Ever hear the one about Howie Hubler? He was one of those masters of the universe with an Armani suit for every day of the month. Funny story: He lost his firm $9 billion when he bet big on subprime mortgages — the biggest individual loss in the history of Wall Street.
Michael Lewis is outing Hubler and his kind in The Big Short, a book that may be the first of a new genre — the financial adventure story. It’s a page-turner.
Everybody knows the country went crazy a few years back when we lost $1.75 trillion for letting Vegas strippers buy five homes (it’s in the book). Although we’ve been a little foggy on the details, we know we got screwed.
Lewis, author of The Blind Side, has the proof. To present his case, he tells the stories of the handful of hedge fund managers and traders who saw the train wreck coming. You almost root for these guys, until you realize they profited (big time) by betting against America. Still, they are cynical enough to guide you through the darkest corners of the collective mind of Wall Street.
For Michael Burry, Steve Eisman, Greg Lippmann and Charlie Ledley, it’s an emperor-has-no-clothes journey. They laugh at Ben Bernanke for saying patently idiotic things, they turn off CNBC when it’s clear “they weren’t in touch with reality anymore” and, while watching Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis speak, Eisman has an epiphany: “I said to myself, ‘Oh, my God, he’s dumb!’ A lightbulb went off. The guy running one of the biggest banks in the world is dumb!”
Dumb was part of it, but it was greed that pushed Wall Street to build what Lewis dubs the “Doomsday Machine.” But just as the monster was about to destroy its creators, the feds saved the day — and Wall Street’s bonuses continue. Yeah, this book will make you very, very mad.
Howie Hubler retired to Jersey. Guess he’ll have to get by on the “many millions of dollars” he was paid by Morgan Stanley to lose them $9 billion.