It's a debt-loaded, messy financial world in need of new fix, says writer Roger Lowenstein
Top-notch financial journalist and author Roger Lowenstein speaks tonight in Sarasota, just a few weeks after the publishing of his latest book, The End of Wall Street, and amid one of Washington's biggest attempts to overhaul financial regulation in decades. Lowenstein speaks to a group called Forum Truth. Details on that event here. And here is an excerpt from his book. (Photo: Jackie Schon.)
Lowenstein, who worked for some top newspapers, is currently a columnist for Bloomberg News. He spoke by phone with me by phone from his home in Massachusetts about his book and his take on the dramatic changes under way in the U.S. financial world. Here are some highlights of that interview:
* On a financial reform package:
"Obama will no doubt get a reform bill passed. Nobody will want to say that Wall Street is fine the way it is."
* What may not make sense in a new bill:
"A systemic risk regulator? The Fed did not do a good job and to add another layer of agency? I'd rather have one agency do a good job."
* On where the bill does not go far enough:
"Limiting debt. In every case I have seen in so many financial crises, too much debt is at the bottom of it"
* Are you worried about big banks?
"I am not afraid of big banks but weak banks. It's more important to look at the degree of financial leverage these banks employ."
* You interviewed more than 100 people for your book. Who impressed you?
"(Treasury Secretary) Hank Paulson.The consensus was he did not Lehman Brothers and let it fail but I disagree. Paulson was a dedicated public servant. He impressed me. If you interviewed him for two hours, you never stopped typing. (Federal Reserve Chairman) Ben Bernanke met with me several times. He is very careful. If you ask him the weather, he deliberates."
* You've written books ranging from Buffett:The Making of an American Capitalist and When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management to Origins of the Crash:The Great Bubble and Its Undoing about the 2000 market crash. Do you think you'll write another book?
"I always think when I write one of these about a crisis that I'll never get to write about another. There were the dot coms, the Enrons, Long Term Capital. Then I guess we never say never to our capacity to really mess up."
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist