Kate Kelly on the last 72 hours at Bear Stearns…

May 21, 2009

Bear Stearns collapsed a little more than a year ago, and already the journalistic accounts of its demise are appearing in print.  What went down at 383 Madison Avenue in the final four days is meticulously recorded in Kate Kelly’s new book, Street Fighters: the Last 72Hours at Bear Stearns.  Having worked as a reporter at the WJS Kelly has experience keeping pace with a daily newspaper.  She conceptualized and completed the book in only six or seven months.

If hearing Kelly talk about the book on NPR’s Fresh Air is any indication of its contents, the book is a rushing synthetic narrative.  It focuses on important personalities, strategic positioning, and dramatic turns of events.  It is not a technical story, nor is it about errors or failure.  Rather it follows conscious and emotional agents making decisions in rapidly changing conditions that drove the bank to the point of its final demise.  A particularly important part of the narrative is an emphasis on the culture at Bear Stearns centered around “P.S.Ds” — “employees who were poor, smart, and had a deep desire to become rich”.

A recent article by Kelly in the WJS is directly linked to the resignation of Stephen Freidman as Chairman of the NY Fed earlier this month. Kelly and Hilsenrath gestured at the potential conflict between Freidman’s position at the Fed and his initiatives to purchase additional Goldman Sachs shares after it was converted to a Fed-regulated bank holding company September. The follow up story is here.

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