Here are just a few quotes from the opening chapters of the book:
[Meredith Whitney's] message was clear: if you want to know what these Wall Street firms are really worth, take a cold, hard look at these crappy assets they're holding with borrowed money, and imagine what they'd fetch in a fire sale. The vast assemblages of highly paid people inside them were worth, in her view, nothing.
"It was a fast buck business," says [Sy] Jacobs. "Any business where you can sell a product and make money without having to worry about how the product performs is going to attract sleazy people."
When [Steve Eisman] was done, he had an explanation for the unpleasant order wafting from the subprime mortgage industry he had detected. These companies disclosed their ever-growing earnings, but not much else. One of the many items they failed to disclose was the delinquency rate of the home loans they were making.
The interest rate on the loans wasn't high enough to justify lending to this particular slice of the American population. It was as if the ordinary rules of finance had been suspended in response to a social problem. A thought crossed his mind: How do you make poor people feel wealthy when wages are stagnant? You give them cheap loans.
"If you are going to start a regulatory regime from scratch, you'd design it to protect middle and lower income people, because the opportunity for them to get ripped off was so high. Instead what we had was a regime where those were the people who were protected the least."
Eisman asked, "Are any regulators interested in this?"
"No," said Sandler.
"That's when I decided the system was really, 'Fuck the poor.' I now realized there was an entire industry that existed basically to rip people off."
The original cast of subprime financiers had been sunk by the small fraction of loans they made that they had kept on their books. The market might have learned a simple lesson: Don't make loans to people who can't repay them. Instead it learned a complicated one: You can keep making those loans, just don't keep them on your books.
"You have to understand, I did subprime first. I lived the worst first. These guys lied to infinity. What I learned from that experience was that Wall Street didn't give a shit what it sold."
We've seen this all before.