Summary

When Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, was appointed in 2006 to become the nation's next Secretary of the Treasury, he knew that his move from Wall Street to Washington would be daunting and challenging.
But Paulson had no idea that a year later, he would find himself at the very epicenter of the world's most cataclysmic financial crisis since the Great Depression. Major institutions including Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup, among others - all steeped in rich, longstanding tradition - literally teetered at the edge of collapse. Panic ensnared international markets. Worst of all, the credit crisis spread to all parts of the U.S. economy and grew more ominous with each passing day, destroying jobs across America and undermining the financial security millions of families had spent their lifetimes building.
This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime economic nightmare. Events no one had thought possible were happening in quick succession, and people all over the globe were terrified that the continuing downward spiral would bring unprecedented chaos. All eyes turned to the United States Treasury Secretary to avert the disaster.
This, then, is Hank Paulson's first-person account. From the man who was in the very middle of this perfect economic storm, On the Brink is Paulson's fast-paced retelling of the key decisions that had to be made with lightning speed. Paulson puts the listener in the room for all the intense moments as he addressed urgent market conditions, weighed critical decisions, and debated policy and economic considerations with of all the notable players - including the CEOs of top Wall Street firms as well as Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, Sheila Bair, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, and then-President George W. Bush.
More than an account about numbers and credit risks gone bad, On the Brink is an...
©2010 Henry M. Paulson (P)2010 Hachette
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5 out of 5 stars
By Michael Moore on 22-02-10

More Depth than "Too Big to Fail"

I read this book not long after "Too Big to Fail." It has the benefit of being a first-hand account by the senior government official in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis: we learn much more in this book of the background thinking and concerns of top Treasury and Fed officials who were trying to cope with the onset of financial panic and meltdown. Put another way, the book offers much clearer context and explanation of the policy thinking than did the Sorkin book. The book keys on personal conversations and meetings, which keeps it interesting. There are revealing sketches of Mr. Paulson's interactions with Congressional leaders and the President, which show how completely unprepared they all were for the scope and severity of the financial crash. The weakest part of the book is the Afterword in which Mr. Paulson lays out the policy reforms that are needed in order to avoid a like financial disaster in the future. Although a vitally important and urgent reform (and one Congress and the Administration to their shame have still not addressed 18 months after the 2008 meltdown), this part of the book reads like a bland press release from the Treasury Department.

This book is well worth reading for a better understanding of the 2008 financial collapse. It is focused on the response to the financial meltdown at the highest levels of government and industry. It does not, however, provide particular insights into the irresponsible business practices that led to the crisis in the first place.

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23 of 24 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By DLynn on 10-03-10

A good complement to Too Big to Fail

I listened to this as a follow up to Too Big to Fail and did not have much expectation. I was pleasantly surprised. This book provided an in depth view from inside the government. I came away feeling that Hank, Ben and Tim all were trying their best in a situation that kept blind siding them with new problems. It was like the proverbial snowball going downhill. I came away glad that they were in their roles and that they were willing to take chances with big solutions. It will be interesting to see how history judges their actions. We will need to remember that others took over and subsequent decisions may have created different outcomes than originally planned at the time of the original decisions.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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