Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions

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9780060575007: Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions

Ben Mezrich, author of the New York Times bestseller Bringing Down the House, returns with an astonishing story of Ivy League hedge-fund cowboys, high stakes, and the Asian underworld.

Ugly Americans is the true story of John Malcolm, a hungry young Princeton grad who traveled halfway around the world in search of the American dream and ultimately pulled off a trade that could, quite simply, be described as the biggest deal in the history of the financial markets.

After receiving a mysterious phone call promising him a shot at great fortune in an exotic land, Malcolm packed up his few belongings and took the chance of a lifetime. Without speaking a word of Japanese, with barely a penny in his pocket, Malcolm was thrown into the bizarre, adrenaline-fueled life of an expat trader. Surrounded by characters ripped right out of a Hollywood thriller, he quickly learned how to survive in a cutthroat world -- at the feet of the biggest players the markets have ever known.

Malcolm was first an assistant trading huge positions for Nick Leeson, the twenty-six-year-old rogue trader who lost nearly two billion dollars and brought down Barings Bank -- the oldest in England. Then he was the right-hand man to an enigmatic and brilliant hedge-fund cowboy named Dean Carney, and grew into one of the biggest derivatives traders in all of Asia. Along the way, Malcolm fell in love with the daughter of a Yakuza gangster, built a vast fortune out of thin air, and came head-to-head with the violent Japanese mobsters who helped turn the Asian markets into the turbulent casino it is today.

Malcolm and his twentysomething, Ivy League–schooled colleagues, with their warped sense of morality and proportion, created their own economic theory: Arbitrage with a Battle Axe. They rode the crashing waves of the Asian markets during the mid- to late 1990s, culminating in a single deal the likes of which had never been seen before -- or since.

A real-life mixture of Liar's Poker and Wall Street, brimming with intense action, romance, underground sex, vivid locales, and exotic characters, Ugly Americans is the untold, true story that will rock the financial community and redefine an era.

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Review:

Ugly Americans documents the "Wild East" of the mid-1990s, where young, brilliant, and hypercompetitive traders became "hedge fund cowboys," manipulating loopholes in an outdated and inefficient Asian financial system to rake in millions. Using a concept called arbitrage, they made their fortunes mainly on minute shifts in stocks being sold on the Nikkei, the Japanese stock market, collapsing banks and nearly bankrupting the Japanese economy in the process. Other schemes were also concocted, most of which were technically legal, though certainly unethical. This true story revolves around "John Malcolm," who, in exchange for anonymity, agreed to give Ben Mezrich all the access and information he needed to write this book. As a recent Princeton graduate in the mid-1990s, Malcolm accepted an undefined job offer from an American expatriate in Japan to work in the investments field. Though he had no prior experience, he facilitated 25 million dollars worth of trades on his first day on the job, and it just got more exciting from there. He soon joined a small group of expatriates, all in their twenties and mostly Ivy League graduates, who lived like rock stars, thriving on the stress and excitement of their jobs to create their own steroid versions of the American Dream half a world away. Mezrich tells this riveting story well, incorporating elements of the culture into his narrative, including the infamous and pervasive Japanese "Water Trade," or sex business, romantic intrigue, and even run-ins with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Though there is little real analysis of their financial dealings and how they ultimately changed the rules of finance in Asia, this entertaining page turner does offer a glimpse into a world little explored in print until now. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. He has published twelve books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Accidental Billionaires, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film The Social Network, and Bringing Down the House, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies in twelve languages and became the basis for the Kevin Spacey movie 21. Mezrich has also published the national bestsellers Sex on the Moon, Ugly Americans, Rigged, and Busting Vegas. He lives in Boston.

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