Someone made money

If most people snatched up this New York Times No. 1 best seller with get-rich-quick dreams, they are in for a downer: Sometime around 2005 or so, Wall Street biggies—Lehman Brothers, even granddaddy Goldman Sachs—took dubious sub-prime mortgage loans and packaged them into equally shady bonds, called collateralized-debt obligations. The U.S. ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service, for some reason (author Michael Lewis argues stupidity) rate these bonds triple-A, even though they’re basically worthless. Former Wall Streeter Lewis’ surprisingly nonwonky yarn looks at the half-dozen who just knew these CDOs were bogus and, accordingly, bet the farm against them (or “shorted” them). Sure enough, culminating in September 2008, the sketchy bonds did default, and that handful of guys became billionaires. And it turns out that bigwig Wall Street firms—Lehman, Merrill Lynch, etc.—forgot that the bonds were bogus and had to eat billions. The ending, of course, is tragic: We bailed ’em out.