This is a first-rate read & hard hitting work of investigative journalism as it provides unprecedented insights of Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump’s lender of choice. David Enrich, a former reporter with The Wall Street Journal and now the finance editor of The New York Times, has found, perhaps, the perfect vehicle for this murky, un-transparent moment.

Dark Towers- A hard-hitting work of investigative journalism

Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump and an epic trail of destruction

In this well-researched book, following the money becomes easier. This is a first-rate read & hard-hitting work of investigative journalism as it provides unprecedented insights of Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump’s lender of choice. David Enrich, a former reporter with The Wall Street Journal and now the finance editor of The New York Times have found, perhaps, the perfect vehicle for this murky, un-transparent moment. Name a banking scandal and Deutsche Bank was in the thick of it — interest rate manipulation, Russian money laundering, currency dealings with rogue states, the collapse of Italy’s (and the world’s) oldest bank, hidden derivative losses, high-level suicide.

Book- Dark Towers
Author -  David Enrich 
Publisher - HArperCollins India
MRP -  699/-

“Initially, the book traces the bank’s history financing the construction of Auschwitz, and wooing Eastern Bloc dictators during Soviet times. He then writes about how in the 1990s, under a succession of hard-charging executives, Deutsche made a fateful decision to leave behind its conservative German roots and pursue Wall Street profits. In short order, Deutsche’s leaders took the bank public, manipulated markets, violated international sanctions to aid terrorist regimes, scammed investors, evaded regulators, and laundered money for Russian oligarchs. We get to know the never-before-told story of how a 150-year-old German bank became the global face of financial recklessness and criminality.

After decades of making expedient, easy choices with the single-minded purpose of maximizing immediate profits, Deutsche had internalized a painful lesson: Its long-standing inability to say no — to clients, to shareholders, to testosterone-fueled traders and managers -was potentially lethal, It was a big part of the reason Deutsche was teetering on the brink of financial ruin, with a sizable contingent of a financial world bracing (an in some case hoping) for it to fall over cliff’s edge. When the top executives had opted to turn back from short-term business opportunity, It’s already been too late.

For the first 12 decades, Deutsche Bank had been little more than a lender to German and other European companies and, more widely, a basic source of funds for infrastructure and development projects. But these activities were not very lucrative and starting in the late 1980s, this proud national icon was seduced by the siren song of Wall Street riches. A crew of Americans-led by a charismatic salesman named Edson Mitchell and his sidekick and best friend, Bill Broeksmit- would arrive to give Deutsche a dramatic makeover.

Before long, it was competing alongside hard-charging U.S. Investment banks, high risk trading became an end to itself rather than a means to serve the clients. Soon the Wall street division was responsible for most of Deutsche’s revenue and profits. But it was an ascent fueled by greed, sloppiness, hubris, criminality, and when the reckoning came, it was brutal. Even by the amoral standard of Wall Street, Deutsche exhibits a jarring lack of interest in its clients’ reputations.

This is the story of Deutsche Bank’s rise and fall. It is about the man who transformed a sleepy German lender into what was, for a time, the largest bank in the world, but who also set the stage for ensuing catastrophe. It is about the American Executive who was regarded as the conscience of Deutsche Bank, who tried to save a bank but couldn’t save himself. In 2014, he was found hanging in his London apartment. His son gets access to Broeksmit’s computer files and embarks on a wild quest to understand why his father killed himself. The answers he finds will help explain how Deutsche Bank became the financial equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction.

He learns about the consequences — dead people, doomed companies, broken economies, and the forty-fifth president of the United States — that Deutsche Bank wrought on the world. Because without the money of Deutsche Bank Donald Trump probably wouldn’t have been in the race of becoming a President. When Deutsche’s real estate team cut off Trump, private banking opened the spigot. When a loan came due, Trump had “no intention” of repaying, as if the rules for him were different. Deutsche’s brass was so in thrall to Trump’s celebrity, and so eager to expand in America, one division lent $48 million to cancel the debt on a Chicago skyscraper — a debt Trump had defaulted on with another wing of the same bank. They bought his pitch as voters would. In what could serve as a requiem for the country’s lost innocence, the general counsel said, “What the hell are we doing lending money to a guy like this?” Desperate for an American foothold, Deutsche started doing business with a self-promoting real estate magnate who most banks deemed too dangerous to touch: Donald Trump. Over the next 20 years, Deutsche executives — including a man with a damaged brain, the son of a Supreme Court justice, and Rosemary Vrablic — loaned billions to Trump and the Kushner family. Why? Why was Deutsche Bank so messed up?

Enrich has talked to probably 20 people who either currently or previously were at Deutsche, and without fail, every single one of them has told him that they have never worked at an institution as messed up as Deutsche Bank. The reason it’s messed up, in this case, is not that their employees aren’t good at what they do. The company essentially set them up to fail. Their technology systems were completely out of date. People weren’t properly trained in some cases. But more than that, there is enormous pressure from their higher-ups to just churn through transactions as quickly as possible, and the less of a fuss you raised about any particular transaction, the better. There is enormous pressure to just get deals done, as one person told him. That’s obviously antithetical to the notion of doing a good job and taking a close look and really being conservative about whom you’re doing business with, but that was the Deutsche Bank way.

The book feels like a fable first, and a nonfiction work about banking second. Which is as it should be. Trump’s murky relationship with Deutsche Bank is still under congressional investigation, so Enrich’s story is necessarily incomplete. Still, the book has enough detail to make its case that Deutsche Bank was more than just one more rogue bank; it is a cautionary tale of what happens when a bank pursues profits at any cost, without being weighed down by pesky moral scruples.

We will have to wait to see if Deutsche can recover from years of banking malpractice that destroyed its capital and wiped out 95 percent of its stock price. In the meantime, Enrich has given us a thorough, clearly written, and generally level headed account of a bank that lost its way.

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