Review: A Capitalist's Lament: How Wall Street Is Fleecing You and Ruining America
Author: Leland Faust
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Leland Faust is the founder of CSI Capital Management and has been profiled in New York Times, Barron's, Sporting News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He has also appeared on major network affiliates and financial cable networks.
Although much of what he has to say in his A Capitalist's Lament: How Wall Street Is Fleecing You and Ruining America is well-known, its insightful information is nonetheless a crucial and a useful contribution to the many books and impassioned essays lamenting how Wall Street is fleecing us and at the same time ruining America.
As noted in the first chapter, we may believe that its perpetual activity and financial innovations help the free-enterprise system, but in actuality it causes irreparable damage to the country.
Turning his sharp focus on various greedy behavioral patterns, Faust illustrates with detailed analysis how the financial services industry constantly puts its own interests ahead of its clients and society. Greed is good as Gordon Gekko the principal character brags in the movie Wall Street. Faust convincingly argues that it does not create wealth but rather takes it from others. This is accomplished through unsavory tactics expressed in a variety of ways that entail high risks akin to gambling, distortions, half-truths, false promises, misleading statements, falsified research, outlandish predictions, white lies, bold lies, trickery when it comes to charging its customers, bad deals, and outright fraud. And much of this is the result of taking advantage of the financial ignorance of its clients who unfortunately are either not equipped to question this behavior or perhaps even too lazy or lack the time to do basic research.
Dividing the book into five sections, Faust covers such topics as conflicts of interest, sky-high compensation, fees and sleaze of the world of hedge funds, the compliant media and the Wall Street Superstar, ridiculous predictions and hype where fortunes are lost, the IPO trickery, the myopia of short-term trading, the danger of leveraging, enforcement and suggestions as to how to fix the Wall Street mess.
Throughout the book, Faust offers concrete examples in sufficient detail where he takes to task misbehaviour pertaining to the principal players on Wall Street. For example, he cites a 2013 article in The Economist where the results of a survey was reported which found that more than half of the international financial services executives polled stated that behaving ethically would harm their chances of promotion and their companies' performance. In other examples, Faust illustrates how Wall Street firms continually breaches their fiduciary responsibilities by deceiving on a massive scale their clueless customers and clients about the cost of their services and products. And all of this is perpetuated due to an economic system and lack of stringent regulation that permits a handful of people to accumulate tremendous wealth at the expense of their clients.
Cleaning up Wall Street will not be an easy task particularly when you are going up against individuals and companies that have vast sums of money and power at their disposal. Whether Faust's warning will find real traction among his readers is an open question, but they would be well-advised to pay attention as to what he has to say.