The "greater fool" theory of economics states that it's possible to make money by buying paper (securities), whether overvalued or not, and later, selling it at a profit because there will always be an even greater fool willing to pay the higher price. Many described in this book profited by peddling such worthless junk to foolish investors. But for some people--Bernie Madoff, Norman Hsu, Sholam Weiss, and "Crazie Eddie" Antar, aka the "Darth Vader of Capitalism"--overvalued securities were not enough. Outright fraud was their way of life. History of Greed is the compelling inside story of the names you know--Charles Ponzi, Baron Rothschild, Lou Pearlman--and the names you don't--Isaac Le Maire, the world's first "naked" short-seller. It's also our story--why we ignore the lessons of the past and fall prey, most every time, to the promise of easy money.
For thousands of years, alchemists unsuccessfully tried to turn worthless base metals into gold. Where science failed at turning nothing into something, business succeeded. Sometimes we praise the creators of derivatives, collateral debt obligations, subprime mortgages, credit default swaps, or auction rate securities as Wall Street's new financial wizards, the creators of "magic paper." Other times, we vilify and prosecute them as scam artists. Sometimes, it's hard to tell who is who. History of Greed reveals the inside secrets of how the markets really work, and how scam artists abuse them to gain an unfair edge or to outright steal. It describes how luftgescheft ("air business"), wizardry, dishonesty, and fraud are used to swindle people. Along with a comprehensive bibliography, History of Greed also details:
400 years of financial fraud--from everyday fraud to the odd and unusual
Accounting fraud (phantom sales), stock option fraud (backdating), auction rate securities, hedge fund fraud, Ponzi schemes, promotion fraud (pump-and-dump scams), and money laundering
How to detect fraudulent schemes
How government regulation only fixes yesterday's problems
If it's too good to be true, it probably is. If they say you can't lose, you probably will. History of Greed shows that there really is no such thing as a free lunch, while also detailing how not to become the "greater fool."show more