42 pages 1 hour read

Michael Lewis

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2014

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Historical Context: The Financial Crisis and the Limits of Reform

In the early 2000s, high demand for housing in the United States and a corresponding rise in prices helped drive substantial economic growth. In 2007, the real estate “bubble” burst and the decline in prices contributed to a recession that marked the worst conditions for the US economy since the Great Depression (1929-1939). Wall Street giants Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers both collapsed, leading to a financial crisis that wiped out trillions of dollars and jeopardized the entire global economy. To avert the worst-case scenario, the US Congress passed a massive relief package to shore up financial institutions deemed “too big to fail.” In the aftermath, it became apparent that large Wall Street firms played a significant role in exacerbating the housing crisis. When the housing boom peaked years earlier, the Federal Reserve drastically raised interest rates to deter buyers who might otherwise oversaturate the market. Wall Street firms turned to so-called “subprime mortgages” to maintain their growing profits, which expanded the pool of potential homeowners by targeting people who could in many cases afford interest-only payments. These interest-only payments caused the principal amounts of the loans to skyrocket and snowball out of control as the bundles of loans passed between banks.