In painstaking detail, bestselling business author Mayer ( The Bankers ) traces the spectacular rise of Wall Street's most powerful investment house and its ignominious fall in the 1991 scandal involving a $10 billion manipulation of the U.S. Treasury note and bond market. Mayer finds that Reagan-era deregulation, combined with second-generation greed and cynicism at Salomon Brothers, encouraged the development of various ``bells and whistles''--investment embellishments which tended to mislead clients, disguise illegalities and obscure ``terrific markups.'' Among those involved in this ``conspiracy against the tax-paying citizenry'' are such colorful characters as ``Billy'' Salomon and John Gutfreund. But Mayer also recounts the larger story of the evolution of finance ``from a context of relationships to a context of transactions'' designed for pure profit. Though some of the market complexities can occasionally make it heavy going for the general reader, this is a landmark treatment of the money world, pegged to one particularly dramatic and alarming case history. (June)
Founded in 1910, the investment firm of Salomon Brothers almost collapsed after irregularities in its bond trading department were discovered in 1991. Mayer ( The Greatest-Ever Bank Robbery , LJ 10/1/90; The Bankers , LJ 2/1/75) details the role of the firm's executives in the scandal. In doing so, he demonstrates the complex interrelationships among financial institutions and leaves the reader to contemplate what might have happened if Warren Buffet had not stepped in to save the firm by replacing top management. While Mayer shows that federal officials were not blameless for failing to provide better supervision of the bond auctions, he raises an important question about the adequacy of corporate governance in the industry. A worthwhile buy for business libraries.-- Joseph Barth, U . S . Military Acad . Lib., West Point, N.Y.
It's clear that our psyches (as well as library shelves with books on the subject) have been loaded down with the 1980s' message that greed'll get you. Mayer contributes to the growing genre by his account of the fall of the securities firm Salomon Brothers. The personalities of John Gutfreund and his cohorts are laid bare without mercy, and Mayer explains the various machinations and instruments "Solly" employees relied on to make money. Not one to assume a narrow focus, Mayer also delves into the SEC and different government agencies, showing how laws regulating these bodies need to be changed. Sadly, a single sentence sums up the entire Wall Street decade: "In the end, there was nobody at the top who cared about anything but the money."