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Financial Origami: How the Wall Street Model Broke

ISBN: 978-1-118-03032-5
192 pages
February 2011
Financial Origami: How the Wall Street Model Broke (111803032X) cover image


An in-depth look at the failure of Wall Street's "proven" financial models

Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into intricate and aesthetically attractive shapes. As such, it is the perfect metaphor for the Wall Street financial engineering model, which ultimately proved to be the underlying cause of the 2008 financial crisis.

In Financial Origami, Brendan Moynihan describes how the Wall Street business model evolved from a method to transfer risk into a method for manufacturing risk. Along the way, this timely book skillfully dissects financial engineering and addresses how it's often a mechanism to evade regulatory constraints, provide institutional investors with customized products, and, of course, generate revenue for financial engineers.

  • Reveals how Wall Street's financial engineering business model morphed into something destructive
  • Highlights how the origami model worked well in the comparatively stable years of the early 2000s, when there was less risk to transfer
  • Discusses how Wall Street began manufacturing risk by creating products that multiplied risk exposures and encouraged subprime lending

With the collapse of Lehman Brother the Wall Street business model effectively broke. But there are many lessons to be learned from what has transpired, and Financial Origami will show you what they are.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note.


Chapter 1 Fold Sides to Center.

Commercial Banks.

Savings & Loans.

Securities Firms.

Transferring Risk.

End of an Era.

Chapter 2 Result, Turn Over.

The Three Derivatives.




Chapter 3 Fold Sides to Center, Again.

Changing the Rules.

A New Environment.

Investing in Mortgages.

Banker Incentives.

Chapter 4 Fold Tip to Point.

Other People's Money: Equity.

Agents Transferring Risk Become Principals Taking It.

Chapter 5 Fold Point Back.

Rules, Refold, Rave, Ruin.

A New Environment.

A New Risk.

Chapter 6 Fold in Half.

Mortgage Origami.

Subprime Origami.

The Rating Game.

Banker Incentives.

Manufactured Product.

Chapter 7 Pull Neck Upright.

Low Volatility, Low Risk.

The CDS Market Develops.

More Insurance Than Needed.

Opaque Markets.

Other People's Money: Debt.

Chapter 8 Pull Head to Suitable Angle.

Vindicating Greenspan.

How, Not Will, You Pay?

Broken Markets.

Chapter 9 Complete.

What's Wrong with Wall Street.

Government Sponsored Enterprises.

Government Sanctioned Credit Rating Agencies.


What's Right with Wall Street?

Brown Brothers Harriman.

Marketfield Asset Management.

Egan-Jones Co.



About the Author.


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Author Information

Brendan Moynihan is an editor-at-large for Bloomberg News, where he manages the popular column "Chart of the Day" and writes about the economy and Wall Street. He has been with the company since 2006, after spending more than twenty years on Wall Street as a trader and risk manager. Moynihan is the author of Trading on Expectations (Wiley) and coauthor of What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars. He lives in Barrington Hills, Illinois, with his wife and two sons, and is currently writing a book on English grammar.

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