Undue Influence. How The Wall Street Elite Puts The Financial System At Risk – Charles Geisst

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A critical look at over 80 years of conflict, collusion, and corruption between financiers and politicians

Undue Influence paints a vivid portrait of the dealings between "the few", in this case members of Congress, the banking community, and the Fed,

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A critical look at over 80 years of conflict, collusion, and corruption between financiers and politicians

Undue Influence paints a vivid portrait of the dealings between "the few", in this case members of Congress, the banking community, and the Fed, and sheds light on how radical new deregulatory measures could be introduced by unelected officials and then foisted upon Congress in the name of progress. In the process, the background of the new financial elite is examined-because they are markedly different than their predecessors of the 1920s and 1930s. Undue Influence also brings readers up to speed on other important issues, including how the financial elite has been able to perpetuate itself, how the markets lend themselves to these special interest groups, and how it is possible that after 80 years of financial regulation and regulatory bodies the same problems of financial malfeasance and fraud still plague the markets.

Charles R. Geisst (Oradell, NJ) is the author of 15 books, including Wheels of Fortune (0-471-47973-X), Deals of the Century (0-471-26397-4) and the bestsellers Wall Street: A History and 100 Years of Wall Street. Geisst has taught both political science and finance, worked in banking and finance on Wall Street and in London, as well as consulted. His articles have been published in the International Herald Tribune, Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Newsday, Wall Street Journal, and Euromoney.

From Publishers Weekly

The Glass-Steagall Act, separating commercial banks from investment banks, was passed in 1933 to prevent banks from risking depositors' funds on the still-shaky stock market. It was repealed in 1999, when gambling other people's money on the stock market was considered the height of financial probity. In this engaging history of Glass-Steagall, Geisst (Wall Street: A History) surveys the 70 years leading to this ideological sea change, as the widespread Depression-era populist suspicion of Wall Street subsided, to be replaced with the pro-business dogma of the Reagan era and the New Economy bubble. Formal repeal, Geisst shows, was preceded by decades during which big commercial banks, hungry for a slice of the lucrative investment banking business, increasingly flouted Glass-Steagall restrictions with the connivance of ideologically sympathetic Federal Reserve regulators. The vast sums banks have spent on lobbying and campaign contributions, and the cushy Wall Street jobs awaiting government officials who switch sides, make Geisst wonder whether "the gamekeepers and the poachers had all joined the same club." Geisst provides a lucid guide to the financial issues involved and a colorful account of decades-long political debates and legislative wranglings, while raising troubling questions about the direction of public policy.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"…incisive explanation of various consiracy theories" (Gulf Business, May 2005)

The Glass-Steagall Act, separating commercial banks from investment banks, was passed in 1933 to prevent banks from risking depositors’ funds on the still-shaky stock market. It was repealed in 1999, when gambling other people’s money on the stock market was considered the height of financial probity. In this engaging history of Glass-Steagall, Geisst (Wall Street: A History) surveys the 70 years leading to this ideological sea change, as the widespread Depression-era populist suspicion of Wall Street subsided, to be replaced with the pro-business dogma of the Reagan era and the New Economy bubble. Formal repeal, Geisst shows, was preceded by decades during which big commercial banks, hungry for a slice of the lucrative investment banking business, increasingly flouted Glass-Steagall restrictions with the connivance of ideologically sympathetic Federal Reserve regulators. The vast sums banks have spent on lobbying and campaign contributions, and the cushy Wall Street jobs awaiting government officials who switch sides, make Geisst wonder whether "the gamekeepers and the poachers had all joined the same club." Geisst provides a lucid guide to the financial issues involved and a colorful account of decades-long political debates and legislative wranglings, while raising troubling questions about the direction of public policy. (Dec.) (Publishers Weekly, November 15, 2004)

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From the Inside Flap

The financial system of the United States is far from perfect, and over the years, politicians and financial professionals have engaged in fierce debates as to how the system should be run and regulated–if at all.

Undue Influence paints a vivid portrait of this longstanding battle by taking an in-depth look at the individuals and events that have shaped our financial system–for better or for worse–over the last eighty-five years. Beginning with the rise of the Wall Street elite in the early twentieth century, business historian and bestselling author Charles Geisst takes you on a fascinating journey that mixes money, power, and politics like never before.

Decade by decade, you'll be introduced to the financial institutions and individuals who've fought for an environment that suits their specific needs. You'll also become familiar with the political institutions and individuals who've attempted to balance the financial safety of trusting Americans with the ambitions of the financial elite.

You'll be there to watch how laws passed in the early part of the twentieth century–the Glass-Steagall Act and the Securities Act of 1933–created a safety net to protect America's financial system against undue influence by Wall Street and its constituents. You'll also learn how advances in financial innovation, along with the determination of some to ignore the law, created a situation where existing regulations proved too general in the face of an onslaught of new financial products. Spanning the decades, Geisst skillfully reveals how during the bull market of the 1920s, investment banks such as J.P. Morgan offered new issues of stock to preferred customers and friends at a favorable price, and how during the bull run of the late 1990s, financial institutions such as Citicorp took advantage of loopholes in certain laws to expand their operations beyond the existing legal limits.

With a historical perspective that only Geisst could provide, Undue Influence moves swiftly through the world of finance and investment–from the New Deal to the New Economy–to recount the power plays and political pressures that have shaped our financial world. Filled with in-depth insights and practical lessons, Undue Influence explains why, in the brave new world of financial services, the risks may be greater than ever before.

From the Back Cover

UNDUE INFLUENCE

While the U.S. financial system has evolved since the 1920s, one thing has remained constant―Wall Street has always been a self-serving political force, sometimes at the expense of the overall economy and everyday investors.

Undue Influence shows how powerful institutions and individuals from Wall Street have manipulated, influenced, and outsmarted regulatory and legislative bodies so that they can focus on what Wall Street does best―making as much money as possible. From the Wall Street elite of the 1920s to today's global financial giants, financial historian Charles Geisst demonstrates how the regulatory system always seems a step behind the fast-moving, innovative power brokers of Wall Street. In revealing a financial system that continues to put its own interests ahead of the interests of the economy and investors, Geisst exposes the perils and weaknesses that underlie modern Wall Street.

Undue Influence is an important book that provides a valuable perspective on the relationship between America's financial and political elite. Investors, students of financial history, and anyone concerned about the health of our financial system will find Undue Influence a fascinating, informative, and sobering read.

About the Author

CHARLES R. GEISST is the author of fifteen other books, including Wheels of Fortune: The History of Speculation from Scandal to Respectability (Wiley), Deals of the Century: Wall Street, Mergers, and the Making of Modern America (Wiley), and the bestsellers Wall Street: A History and 100 Years of Wall Street. Previously, he worked as a capital markets analyst and investment banker at several investment banks in London, and has also taught both political science and finance. He has published trade articles in magazines and newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Newsday, and Euromoney.

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