A gripping account of the underdog Senate lawyer who unmasked the financial wrongdoing that led to the Crash of 1929 and forever changed the relationship between Washington and Wall Street.
In The Hellhound of Wall Street, Michael Perino recounts in riveting detail the 1933 hearings that put Wall Street on trial for the Great Crash. Never before in American history had so many financial titans been called to account before the public, and they had come within a few weeks of emerging unscathed. By the time Ferdinand Pecora, a Sicilian immigrant and former New York prosecutor, took over as chief counsel, the investigation had dragged on ineffectively for nearly a year and was universally written off as dead.
The Hellhound of Wall Street provides a minute-by-minute account of the ten dramatic days when Pecora turned the hearings around, cross- examining the officers of National City Bank (today's Citigroup), particularly its chairman, Charles Mitchell, one of the best known bankers of his day. Mitchell strode into the hearing room in obvious disdain for the proceedings, but he left utterly disgraced. Pecora's rigorous questioning revealed that City Bank was guilty of shocking financial abuses, from selling worthless bonds to manipulating its stock price. Most offensive of all was the excessive compensation and bonuses awarded to its executives for peddling shoddy securities to the American public.
Pecora became an unlikely hero to a beleaguered nation. The man whom the press called "the hellhound of Wall Street" was the son of a struggling factory worker. Precocious and determined, he became one of New York's few Italian American lawyers at a time when Italians were frequently stereotyped as anarchic criminals. The image of an immigrant lawyer challenging a blue-blooded Wall Street tycoon was just one more sign that a fundamental shift was taking place in America.
By creating the sensational headlines needed to galvanize public opinion for reform, the Pecora hearings spurred Congress to take unprecedented steps to rein in the freewheeling banking industry and led directly to the New Deal's landmark economic reforms. A gripping courtroom drama with remarkable contemporary relevance, The Hellhound of Wall Street brings to life a crucial turning point in American financial history.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A famous "someone" once said, "Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it". That is certainly true of the financial situation today.
The Hellhound of Wall Street is a very well written and penetrating look at one set of congressional hearings held in 1933, examining the role of National City Bank (now CitiBank) and its president Charles E. Mitchell, in the cause of the 1929 crash and its aftermath. It tells the tale using the story of the fantastic lawyer who did the research and asked all the right questions in order to expose what was subsequently called the "banksters" role in manipulating stocks, bonds, and the public without the least hint of moral or ethical considerations.
The echoes it sends down to today are chilling, in that it proves that the government, and the people, never seem to learn. We expect business to police its own activities to create a fair and functioning free market. Great expectations are rarely met.
Michael Perino's "The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora's Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance" is an extremely enjoyable read. As a matter of full disclosure, Michael Perino was my professor (and one of the best) at St. John's University School of Law, but that does not alter and/or skew my opinion of this book. Not only is Michael Perino a great professor, but he is also a great writer. I read this book every morning at 7am on the way to the city, a time when many are still sleeping. Even at 7am, Perino's writing style and anecdotes kept me engaged. Perino provides an amazing description of each participant in the investigation, including Charles E. Mitchell, and at times, you almost feel like you are in Room 301. Perino walks you through the investigation day-by-day, and after a few chapters you can see how great of a cross-examiner Pecora was. I recommend this book for anyone who has any interest in finance, securities regulation,...
I usually love books like this - stories about business scandals - but this one just didn't do it for me. While I understand the historical significance of the so-called "Pecora Hearings," I was disappointed; frankly, the book failed to hold my interest - and at the very least was not the gripping read that I expected.
Mr. Perino clearly did a ton of research for the book. However, he seems to have been intent to include as many of the details his research uncovered as was possible. He constantly digresses from the nominal subject of the book to talk about the history of the markets, details of several of the protagonists' lives, and so on. That might be acceptable if their lives were interesting, but in many respects they are not. Another major failing of the book is that Perino feels compelled to tell us what the various people were thinking; however, since he can't really know that, he has lots of statements along the lines of "he must have been thinking...
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