Top critical review
A Few good parts, A Few bad ones, Overall worth reading
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2001
There are several very interesting parts of this book, the most notable being the chapters (4, 7 - 10) in which Mr. Partnoy gives a high level description of some of the transactions that he was involved in. Some of his anecdotes, particularly those in which he discusses the atmosphere in an investment bank around bonus time (pg.40 - 42, 202 - 205), are pretty amusing and dead on accurate. The author's descriptions of some of his deals are clearly told from a junior banker's perspective, but they do a good job of putting forth what was being done, how it was being done, what everyone's perceived incentives for the transaction were, the work required to get the deal done, what kind of money, and importantly what kind of fees were involved. In this regard, the book offers more than both "Liar's Poker" by Lewis and "When Genius Failed" by Lowenstein.
Like all books written by former investment bankers the book contains liberally sprinkled anecdotes regarding job interviews from hell, the ridiculous daily escapades that can occur on a trading floor, strip clubs, the lack of personal lives, gambling trips and other stories which could easily have been pulled from the pages of Mr. Lewis's book or "Monkey Business" by Rolfe and Troob. All of these shenanigans culminate around the bank's (in this case Morgan Stanley), or more specifically, his group's annual sporting clay outing, FIASCO. The book also suffers from a somewhat poorly defined timeline and the lack of a defining event which drives the story. Due to these faults, it is at times little more than a book about the evils of investment bankers, the ignorance of their customers, all put forward to enforce Mr. Partnoy's somewhat guarded thesis; Derivatives are used by organizations that are legally prevented from investing in certain areas in order to skirt those laws.
This is a good book that could have been better, the occasions where it shine through make it worth reading, but also unfortunately let us know the author could have produced a somewhat better product.