They stand alone – the zillion-dollar questions of the financial crisis : What the hell happened at Lehman Brothers? And why was it allowed to fail, with aftershocks that rocked the global economy? In this news-making, often astonishing book, a former Vice-President of Lehman gives us the straight answers – right from-the-belly-of-the-beast. Larry McDonald is the first senior Wall Street trader ever to write such an expose – revealing at last the culture and unspoken rules of the game like no book has ever achieved before.


A Colossal Failure of Common Sense is couched in the very human story of McDonald’s Horatio Alger-like rise from a Massachusetts “gateway to nowhere” housing project, to the New York headquarters of Lehman Brothers, home to one of the world’s toughest trading floors. He posed as a pizza delivery man to get past receptionists, to score interviews at brokerage firms. He peddled frozen pork chops, door to door, to hone his sales skills, desperate to realize his dream of working on Wall Street.

We get a close-up view of the other participants in the Lehman collapse, those who saw it coming with a helpless, angry certainty. We meet the Brahmins at the top, whose reckless, pedal-to-the-floor addiction to growth finally demolished the nation’s oldest investment bank. The Wall Street we encounter is a ruthless place, where brilliance, arrogance, ambition, greed, and all the human traits, combine in a potent mix that sometimes fuels prosperity, but sometimes destroys it.

McDonald’s gripping story of the firm’s death spiral is a modern-day thriller, studded with incredible revelations.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers was no surprise and didn’t have to happen. In fact, CEO Richard Fuld and President Joe Gregory were confronted with warnings on three occasions — starting as far back as 2005 —that the property market, on which they were betting the ranch, was teetering toward collapse. Fuld and Gregory turned their backs each time.


McDonald paints a vivid picture of life inside Lehman, where the isolated and reclusive chief executive ‘reigned’ in his sumptuous 31st floor office, accessible only by private elevator. From this Ivory Tower so much of the firm’s brightest talent was driven out of the door. The full significance of the Lehman bankruptcy remains to be measured. But this much is certain: it was a devastating blow to both America and the world beyond. And it need not have happened. This is the story of why it did.

The Authors

LAWRENCE G. McDONALD was, until 2008, vice president of distressed debt and convertible securities trading at Lehman Brothers. He ran an extremely successful joint venture between the firm’s fixed income and equity divisions and was one of Lehman’s most consistently profitable traders, responsible for bringing in over $83 million in trading profits. He was heralded by many colleagues at Lehman for both his early 2006 call on the subprime crisis and the $46 million in trading profits realized from it. Mr. McDonald is also co-founder of, named by Forbes magazine as “Best of the Web” from 2000-2003, specifically citing it as the web’s premier source for convertible securities information, valuation and news. In October 1999, before the dot-com crash, the site was successfully sold to Morgan Stanley and remains a property of that firm.

PATRICK ROBINSON wrote Lone Survivor for the US Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, It was one of the biggest selling military books ever published, 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for months in 2007. Mr. Robinson is also known for his bestselling US Navy-based ‘techno-thrillers’. The autobiography, which he wrote for Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, One Hunded Days, was an international bestseller. He lives in Ireland, and spends his summers on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he and Larry McDonald sail together.


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