world about how it does it. Another— equally confounding— mystery is the firm's steadfast, zealous belief in its ability to manage its multitude of internal and external conflicts better than any other beings on the planet. The combination of these two genetic strains— the ability to make boatloads of money at will and to appear to manage conflicts that have humbled, then humiliated lesser firms— has made Goldman Sachs the envy of its financial- services brethren.
    But it is also something else altogether: a symbol of immutable global power and unparalleled connections, which Goldman is shame­less in exploiting for its own benefit, with little concern for how its suc­cess affects the rest of us. The firm has been described as everything from "a cunning cat that always lands on its feet" to, now famously, "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money," by Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi. The firm's inexorable success leaves people wondering: Is Goldman Sachs better than everyone else, or have they found ways to win time and time again by cheating?

    But in the early twenty- first century, thanks to the fallout from Goldman's very success, the firm is looking increasingly vulnerable. To be sure, the firm has survived plenty of previous crises, starting with the Depression, when much of the firm's capital was lost in a scam of its own creation, and again in the late 1940s, when Goldman was one of seven­teen Wall Street firms put on trial and accused of collusion by the federal government. In the past forty years, as a consequence of numerous scan­dals involving rogue traders, suicidal clients, and charges of insider trad­ing, the firm has come far closer— repeatedly— to financial collapse than its reputation would attest.

    Each of these previous threats changed Goldman in some meaning­ful way and forced the firm to adapt to the new laws that either the mar­ket or regulators imposed. This time will be no different. What is different for Goldman now, though, is that for the first time since 1932— when Sidney Weinberg, then Goldman's senior partner, knew that he could quickly reach his friend, President- elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt— the firm no longer appears to have sympathetic high- level relationships in Washington. Goldman's friends in high places, so crucial to the firm's extraordinary success, are abandoning it. Indeed, in today's charged political climate, which is polarized along socioeconomic lines, Goldman seems particularly isolated and demonized.

    Certainly Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman's fifty-six- year- old chairman and CEO, has no friend in President Barack Obama, despite being invited to a recent...
About the Author-
  • William D. Cohan is the author of the New York Times bestsellers House of Cards and The Last Tycoons, which won the 2007 FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, has a weekly opinion column in Bloomberg View, and writes frequently for Fortune, The Atlantic, Art News, BloombergBusinessWeek, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Irish Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. He also is a contributing editor on Bloomberg Television and a frequent on-air contributor to MSNBC, CNN and CNBC. A former investment banker, Cohan is a graduate of Duke University, Columbia University School of Journalism and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Reviews-
  • The New York Times Book Review

    "[A] definitve account of the most profitable and influential investment bank of the modern era....recounts these events capably.....[and explains] Goldman's cultivation of a reputation for brilliance unique even in the rarefied precincts of Wall Street.....gives readers the information they need to ponder whether investment banking has moved in a constructive direction."

  • Businessweek
    ""Destined to be a runaway bestseller...There's no shortage of Goldman clients, rivals, and former employees willing to explain how greed and recklessness led Goldman to become too big, too powerful, and even too conflicted to fail. As one Goldman alum puts it, 'I saw what they did to their customers...They'd steal from them, rape them, anything they could do.' It worked like a charm...[Cohan] has produced the frankest, most detailed, most human assessment of the bank to date. Cohan portrays a firm that has grown so large and hungry that it's no longer long-term greedy but short-term vicious. And that's the wonder -- and horror -- of Goldman Sachs."
  • The Financial Times
    "A well-researched history and analysis of the world's most powerful investment bank. Written with the co-operation of the top people at Goldman, Cohan's book is neither a hatchet-job nor a whitewash – and all the better for that."
  • The Economist "[Money and Power] offers the best analysis yet of Goldman's increasingly tangled web of conflicts...The writing is crisp and the research meticulous, drawing on reams of documents made publicly available by congressional committees and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission."
  • The Financial Times "[E]xhaustive, revelatory account of the rise and rise of Goldman Sachs....engrossing....penetrating....Cohan revels in a good bust-up and lingers over anecdotes involving intrigue....All the senior partners still living spoke to him, often very candidly, and only a few from the next ranks seem to have refuse....a vast trove of material"
  • Bloomberg "A former Lazard Freres & Co. banker and newspaper reporter, Cohan brings the bank's sometimes 'schizophrenic' behavior to vivid life...Drawing on more than 100 interviews with clients, competitors and Goldman leaders including Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, Cohan evinces an eye for telling images and an ear for deadpan quotations."
  • Mary Kissel, The Wall Street Journal "In MONEY & POWER, journalist and former investment banker William D. Cohan launches a quixotic quest to show that Mr. Blankfein and his peers are money-sucking evil-doers that came to their riches mostly by nefarious means...(full disclosure: I was once a Goldman Sachs employee myself)....Mr. Cohan's complaints against Goldman seem to be that it is 'ruthless' in pursuit of profit; doesn't do enough to protect its instutitional clients from making bad decisions; works too closely with government; too often advises clients on both sides of a deal; and skirts close to the line of 'insider trading'."
  • Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times "Like Michael Lewis's 'Liar's Poker' and Bryan Burrough and John Helyar's 'Barbarians at the Gate,' this volume turns complex Wall Street maneuverings into high drama that is gripping .... [His] account of its death spiral not only makes for riveting, edge-of-the-seat reading, but it also stands as a chilling cautionary tale about how greed and hubris and high-risk gambling wrecked one company."
  • Los Angeles Times "Masterfully reported....[Cohan] has turned into one of our most able financial journalists....he deploys not only his hands-on experience of this exotic corner of the financial industry but also a remarkable gift for plain-spoken explanation... It's impossible to do justice to his reportorial detail in a brief review..."
  • Chicago Tribune "Breezy and highly readable . . . For those of us who enjoy high-level gossip (most people) and an inside look at the machinations, triumphs, failures, and foibles of some of Wall Street's and America's most exalted personages, Cohan's book is entertaining and seductively engrossing."
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