Book Reviews, Economics

Michael Lewis Features The Low Tricks Of High Finance

Michael Lewis Features The Low Tricks Of High Finance: How Greedy Bankers, Weak Politicians And Timid Journalists Could Cause A New Crash by Liam Halligan, The Spectator

Michael Lewis, the author behind the new movie The Big Short, is furious that reforms have been blocked

It amazes me, simply amazes me, that journalists aren’t all over these stories. Doesn’t it amaze you too?’

I’m in a plush room in a swanky central London hotel, in conversation with Michael Lewis. He is all fired up, leaning forward as he perches on the hard edge of the cushion-strewn sofa. He oozes incredulity, palms upward, shoulders raised.

‘I’m not saying there aren’t good financial journalists,’ he concedes. But the qualification seems half-hearted — and is quickly reversed. ‘The Wall Street Journal is a much worse newspaper than it was 20 years ago,’ he asserts, taking aim at the bible of US high finance. ‘The news side of the paper has the fingerprints of the finance industry all over it’.

Michael Lewis broadens his critique to the media as a whole. ‘We are underserved by critical, knowledge-able financial journalists who don’t have any fear whatsoever of what their subjects think of them.’ He winces as he speaks, as if pained by his own words.

Michael Lewis is, by a long way, the most important financial writer alive today — not just in his native America, but worldwide. At a time when public confidence in Wall Street and the City is at rock-bottom, his views pack a mighty punch. Lewis is in London to talk about his 2010 bestseller, The Big Short — a penetrating account of the build-up of the western world’s housing and credit bubble during the 2000s. The Oscar-nominated film version of the book has its UK premiere this week.

Described by Reuters as ‘probably the best single piece of financial journalism ever written’, The Big Short analysed how the international banking system came off the rails, with devastating consequences for the global economy, due to the crass, immoral behaviour of those running some of the world’s biggest banks.

Well aware of the potential cultural and political impact of a Hollywood movie (‘a lot more powerful than a mere book’), Lewis states his views on the financial reforms since the 2008 financial crisis. ‘Not nearly enough has been done — the regulatory response has been totally inadequate,’ he says. ‘The big banks have blocked serious reforms, meddling in the process so incentives haven’t changed enough to attack the heart of the problem — which is why it could happen again.’

Michael Lewis wrote his first book, Liar’s Poker, in 1989 after a four-year stint as a fresh-from-the-Ivy-League New York bond dealer at the now defunct firm Salomon Brothers. A true insider’s account, it brilliantly lampooned the macho, aggressive behaviour of the ‘big swinging dicks’ who paced the carpet–tiled trading floors of Wall Street in the go-go, testosterone-fuelled 1980s. It went from instant bestseller to modern classic.

He had another hit in 2003 with Money-ball, confirming his knack of conveying complex non-fiction subjects through crystal-clear writing and larger-than-life characters. Describing how major league baseball coaches were picking teams based on highly detailed performance data, eschewing traditional attributes like athleticism and character, Moneyball revealed how poorer teams were beating the big boys by buying cheaper yet more effective players. A riveting David versus Goliath tale, it led to a spin-off movie starring Brad Pitt.

Full article here The Spectator

Michael Lewis Features The Low Tricks Of High Finance