Gonzo Wall Street: Riots, Radicals, Racism and Revolution, reviewed

We review Gonzo Wall Street: Riots, Radicals, Racism and Revolution. See more about the book here.

Gonzo Wall Street: Riots, Radicals, Racism and Revolution, reviewed

An interesting book. Written well, a good and insightful take on the sixties, banking, the Kennedys, US politics and how it stumbled along, and through to later government bailouts of books. It does bring new insights into some more recent ways of the US governments feeling the need to bail out failing US banks.

In many ways this bigger picture context lurks, implicitly across the whole narrative, and yet, at the same time a lot of this book feels like its sole focus is the 1960s and what happened then. This is fine, as far as it goes, but, as we read it, late in 2022 we found ourselves repeatedly wondering, what inspired the author to write this, and yet not join up the dots into why we are where we are now.

Maybe this is an unfair request, but no book is isolated from the time it is written, and the blurb and the author’s own perspective are related to why the actions of the sixties created an ongoing belief that failing banks need to be bailed out.

This book does shine new insights on the 1960s, and also subsequent US banking bailout decisions. Beyond that, despite being a story well told, does this tackle all the questions that it could have? The reader may need to decide this. Farley does do a good job of describing how, no nicer word for it, incompetent and corrupt many of the players he featured were.

This then left us wondering, how on earth has the US financial system managed to keep stumbling across the last six decades since those events. In this way the book scores well, and does suggest that, while the dollar is still used as a go-to global currency, it is a fair question to ask how much longer this may continue for.

More about this book

Before there were SPACs, before there were meme stocks, before there was the 2008 bailout, there was Wall Street in the 1960s. Today, we remember the sixties for the Vietnam War, assassinations, women’s and gay liberation movements, and the drugs that were changing American culture. Hidden from view, though, was Wall Street, where bankers were living large, and a crisis was brewing that would cause more investment banks to fail than during the Great Depression–and set the stage for the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

Finance attorney Richard E. Farley’s forthcoming book, GONZO WALL STREET: RIOTS, RADICALS, RACISM, AND REVOLUTION: How the Go-Go Bankers of the 1960s Crashed the Financial System and Bamboozled Washington (Regan Arts, October 2022) unveils this history for the first time–and shows what this forgotten Wall Street era tells us about finance in 2022.

Farley takes us back to 1968, when Wall Street witnessed the greatest bull market since the Roaring ’20s. The Dow was breaking records. Trading volume was exploding. A hot IPO market for high-flying technology companies was defying gravity. Traders were partying like sixties rock stars. Despite how flush Wall Street firms looked to outsiders, the banks were falling apart.

When business exploded in 1968, they were so overwhelmed by the stacks of stock certificates piled from floor to ceiling that their antiquated back offices could not process them–and the failing banks held Congress over a barrel and got an outrageous taxpayer-funded bailout of what they owed their customers.

GONZO WALL STREET shows how the sixties set the stage for the financial corruption of today. The stranger than fiction stories include:

?      Tino De Angelis, the Salad Oil Swindler who took down a prominent investment bank on the day President Kennedy was assassinated—and nearly took down many more.

?      John Coleman, the most powerful man on Wall Street in the twentieth century that you have never heard of—and why he liked it that way.

?      Francine Gottfried, the humble heroine whose dignity in the face of cruel mistreatment as a result of her voluptuous figure inspired a revolution for women on Wall Street.

?      Roy Cohn, the target of an S.E.C. enforcement proceedings and multiple criminal indictments, who beat the federal government in three trials and prevailed upon President Nixon to ax the chairman of the S.E.C. and US Attorney for the Southern District of NY.

?      The Hard Hat Riot of blue-collar builders of the World Trade Center who turned on the antiwar protestors and ushered in the backlash.

?      The last IPO of the Go-Go Era—and perhaps the most outrageous offering in history—was of the magazine that discovered Hunter Thompson and gave birth to Gonzo Journalism.

A story of corruption and financial malfeasance, GONZO WALL STREET unfolds throughout the tumultuous 1960s, during the administrations of Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon with a surprising cast of famous and infamous characters playing roles: Abbie Hoffman, Ross Perot, Donald Regan, Michael Bloomberg, Felix Rohatyn, Sandy Weill, Ken Langone, and many others.

About Richard E. Farley

Richard E. Farley is an attorney in New York and the author of Wall Street Wars. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and many other publications. He is the 2012 recipient of Bloomberg BNA’s Burton Award for Legal Achievement for best law firm writers.

See more book reviews here.