BROKERS, BAGMEN, AND MOLES

FRAUD AND CORRUPTION IN THE CHICAGO FUTURES MARKETS

Less than two years after federal 'commod' squads obtained indictments against over 40 traders at the Windy City's two principal futures exchanges, volume remains as high as ever. Even so, Greising (a Business Week correspondent) and Morse (a reporter for Knight-Ridder Financial News) leave little doubt in this savvy, if discontinuous, overview that there were—and are—scams and double-dealing aplenty in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange. The authors offer an authoritative account of the FBI investigation that sent four undercover agents into the trading rings to collect evidence of illegal practices. In addition to an episodic briefing on the sting from its 1987 inception through the first trial verdicts, Greising and Morse provide institutional histories of the essentially self-regulated CBT and Merc. The futures exchanges furnish the global economy a valuable price- discovery mechanism, but, run as old-boy clubs, they apparently also give floor brokers a license to steal from hedgers and speculators alike. The authors make a generally good job of explaining how venal traders defraud clients as well as the IRS. They also probe the political alliances and payoffs that ensure an anything-goes trading environment, and they don't spare federal prosecutors who inflated the significance of nickel-and-dime cases. The impact of their charges and reform proposals, though, is blunted by a fractured format that arrests the narrative flow to no discernible purpose at critical junctures. Also, the story's a long way from over. While the Chicago office of the US Attorney General can claim upwards of 30 scalps (via plea bargains and convictions), more than a dozen of the accused have been acquitted or given an interim pass by juries that could not reach verdicts. A knowledgeable, albeit less than cohesive, progress report on a consequential scandal.

Pub Date: July 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-471-53057-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more