The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins

The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins

by Jeff Connaughton


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The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins by Jeff Connaughton

Lobbyist, White House Lawyer, and Senate Aide on the Power of America’s Plutocracy to Avoid Prosecution and Subvert Financial Reform

Beginning in January 2009, THE PAYOFF lays bare Washington’s culture of power and plutocracy. It’s the story of the twenty-month struggle by Senator Ted Kaufman and Jeff Connaughton, his chief of staff, to hold Wall Street executives accountable for securities fraud, to stop stock manipulation by high-frequency traders, and to break up too-big-to-fail megabanks.

This book takes us inside their dogged crusade against institutional inertia and industry influence as they encounter an outright reluctance by the Obama administration, the Justice Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to treat Wall Street crimes with the gravity they deserve. On financial reforms, Connaughton criticizes Democrats for relying on the very Wall Street technocrats who had failed to prevent the crisis and Republicans for staunchly opposing real reforms primarily to enjoy a golden opportunity to siphon fundraising dollars from the Wall Street executives who had raised millions to elect Barack Obama president.

Connaughton, a former lawyer in the Clinton White House, illuminates the pivotal moments and key decisions in the fight for financial reform that have gone largely unreported. His arch, nonpartisan account chronicles the reasons why Wall Street’s worst offenses were left unpunished, and why it’s likely that the 2008 debacle will happen again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935212966
Publisher: Easton Studio Press, LLC
Publication date: 09/18/2012
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jeff Connaughton holds an MBA with honors from the University of Chicago and a JD from Stanford Law School. He worked for four years as an investment banker, first at Smith Barney and then at E. F. Hutton. In 1987, he joined Joe Biden’s presidential campaign as Deputy National Finance Director and thereafter became his Special Assistant when Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. After graduating from Stanford, he clerked for Chief Judge Abner Mikva of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, then followed Mikva as his Special Assistant when Mikva was appointed Counsel to President Bill Clinton. In 2000, along with Jack Quinn and Ed Gillespie, Connaughton founded Quinn Gillespie & Associates, one of DC’s premier lobbying firms. Now retired from politics, he lives in Savannah, Georgia.

Table of Contents

1: The Accidental Senator
2: Hunting for Financial Fraud
3: “Please Stay Involved in Politics”
4: Where are the Cases?
5: Lehman and WaMu
6: What Had Gone Wrong?
7: Wall Street Vetoes the President
8: Inside the Influence Industry
9: Capital of Hypocrisy
10: The Blob
11: The Rise of the Machines
12: The Flash Crash
13: Waterloo
14: Battling the Megabanks
15: Still Too Big to Fail

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Named an Inc. Magazine Top 5 Business book of 2012

"You'd think that after destroying the world's economy with dodgy trades and double-dealing, at least somebody (other than the taxpayer) who was responsible might get thrown in jail. But you'd think wrong because Wall Street essentially "owns" both political parties, thereby making accountability impossible."

Inc. Magazine

Washington Man

"He transformed himself from public servant to rich lobbyist. When the financial crisis hit, he remembered who he was."

George Packer, New Yorker

"The great mystery story in American politics these days is why, over the course of two presidential administrations (one from each party), there’s been no serious federal criminal investigation of Wall Street during a period of what appears to be epic corruption. People on the outside have speculated and come up with dozens of possible reasons, some plausible, some tending toward the conspiratorial – but there have been very few who’ve come at the issue from the inside. We get one of those rare inside accounts in The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins…. [T]hose interested in understanding the mindset of the people who should be leading the anti-corruption charge ought to read this book. It’s the weird lack of concern that shines through…On the outside we can only deduce the mindset from actions and non-actions, but Connaughton’s actually seen it, and with the book you get to see it too. It’s scary and definitely worth a read."

Matt Taibbi, Rolling

"You want the real skinny on HFT and the SEC? Read The Payoff. This guy [Jeff Connaughton] worked with Sen Kaufman, our champ!"

Jim Cramer, via Twitter

"If you feel like justice was thwarted during the financial crisis, if you feel like the market’s been rigged for the insiders and there’s no check on it, you’ve got an ally in Jeff Connaughton….[The Payoff is] an insider’s guide to what’s gone wrong in Washington, by somebody who made millions as a professional insider."

Paul Vigna, Wall Street Journal

"Anyone interested in how Washington works will find The Payoff impossible to put down."

Paul Barrett, Business Week

"Connaughton shares new details from the Brown-Kaufman crusade, which will be gripping to anyone interested in taming overgrown banks. But the book’s most important contribution, I think, is to tell the story of corporate influence over financial policymaking dating back several decades. You can pretty much feel the acid gushing into your stomach as you read it…. I can’t recommend the book enough."

Noam Scheiber,

"If you want to know how this all happened, how it got so bad and has not become better, author Jeff Connaughton explains it in his new book, “The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.” On top of everything else, the American middle class is being systematically robbed by the corruption of Washington, namely by Wall Street. This corrupt nexus of money and power is why the economy collapsed, why it isn’t getting better, and why the middle class is fighting for its life."

Richard Parker, McClatchy Newspapers

"Weak U.S. legal oversight puts burden on compliance pros to protect their firms, author says."

Reuters, 9/4/12

"A must read if you’re interested in the corrupting influence of lobbyists, the revolving door between Wall Street and those that govern and regulate the financial services industry, and how huge, and ultimately untraceable, amounts of money grease the wheels of government at every step."

Francine McKenna,

"Mr. Connaughton is a fascinating witness and raconteur because he has been through the revolving door several times: in between work in the Senate and the Clinton White House, he spent 12 years in one of Washington’s top lobbying firms. This author has really lived in and understood the Wall Street-Washington corridor. The book is partly about his education — and ultimate disappointment, most of all with the Obama administration but definitely with both parties."

Simon Johnson, Economix blog

"This is the most honest book I’ve read about Washington in years – it really tells it like it is."

Andrew Cockburn, Co-Producer, American Casino

"Kaufman’s chief of staff at the time, Jeff Connaughton, was even more scathing toward the Obama Administration. Attorney General Eric Holder, he noted, ‘said in his swearing-in that he would make it a priority. We thought we were making sure that they were doing the right thing, and they said all the right things in hearings, and nothing happened. I feel gamed by it."

George Packer, The New Yorker

"It is in fact one of the best books on how corporate criminals manipulate the system to get away with their crimes."

Editor, Corporate Crime Reporter

“Jeff is one of the smartest guys on the Hill and is particularly strong on issues surrounding Wall Street and the regulatory system . . . he takes apart the oft-stated mantra that what Wall Street firms did during and after the crisis was maybe unethical, but not illegal.”
—Matt Taibbi,, December 20, 2011

“For a compelling account of how the financial lobby works, both in general and in this instance, look for a forthcoming book by Jeff Connaughton.”
—Simon Johnson, co-author of WHITE HOUSE BURNING,
the New York Times “Economix,” May 10, 2012

"[T]here is a new powerful voice who knows how big banks really work and who is willing to tell the truth in great and convincing detail. Jeff Connaughton - a former senior political adviser who has worked both for and against powerful Wall Street interests over the years — has just published a page-turning memoir that is also a damning critique of how Wall Street operates, the political capture of Washington, and our collective failure to reform finance in the past four years. The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins, is the perfect antidote to disinformation put about by global megabanks and their friends."
— Simon Johnson, "One Man Against the Wall Street Lobby," Huffington Post, 8/25/12

"It is in fact one of the best books on how corporate criminals manipulate the system to get away with their crimes."
— Editor, "Payoff in the Pit of Plutocracy," Corporate Crime Reporter, 8/23/12.

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The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Florida_trader More than 1 year ago
In the book the author describes his experiences as a Washington insider and how the establishment (DC and Wall Street) benefit from supporting and enabling each other in good times and bad. While the author provides this insight having cashed out and retired, it does not lessen the validity or importance of the observations regarding Obama, Biden, and members of "the blob" who live in a "heads we win, tails you lose" world. The book is a hard to put down as the author takes you into his life and makes you feel as though you are attending meetings where deals are made, laws are crafted, and favors are exchanged without the exchange of cash but with an understanding as to who owes who and what the net ledger reads. Well written and fast paced. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
Bob_Nicholson More than 1 year ago
A must read for the political junkie or those who just want to understand what happened in the banking crisis and how little has been done to fix the underlying problem. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago