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When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management

af Roger Lowenstein

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1,403239,628 (3.99)17
Picking up where Liar's Poker left off (literally, in the bond dealer's desks of Salomon Brothers) the story of Long-Term Capital Management is of a group of elite investors who believed they could beat the market and, like alchemists, create limitless wealth for themselves and their partners. Founded by John Meriweather, a notoriously confident bond dealer, along with two Nobel prize winners and a floor of Wall Street's brightest and best, Long-Term Captial Management was from the beginning hailed as a new gold standard in investing. It was to be the hedge fund to end all other hedge funds: a discreet private investment club limited to those rich enough to pony up millions. It became the banks' own favourite fund and from its inception achieved a run of dizzyingly spectacular returns. New investors barged each other aside to get their investment money into LTCM's hands. But as competitors began to mimic Meriweather's fund, he altered strategy to maintain the fund's performance, leveraging capital with credit on a scale not fully understood and never seen before. When the markets in Indonesia, South America and Russia crashed in 1998 LCTM's investments crashed with them and mountainous debts accumulated. The fund was in melt-down, and threatening to bring down into its trillion-dollar black hole a host of financial instiutions from New York to Switzerland. It's a tale of vivid characters, overwheening ambition, and perilous drama told, in Roger Lowenstein's hands, with brilliant style and panache. s performance, leveraging capital with credit on a scale not fully understood and never seen before. When the markets in Indonesia, South America and Russia crashed in 1998 LCTM's investments crashed with them and mountainous debts accumulated. The fund was in melt-down, and threatening to bring down into its trillion-dollar black hole a host of financial instiutions from New York to Switzerland. It's a tale of vivid characters, overwheening ambition, and perilous drama told, in Roger Lowenstein's hands, with brilliant style and panache.… (mere)
  1. 10
    The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine af Michael Lewis (browner56)
    browner56: The hubris, greed and mismanagement behind two of the most devasting financial collapses of the last 75 years, brilliantly and carefully told.
  2. 00
    The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World af Niall Ferguson (mikeg2)
    mikeg2: Like this book, The Ascent of money covers the major financial disasters that have taken place including the LTCM debacle.
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Long-Term Capital Management (Subject)
  LOM-Lausanne | May 1, 2020 |
The main story here runs 1993 to 1998, from the start of LTCM to its collapse. There are lots of bits and pieces to the story. There is the arrogant confidence of the partners. There's how they bamboozled big bucks from investors. There's the backdrop of the ups and downs of Asia, Russia, etc., bonds and spreads and currencies and equities going up and down. This is a pretty short book that runs through the basics but doesn't drill down too deep anywhere.

The book does quite a good job of explaining to those not in the know about various financial bits and pieces. The star of the show is the Black-Scholes pricing for options. Lowenstein explains how this is based on random walks and Gaussian distributions. The whole LTCM business was based on crazy complex mathematical games. Lowenstein unpacks the games quite well.

My biggest complaint here is the way he diagnoses the errors of LTCM. I would point out three levels of mismatch between the efficient market hypothesis and reality. The most basic is the prevalence of fat tailed distributions in the place of Gaussian distributions. The next level is that the market is dominated by human behavior with all its wildness, e.g. folks getting swept up in whatever panic or enthusiasm of the day. The third level is that reality always stretches past any mathematical model. Lowenstein mentions all three of these problems, but he seemed to scramble them a bit. Fat tailed distributions can be modeled mathematically with wonderful precision - of course, there are many such distributions, but one can accumulate a shelf-full of books about them (trust me on this!) Even human behavior is not utterly impossible to model mathematically. No doubt even the breaking of waves on a rocky shore is going to exceed precise mathematics, and human behavior much more so. But if I were building models to support risk management on large portfolios, I'd be building fat tailed models that incorporate models of human behavior... and still leaving room for those frontiers of reality that exceed models. One method for addressing those frontiers is to work with multiple scenarios and with multiple models.

The copyright of the book says 2000. I'd say the copy got finalized in the early months of 2000. It'd be interesting to get another look at LTCM from the perspective of the 2000 crash, and especially of the 2008 crash. What's around the corner now, one is inspired to wonder! ( )
1 stem kukulaj | Mar 22, 2019 |
This book examines the history of Long Term Capital Management, a firm that failed during the 1998 financial crisis, and explains how the firm was built and constructed, and why it collapsed. Pretty vivid writing (my copy was annotated by a previous owner with many "!"), though the snark and schadenfreude levels tend to put one off a little bit. No one in the book comes off particularly well; Merrill Lynch probably the least badly off, and Goldman, Sachs comes across as a greedy villain, almost as bad as the protagonists. The explanation for why LTCM failed does seem to me to make sense, but as I say, the schadenfreude level is a bit off-putting. Still, recommended. ( )
  EricCostello | Feb 5, 2019 |
This book is about the four-year journey of one of the most infamous hedge funds in history. It outlines it's four-year lifecycle, from 1994 to 1998, starting with an monumental raise of $1.5 billion and concluding with a $3.6 bailout by sixteen financial institutions, organized by the Federal Reserve.

The sector in which their money was made is the world of bond arbitrage. Arbitrage is about making money not in the rise and fall of asset prices, but in profiting on the spread between similar or almost identical assets. Spreads, on bonds in particular, are infinitesimally small. The only way to consistently make significant sums money on them is if you work on a massive scale with massive leverage [in LTCM's case, 30:1].

The monumental failing of the mathematicians behind this fund was that they assumed the economy was a collection of totally random incidents. They thought it would be absolutely impossible for a trend to carry through the entire economy. Such an oversight is utterly bizarre, as obviously, the global economy experiences meta-trends all of the time.

The book is very well researched and is a good mix of facts along with a narrative surrounding the personalities of the people involved.

I would have liked to have heard a greater analysis of the systemic risks that led to the bailout, but it could be that this information just doesn't exist. Maybe the instabilities caused by LTCM were just totally unpredictable, and that's why they were assumed too much of a risk. ( )
  willszal | Jan 10, 2017 |
A fairly well written account of yet another collection of typically greedy Wall Street bankers. A good book to read if you want to learn the definition of hubris (and the OED entry is to short for you). It does need a bit of an update, to incorporate the latest instance of avarice nearly collapsing the world economy. ( )
  hhornblower | Aug 13, 2016 |
Viser 1-5 af 23 (næste | vis alle)
LTCM is a great story/fable populated with memorable characters. Lowenstein does a nice job in pacing the story and I recommend reading the book for these reasons alone. There is a certain pleasure reading about the demise of the haughty and rich (or least people characterized that way). The book fails, however, in communicating a convincing moral. Lowenstein views the LTCM failure as a warning about applying high-tech, financial models and theories of efficient capital markets to financial markets that "are not always reasonable."
 
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Picking up where Liar's Poker left off (literally, in the bond dealer's desks of Salomon Brothers) the story of Long-Term Capital Management is of a group of elite investors who believed they could beat the market and, like alchemists, create limitless wealth for themselves and their partners. Founded by John Meriweather, a notoriously confident bond dealer, along with two Nobel prize winners and a floor of Wall Street's brightest and best, Long-Term Captial Management was from the beginning hailed as a new gold standard in investing. It was to be the hedge fund to end all other hedge funds: a discreet private investment club limited to those rich enough to pony up millions. It became the banks' own favourite fund and from its inception achieved a run of dizzyingly spectacular returns. New investors barged each other aside to get their investment money into LTCM's hands. But as competitors began to mimic Meriweather's fund, he altered strategy to maintain the fund's performance, leveraging capital with credit on a scale not fully understood and never seen before. When the markets in Indonesia, South America and Russia crashed in 1998 LCTM's investments crashed with them and mountainous debts accumulated. The fund was in melt-down, and threatening to bring down into its trillion-dollar black hole a host of financial instiutions from New York to Switzerland. It's a tale of vivid characters, overwheening ambition, and perilous drama told, in Roger Lowenstein's hands, with brilliant style and panache. s performance, leveraging capital with credit on a scale not fully understood and never seen before. When the markets in Indonesia, South America and Russia crashed in 1998 LCTM's investments crashed with them and mountainous debts accumulated. The fund was in melt-down, and threatening to bring down into its trillion-dollar black hole a host of financial instiutions from New York to Switzerland. It's a tale of vivid characters, overwheening ambition, and perilous drama told, in Roger Lowenstein's hands, with brilliant style and panache.

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