Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The Finance Curse

by Nicholas Shaxson

A searing indictment of global finance, exploring how the banking sector grew from a supporter of business to the biggest business in the world, and showing how societies might fight against financial hegemony

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date August 06, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2847-8
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date August 06, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4638-0
  • US List Price $27.00

About the Book

Financial journalist Nicholas Shaxson first made his reputation studying the “resource curse,” seeing first-hand the disastrous economic and societal effects of the discovery of oil in Angola. He then gained prominence as an expert on tax havens, revealing the dark corners of that world long before the scandals of the Panama and Paradise Papers. Now, in The Finance Curse, he brings his knowledge to bear in an eye-opening investigation of how banks have overbalanced the economies of Western democracies, exerting an outsize effect on policy-making and effecting a brain drain of the brightest and best to the financial industry and its offshoots, much to the detriment of both business and broader society.

How did we get to this situation? Shaxson describes the transformation of banks over the twentieth century as they changed from relatively small institutions that did well for themselves by serving the needs of business, to unfettered global behemoths. As the world reeled from World War II, the banks grew bigger in the post-war restructuring, experimenting with esoteric financial instruments like the Eurobonds in the 1960s, and then in the 1970s and ’80s taking increasingly high risks in order to compete with each other to return more profit to their demanding shareholders. Now these megabanks spread the fiscal gospel that business must be taxed as little as possible, that corporations need rights previously granted to humans, and encourage a fight to the bottom between states to provide the most subsidized environment for big business, in the name of “competitivity.”

We need strong financial institutions—but when finance grows too big it becomes a curse. The Finance Curse is the explosive story of how finance got a stranglehold on society and how we might release ourselves from its grasp.

Praise for The Finance Curse

“Excoriating . . . Shaxson argues the financial sector has become so big that its gravitational field has distorted everything around it. Instead of serving the economy, it now preys on it . . . The Finance Curse is a radical, urgent and important manifesto.”—Oliver Bullough, Guardian

“A splendid polemic against modern finance, in general, and the City of London, in particular . . . Hard-hitting, well written and informative.”—Martin Wolf, Financial Times

“A superbly written overview and update of today’s globalized ‘oil tanker’ . . . It is Shaxson’s chapters detailing the corruption and inevitable impoverishment of societies that are the most gripping, and, surprisingly, entertaining.”—Ann Pettifor, Times Literary Supplement

“With forensic accounting analysis, sharp reporting and interviews, [Shaxson] demonstrates how individual company leaders, private equity advisers and the big banks, aided and abetted by government and the large audit firms, structure their businesses to increase their and their investors’ share of the economic spoils in good times, while offloading risk and the costs of failure in bad times on staff, customers and the public at large . . . Shaxson leavens the mix with some great writing.”—John Arlidge, Sunday Times

“The problem outlined in this book has deep roots and it shows no signs of going away. The ‘finance curse’ pervades many Western economies, from tiny tax havens to big countries like Britain with outsize financial sectors . . . Shaxson offers plenty of examples which take the breath away. In an engagingly chatty style he reels off anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of the most villainous: from John D. Rockefeller and John Pierpont Morgan at the start, to more modern examples, such as Michael Milken the junk bond king and the geniuses at JP Morgan who first devised credit derivatives . . . Shaxson believes that financialization and the finance curse should be stopped, and that finance should be returned to its proper place, serving society. After reading his book few of us would disagree.”—David Shirreff, Brave New Europe

“This superbly written book shows definitively how global finance has been grossly mis-sold to us all. It’s a must-read for anyone who lives, works and spends in this country.”Misha Glenny, author of McMafia

“If you want to understand why walls of money can be bad for an economy like Britain’s, and what we should do about it, the The Finance Curse is essential reading.”Yanis Varoufakis, author of And the Weak Suffer What They Must?

“A powerful call to arms against a self-serving, over-bearing and growth-sapping global finance system.”Stewart Lansley, author of A Sharing Economy and The Cost of Inequality

Praise for Treasure Islands

“A fascinating, chilling book.”—Paul Krugman, New York Times

“Perhaps the most important book published in the UK so far this year.” ―Guardian (UK)

“A vigorous and well-researched polemic.”—Foreign Affairs

“Shaxson combines meticulous research with amusing anecdotes, resulting in a very readable account of the murky world of offshore and a strong moral message that the system needs to be changed.”—Financial Times (UK)

“[A] seminal book.”—Economist (UK)

“A gripping read . . . Shaxson shows us that the global financial machine is broken and that very few of us have noticed.”—New Statesman (UK)

“Engrossing . . . Eye-opening . . . First-rate forensic work.”—Independent (UK)

“Excellent . . . Despair is not an option, [Shaxson] argues, because so much is at issue. Offshore needs to be put back in its cage, and in his final chapter he suggests how that can be done.”—Irish Times

“Shaxson’s story of offshore banking is nothing short of Shakespearean, a drama full of secrecy, treachery and corruption.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Not just a crucial exposé of the corrupt systems endemic in the global economy, but also a rousing call to do something about them.”—Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Praise for Poisoned Wells

“A good read . . . Advances and documents the now-popular view that Africa’s oil is mostly a curse on its economy and people, as the wealth it procures has unleashed greed and venality and produced growing inequality and environmental disaster.”Foreign Affairs

Poisoned Wells, a distillation of Shaxson’s fifteen years of reporting from Africa on the oil business, offers a gloomy view of oil, politics, and the international financial system . . . A critical contribution to the growing awareness and understanding of the ‘resource curse’: that we in the developed world, as oil’s primary consumers and financiers, are at the heart of the problem.”—Columbia Journalism Review