Too Big to Fail Book Summary - Too Big to Fail Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro
00:00

Too Big to Fail summary

Andrew Ross Sorkin

The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System - and Themselves

4 (108 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin is a gripping account of the 2008 financial crisis. It provides an insider's perspective on the events that led to the meltdown, offering a detailed and captivating narrative.

Table of Contents

    Too Big to Fail
    Summary of 4 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 4

    The beginning of the end

    In the heart of the financial world, a storm was brewing – one that would soon shake the foundations of global finance. At the center of this tempest was Lehman Brothers, an institution whose history was as storied as Wall Street itself. This tale begins on a chilly morning in Greenwich, Connecticut, where Lehman's CEO, Richard S. Fuld, Jr., stepped into his black Mercedes, unaware that he was about to witness the unraveling of a financial empire that had stood for over a century.

    Fuld, a man whose life had been intertwined with the highs and lows of Wall Street, was returning from a trip to India, cut short by alarming news: Bear Stearns, a colossus in the realm of investment banking, was teetering on the edge of ruin. This news was not merely a tremor but a seismic shift, a stark revelation that the bedrock of the financial world was far more unstable than anyone had fathomed.

    Bear Stearns’ precarious position was largely due to its heavy exposure to mortgage-backed securities that had turned toxic when the underlying loans began to default. The bank had been overly optimistic, leveraging its investments heavily in these risky assets. When the housing market collapsed in 2007, the value of these assets plummeted, leading to massive losses. This was the alarming reality that cut Fuld’s trip short and sent shockwaves through the financial world, signaling that even the mightiest institutions were not immune to the tremors shaking the global economy.

    As Fuld’s car wound its way toward Manhattan, he reflected on the weekend’s events – the shock sale of Bear Stearns for a mere two dollars a share to JP Morgan Chase, and the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented move to open its discount window to investment banks. These were not ordinary times, and Fuld knew that Lehman, as the smallest of the Big Four, was particularly vulnerable.

    The situation at Lehman was dire, primarily due to its heavy investment in subprime mortgages. The housing market collapse had left Lehman with a portfolio full of toxic assets, significantly devaluing its stock and eroding investor confidence. Additionally, Lehman had a high leverage ratio, meaning it had borrowed heavily relative to its equity, putting it at greater risk in the volatile market. With its stock plummeting, Lehman faced a liquidity crisis, as rumors spread that major banks were halting trades with them. This erosion of trust further escalated the crisis, as Lehman struggled to find buyers for its assets or secure loans to bolster its finances.

    The specter of 1929 loomed large as Fuld and his team grappled with a rapidly deteriorating situation, one in which every decision could mean the difference between survival and collapse. Lehman's plight was not just the story of a single institution, but a symbol of a wider crisis that threatened the very heart of the global financial system. It was a crisis born out of years of unchecked optimism, when the pursuit of profit overshadowed the fundamentals of sound banking. As the crisis unfolded, it became clear that the rules of the game had changed and that Lehman Brothers, once a symbol of Wall Street’s might, was now on the edge of an abyss.

    This story is not just about the fall of a financial giant, but also about the people behind it – their hopes, their fears, and the choices they made in the face of an unprecedented crisis. It’s a tale that serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of our financial systems and the human cost of economic hubris. And as Lehman teetered on the brink, it became a symbol of an era of excess that was coming to a dramatic and tumultuous end.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Too Big to Fail?

    Key ideas in Too Big to Fail

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Too Big to Fail about?

    Too Big to Fail (2009) draws you into the heart of the 2008 financial crisis, revealing the high-stakes decisions and power struggles that shaped the world's economic landscape at that time. This gripping narrative untangles a complex web of financial intrigue, and will help you understand the forces that drove one of the most tumultuous periods in financial history.

     

    Too Big to Fail Review

    Too Big to Fail (2009) explores the 2008 financial crisis and the decisions made by key players in its aftermath. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the high-stakes decision-making process that determined the fate of major financial institutions.
    • The author's detailed research and extensive interviews with top executives offer valuable insights into the complexities of the crisis and its aftermath.
    • With its compelling storytelling and ability to simplify complex financial concepts, the book makes the subject matter accessible and engaging.

    Who should read Too Big to Fail?

    • Finance professionals interested in economic crisis insights
    • History buffs exploring twenty-first-century financial events
    • Business students studying real-world corporate strategy

    About the Author

    Andrew Ross Sorkin is a journalist and author, best known for his coverage of business and economic matters. Sorkin is known for The Price of Silence, a work that delves into the complexities of corporate ethics. His expertise in financial journalism and his ability to unravel economic narratives make his works essential for those interested in understanding the financial world.

    Categories with Too Big to Fail

    Book summaries like Too Big to Fail

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    32 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Too Big to Fail FAQs 

    What is the main message of Too Big to Fail?

    The main message of Too Big to Fail is the story of the financial crisis and the Wall Street meltdown.

    How long does it take to read Too Big to Fail?

    The reading time for Too Big to Fail varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Too Big to Fail a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Too Big to Fail provides an informative and gripping account of the 2008 financial crisis. It offers valuable insights into the inner workings of Wall Street and its consequences. Highly recommended!

    Who is the author of Too Big to Fail?

    Andrew Ross Sorkin is the author of Too Big to Fail.

    How many chapters are in Too Big to Fail?

    There are 20 chapters in Too Big to Fail.

    How many pages are in Too Big to Fail?

    Too Big to Fail contains 624 pages.

    When was Too Big to Fail published?

    Too Big to Fail was published in the year 2009.

    What to read after Too Big to Fail?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Too Big to Fail, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Number Go Up by Zeke Faux
    • Leading Through Inflation by Ram Charan & Geri Willigan
    • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel
    • Common Sense by Thomas Paine
    • New Cold Wars by David E. Sanger
    • The First Rule of Mastery by Michael Gervais
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    • The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing by Mel Lindauer
    • The Art of War (new version) by Sun Tzu
    • How to Walk into a Room by Emily P. Freeman