On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System by Henry M. Paulson Jr.

Easily the most engaging book on the malevolent Recession that shook the very edifice of the Global Financial and Economic Systems during the years 2007-09. Other than the fact that this gives a first hand account of the cause, consequences and mitigation measures, Henry ‘Hank’ Paulson’s book stands out for the following reasons:

1. The Former Treasury Secretary shoots straight from the hip brushing nothing under the carpet;

2. Paulson takes no prisoners, attacking the incompetence of regulators, politicians and policy makers alike;

3. There is absolutely no bewildering torrent of alphabet soups and financial jargon which otherwise litter every other book professing to offer a vantage view of the Recession and in the process, succeeding in only putting the reader in an absolutely incomprehensible tailspin;

4. He uses the much abused, beaten down and cliched phrase “Too Big To Fail” only once and that too at the very end of the book (in page number 441 to be precise!);

5. Paulson never shies from taking responsibility for decisions taken by him as Treasury Secretary which lead to unfavourable and adverse outcomes. He never takes refuge under the “Hindsight is 20/20 vision” argument;

6. Paulson highlights both the insidious elements of partisan politics where the Democrats and Republicans alike obstinately oppose the passing of the much needed Bill on the Troubled Asset Relief Programme (“TARP”) which proposes to inject US$700 billion into an ailing, feeble and unpredictable economy tottering on the brink of collapse. The reasons for the blocking of the Bill range from the inane to the insightful spanning a whole range from opposing bailouts to protesting obnoxious executive compensation;

7. In the same breath, Paulson also showers encomiums on the ultimate triumph of the co-ordinated and cohesive working of bipartisan politics whereby both the Republicans and the Democrats rise over politics and venture beyond the call of duty to ensure that the TARP reforms see the light of the day;

8. If I was to offer just one convincing reason for the reading of this book, it would be the unrivaled phalanx of characters blitzing the pages. The break neck procession of who’s who continues unabated right from page 1 as every confounded, dumbfounded and flummoxed personality of repute grapples with the hardest recession to have hit humanity since the infamous Great Depression of 1929;

9. An extension of Point 8: George Bush; Barack Obama; John McCain; Tim Geithner; Ben Bernanke; Sheila Bair; Jamie Dimon; Dick Fuld; Ken Lewis; Lloyd Blankfein; John Mack; Thain; Vikram Pandit; Dan Jester; Larry Summers; Barney Frank; Chris Dodd; Rick Shelbey; and Nancy Pelosi

10. Pages 299 to 300 where a stormy meeting chaired by George Bush involving the Republicans and Democrats transforms into an ugly bout of muck raking, mud slinging before ending with Hank Paulson literally genuflecting before the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi begging her not to allow a sabotage of the proposed reforms

“On The Brink” – an excellent effort at transparency!

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