A tale of greed and corruption involving “corporate landlords” who “drove a generational transfer of wealth from hundreds of thousands of individual homeowners to a handful of well-heeled bankers and titans of private equity.”
Many previous books have painted searing portraits of massive financial fraud in the mortgage and investment banking world, including David Dayen’s Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud (2016). While Dayen told his tale mostly from the ground up, Glantz (The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans, 2009, etc.), a Peabody Award–winning investigative reporter, relates the saga mostly from the top down. The author spotlights a variety of contemporary robber barons, including Donald Trump before he was president; Trump’s father, Fred; Wilbur L. Ross Jr. before he was the Secretary of Commerce; and Steven T. Mnuchin before he became Secretary of the Treasury. Glantz’s impressive research leads him to portray each of the tycoons as morally bankrupt and utterly without compassion for homeowners who lost their property. Occasionally, the author shifts the narrative to Sandy Jolley, a cheated homeowner who gathered copious amounts of information, found a lawyer willing to present her damning case to the federal government, and stood to gain substantial damages from the bankers under a law meant to reward whistleblowers. As Glantz relentlessly builds the indictment against the bankers, he wonders why law enforcement agencies failed to take any meaningful action. “It’s hard to imagine [deals] so perfectly designed to lazily allow the government to undercut working-class Americans on behalf of a small group of billionaires,” he writes, “but that is exactly what happened again and again.” In addition to the Trumps, Ross, and Mnuchin, Glantz also levels warranted attacks against John Paulson, Jamie Dimon, Jared Kushner, and Sean Hannity. The similarities of the moguls’ many predations may tire some readers, but the insertion of Jolley into the narrative bolsters the storyline.
A solid, useful exploration of a system that “needs substantial, systemic change.”