“On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System,” By Henry M. Paulson, Jr.; Business Plus, 478 Pages
Joshua A. Lustig
Hedge Fund Law Report
Henry Paulson’s new memoir is, quite literally, a blow-by-blow recounting of the state of economic emergency that consumed much of his brief tenure as Treasury secretary at the end of the Bush administration. The one-time Dartmouth offensive lineman narrates his frontline experience of the financial crisis essentially from a footballer’s perspective, as a relentless series of crushing tackles that he and his team absorbed as they desperately improvised novel blocking schemes to stave off a catastrophic loss. Paulson’s visceral approach, in a detailed, day-by-day accounting, provides a close-up, field-level vantage point on the increasingly daring ad hoc actions he took to save what he always refers to with due reverence as “the system.” His book is a timely reminder, as that system slowly returns to its old ways, of just how near it came to the abyss. “On the Brink” can serve as a casebook for crisis management, demonstrating the skill and sheer endurance required to handle a total collapse of confidence in the financial markets. This is the first high-level insider’s account of the federal response to the crisis; a very rough draft of history, but a valuable one, conveying with candor the intensity and fear of the sustained, exhausting effort to keep pace with a banking crisis whose scale had not been seen since the 1930s. In a guest book review, noted author Joshua A. Lustig offers a comprehensive discussion and analysis of Paulson’s memoir.