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How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It
by Scott Patterson
Publisher: Crown Business; 1St Edition edition (February 2, 2010)
From Publishers Weekly
In a fast-moving narrative, Wall Street Journal reporter Patterson explores the coterie of mathematicians behind the Wall Street crash of 2008. The story's stars are "an unusual breed of investors" called quants, who "used brain-twisting math and super-powered computers to pluck billions in fleeting dollars out of the market." Following the first quant, Beat the Market author Ed Thorp, from his graduate school days in 1955, and introducing others like Peter Muller and Ken Griffin as they established funds at major investment firms, Patterson spins a fascinating story of riches amassed for a few and, inevitably, lost for many: a collapsing hedge fund, "imploding under the weight of toxic subprime assets," took down the system "like a massive avalanche started by a single loose boulder." Though his narrative is interesting and easy to follow, Patterson's explanations of investment terms are not for novices; a glossary would have helped. As he puts the excesses and failures of Wall Street into perspective, however, Patterson also offers evidence that Wall Street hasn't learned its lesson: as of spring 2009, "several banks reported stronger earnings numbers... in part due to clever accounting tricks... and other potentially dangerous quant gadgets being forged in the dark smithies of Wall Street."
*Starred Review* Journalist Patterson proves Mark Twain¡¯s point that ¡°truth is stranger than fiction.¡± Patterson¡¯s recounting of the events leading up to and including the global financial meltdown in 2007 and 2008 features the Quants, a new breed of investor, a corps of elite math geniuses who exchanged the hunches of risk-taking traders for advanced mathematical tools, including complicated algorithms and supercomputers. These new titans of Wall Street set off a chain of events for a financial catastrophe beginning in August 2007, which nearly destroyed the world¡¯s financial markets. This is primarily the story of four main ¡°characters¡±¡ªMorgan Stanley¡¯s Peter Muller, Citadel hedge fund¡¯s Ken Griffin, Cliff Asness of AQR hedge fund, and Boaz Weinstein of Deutsche Bank. These and other number-crunching wizards amassed multibillion-dollar war chests and then the numbers turned against them. Their ascendancy to the heights and then extraordinary fall to near extinction is a remarkable story, as is the possibility that they all will rise from the ashes. This is a must-read, excellent book. --Mary Whaley