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HIGH ROLLERS by Martin Lowy

HIGH ROLLERS

Inside the Savings and Loan Debacle

By Martin Lowy

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1991
ISBN: 0-275-93988-X
Publisher: Praeger

 A technocrat's thoughtful, informative assessment of the varied factors that brought America's savings-and-loan associations to costly grief. Where other annalists have focused on the venal buccaneers whose predations became a public scandal, Lowy, an attorney, offers a back-to-basics rundown on the deep-rooted origins of a convulsive crisis. In the process, he dismisses easy-answer notions that either fraud or junk bonds were primary causes of the S&L industry's perdurable problems, and documents just why it is ``the boom, not the bust, that does the damage.'' He also makes a strong case for the proposition that regulatory accounting rules designed to help troubled associations weather interest-rate storms had the unintended consequence of encouraging risky lending practices. And Lowy does not shy from assigning blame for the thrift crackup, casting a cold eye on Capitol Hill. Among other shortcomings, the author says, Congress refused to accept the reality that deposit insurance without effective oversight is a recipe for disaster. Nor do accommodating auditors escape unscathed. As a practical matter, Lowy charges, they've largely failed to provide an accurate count on the financial condition of thrift institutions. His own proposal for reform of an industry whose recovery prospects he views as bleak at best center on apolitical simplification of the regulatory system's complexities. Given the fact that even solvent operators resist big budgets for agencies empowered to liquidate them, however, the author's recommendations look like candidates for early retirement. A savvy, low-key primer that earns top marks as a thinking person's analytic guide to the making of a fiscal quagmire.*justify no*