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The Big Short War

A look at the billionaire hedge fund managers battling over the future of a global nutrition supplement company:

"In a recent interview on CNBC, the blunt-talking and cagey Icahn hinted there would be a concerted effort to take Ackman down a peg or two in the Herbalife battle, which 'could be the mother of all the short ­squeezes,' he said, referring to a technique that can be used by a group of traders who band together to try to clobber a short-seller.

"Chapman agrees. 'This is like Wall Street’s version of the movie Kill Bill,' he says. 'Bill Ackman has been so arrogant and disrespectful to so many people, presumably on the theory that he would never be in a position where these subjects of his disrespect could actually act on their deserved hatred for him But now, with JCPenney [which is down 20 percent from Ackman’s 2010 investment] and Herbalife going against Ackman, his ‘stock’ has moved down, allowing once again, a decade later, for those holding their Kill Bill puts [i.e., options they have been waiting to cash in] to exercise them against him.'"
PUBLISHED: March 7, 2013
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7676 words)

Rethinking Robert Rubin

How much blame for the financial crisis should be placed on people like Robert Rubin, former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Citigroup chairman? A fresh look at the decisions he made:

Like many Rubin defenders, Sheryl Sandberg suspects that her mentor has become a scapegoat for events beyond comprehension. 'My own view is that, look, these have been hard times, and people need people to blame,' she says. 'It doesn’t mean they blame the right people.'

Nassim Nicholas Taleb doesn’t know Rubin personally. He admits that his antipathy, like that of so many Rubin critics, is fueled by symbolism. 'He represents everything that’s bad in America,' he says. 'The evil in one person represented. When we write the history, he will be seen as the John Gotti of our era. He’s the Teflon Don of Wall Street.' Taleb wants systemic change to prevent what he terms the 'Bob Rubin Problem”—the commingling of Wall Street interests and the public trust—“so people like him don’t exist.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 20, 2012
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5173 words)

Goldman's Alpha War

Steve Friedman’s decision to quit as chairman of Goldman Sachs, in 1994, during one of its darkest hours, stunned and angered his partners. And despite Friedman’s maneuverings, it created a leadership crisis as the mismatched team of Jon Corzine (future New Jersey governor) and Henry Paulson (future Treasury secretary) took the helm. In an adaptation from his book on Goldman, William D. Cohan reveals how secret merger discussions put the expansive trader and the hardheaded banker on a collision course, setting the stage for the firm it would soon become.
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2011
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8931 words)

Man vs. Machine on Wall Street: How Computers Beat the Market

Cliff Asness's Applied Quantitative Research—which makes its fortune, like other "quants," by using high-speed computers and financial models of extraordinary complexity—has made a stupendous recovery in the past two years. At the end of 2010, AQR had $33 billion in assets under management. Its funds' performance was up nearly 20 percent last year, after being up 38 percent in 2009. This is all the more striking because many analysts believe the quants helped cause, or at least exacerbated, the meltdown by giving traders a false sense of security.
PUBLISHED: March 29, 2011
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4191 words)

The Shot Heard ’Round the Clubs

The mystery of Finn M. W. Caspersen still haunts the high-Wasp enclaves of Florida’s Jupiter Island, the Rhode Island shore town of Westerly, and New Jersey horse country: What led the well-connected, immensely wealthy 67-year-old philanthropist to such a shocking act? The author searches out the shadows in an outwardly impeccable life.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2010
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5261 words)

Endless Summers

Throughout his dazzling but controversial career—top World Bank economist, Treasury secretary, Harvard University president, and now head of the White House National Economic Council—Larry Summers has been his own worst enemy.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2009
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8239 words)

The Final Days of Merrill Lynch

Last September, as Wall Street turned to rubble and panic threatened to come unleashed, Ken Lewis, the CEO of Bank of America, agreed to swallow one of the country’s most toxic investment houses.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 1, 2009
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6905 words)

The Economy Is Still at the Brink

We are sympathetic to the extraordinary challenge President Obama faces, but if we’ve learned anything at all two years into the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, it is that a capital-markets system this dependent on public confidence is a shockingly inadequate foundation upon which to rest our economy.
PUBLISHED: June 7, 2009
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2828 words)