Don’t Fall for It: A Short History of Financial Scams
by Ben Carlson, Wiley, 2020
In that great cinematic cultural touchstone of 1980s capitalism, Wall Street, Gordon Gekko famously proselytized that greed was good. Less well remembered is the remainder of the speech, when he adds: “Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind.” It is that final point — that greed pushes humans onward — that best summarizes Gekko’s argument. But what happens later, when greed becomes overwhelming, the surge peaks, and humankind begins to slide down the other side?
These inglorious descents are the subject of Ben Carlson’s Don’t Fall for It, a slim volume that describes the financial industry’s worst frauds and examines the psychology of the protagonists and their victims. Carlson uses a simple classification to divide the men (and seemingly,