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Fatal Risk: A Cautionary Tale of AIG's Corporate Suicide



Fatal Risk: A Cautionary Tale of AIG's Corporate Suicide

Roddy Boyd

ISBN: 978-0-470-88980-0 April 2011 368 Pages


Long-listed for the FT & Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2011

The true story of how risk destroys, as told through the ongoing saga of AIG

From the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the subject of the financial crisis has been well covered. However, the story central to the crisis-that of AIG-has until now remained largely untold. Fatal Risk: A Cautionary Tale of AIG's Corporate Suicide tells the inside story of what really went on inside AIG that caused it to choke on risk and nearly brining down the entire economic system. The book

  • Reveals inside information available nowhere else, including the personal notes and records of key players such as the former Chairman of AIG, Hank Greenberg
  • Takes readers behind the scenes at the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Details how an understanding of risk built AIG, but a disdain for government regulators led to a run-in with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer

Fatal Risk is the comprehensive and compelling true story of the company at the center of the financial storm and how it nearly caused the entire economic system to collapse.

Cast of Characters ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The (Noncorrelated) Dream Team 7

Chapter 2 Who Dares, Wins 31

Chapter 3 The Man with the Plan 47

Chapter 4 Changes 77

Chapter 5 The Dirt Below 99

Chapter 6 War by Another Name 121

Chapter 7 The Kids Are Alright 149

Chapter 8 In the Shipping Business 181

Chapter 9 The Preservation Instinct 203

Chapter 10 The Down Staircase 235

Chapter 11 Midnight in September 251

Epilogue 291

Notes 313

Acknowledgments 335

Index 343


Fatal Risk: A Cautionary Tale of AIG's Corporate Suicide by Roddy Boyd has been longlisted for The FT & Goldman Sachs Business Book Of The Year Award 2011

Members of the seven strong judging panel will decide on a shortlist of up to six finalists in the middle of September.

‘If there is a theme that links most of the 14 titles on the is their authors’ quest to work out how and why companies, governments and their leaders fail – and how not to go wrong in the future’

"A vivid portrait of the giant insurer at the center of the 2008 financial crisis."
(The Wall Street Journal)

"The best book of the crisis is Fatal Risk. This is a fabulous book - but it deals with complex subjects without shying away from their complexity and it assumes you have enough knowledge and intelligence to cope. . . This is the best book yet written about any specific episode of the crisis. Buy multiple copies. Give them to your friends. They will be grateful too."
(Bronte Capital)

"A sober work that appears to have been researched extremely thoroughly. . . more convincing on the mechanics of AIG's Suicide than it is on any of the deeper motivations."
(The Financial Times)

"Through superb reporting, Boyd has written one of the financial crisis genre's most important works."
(Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

"As Roddy Boyd demonstrates in his well-written study of AIG's fall, it was the very solidity of the company's credit rating that led it astray. Painstakingly built over the course of 40 years by an army veteran, Hank Greenberg, AIG was the ideal counterparty for Wall Street. . . For some, the demise of AIG was not the suicide described in the book's title, but an act of murder by Goldman. Mr Boyd argues that the investment bank was acting only as any prudent counterparty would. But the author's analysis is unlikely to dent the conviction of conspiracy theorists that AIG was rescued by Hank Paulson, the former Goldman chief executive turned treasury secretary, to prop up Goldman." (The Economist)

"Engaging and balanced account . . . Many books on the financial meltdown that began in 2007 treat AIG as a plot point in a wider drama. Yet valuable lessons can be gleaned from the narrower account that Boyd lays out here -- lessons about the responsibilities of leaders and regulators as well as the hazards of financial engineering. . . The story of AIG's demise has many moving pieces, large and small, which Boyd meshes into a smooth narrative. . . Boyd is good with dialogue and knows how to keep the story going. His reporting is thorough and fair, even when it comes to Timothy F. Geithner's risible assertions that it wasn't the Federal Reserve's job to pop bubbles."

The best book on the financial crisis, and . . . favorite piece of non-fiction work since Michael Lewis' The Big Short. . . The reporting here is incredible."
(Distressed Debt Investing)

"A 10 best finance book.
Does the ongoing financial turmoil leave you scratching your head? Worry not, here's our pick of the finest - and most readable - books about Big Money..."
(The Independent)

'Fatal Risk is must reading for market insiders, investors, business leaders, and anyone who's wondered what really happened in 2008.’ (, April 2011).

'researched extremely thoroughly’ (Financial Times, April 2011).

‘…a vivid portrait of the giant ­insurer at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.’ (Wall Street Journal Europe, April 2011).

‘A cautionary tale of corporate hubris.’ (Ethical Corporation Magazine, May 2011).

‘…Boyd is good with dialogue and knows how to keep the story going’.  (, June 2011).