Bull! by Maggie Mahar
  • Title: Bull!
  • Subtitle: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004
  • Author(s): Maggie Mahar
  • Publisher: Harper Collins
  • Year: 2009-10-13
  • ISBN-10: 0061853135
  • ISBN-13: 9780061853135


Bull!” by Maggie Mahar is a captivating and eye-opening exploration of the financial industry’s role in the stock market boom of the late 1990s. With extensive research and interviews, Mahar delves deep into the world of Wall Street and exposes the greed, excess, and dangerous practices that fueled the bull market. She uncovers the manipulation and deceit behind the scenes, shedding light on how financial institutions and their agents contributed to the speculative frenzy that eventually led to the dot-com crash.

Mahar skillfully breaks down complex financial concepts and presents them in a clear and accessible manner, making “Bull!” an engaging read for both finance professionals and laypeople alike. Her meticulous analysis reveals the dangers of unchecked speculation and presents a cautionary tale for investors and regulators alike. By blending historical context, personal narratives, and expert opinions, Mahar brings the reader on a journey through the madness of the 1990s bull market, ultimately leaving them with a better understanding of the importance of transparency, regulation, and skepticism in the financial world.

Book Review

In her book “Bull!”, Maggie Mahar creates a deeply immersive and thought-provoking account of the stock market boom of the late 1990s and the subsequent crash. With a wealth of research and personal narratives, Mahar pulls back the curtains on Wall Street’s manic pursuit of profit at any cost.

One of the strongest aspects of “Bull!” is Mahar’s ability to explain complex financial concepts in a way that is accessible to readers from all backgrounds. She introduces readers to the world of derivatives, options, and futures, explaining how these elusive financial instruments contributed to the irrational exuberance of the bull market. Through clear examples and engaging storytelling, Mahar strips away the mystique surrounding Wall Street jargon, equipping readers with the knowledge to navigate the chaos that unfolded during this period.

Mahar expertly weaves together various narratives to highlight the human consequences of the financial frenzy. For instance, she explores the experiences of individual investors who fell victim to the lure of quick riches, only to lose almost everything when the market imploded. These stories serve as a powerful reminder of the devastating impact the unchecked speculation had on people’s lives.

Furthermore, Mahar’s investigation exposes the deceit and manipulation rampant in the financial industry. For instance, she uncovers the practices of analysts who were pressured by their employers to provide biased recommendations on stocks in order to attract investment banking business. Mahar’s exposé highlights the inherent conflicts of interest within Wall Street, offering a chilling portrait of how the pursuit of profit often outweighs the well-being of individual investors.

Though “Bull!” focuses on the events of the late 1990s, its relevance remains in the present day. Mahar’s book serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of a market driven by speculation and unfettered greed. By shining a light on the excesses of the past, she reinforces the need for strong regulatory oversight and transparent practices in the financial industry.

In conclusion, “Bull!” is a gripping and well-researched exposé that delves deep into the dark side of Wall Street. Through informative analysis and powerful personal narratives, Maggie Mahar provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of the factors that contributed to the boom and eventual bust of the late 1990s. Her book serves as a cautionary tale, urging readers to remain vigilant and skeptical in the face of market euphoria. “Bull!” is an essential read for anyone seeking insights into the inner workings of the financial industry and the lessons we can learn from its tumultuous history.

Word Count: 424

Key Ideas

Bull! A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004” by Maggie Mahar is a comprehensive exploration of the financial markets, particularly the stock market, and the economic events that transpired between 1982 and 2004. Here are the key ideas and themes from the book:

  1. Market Speculation “Bull!” delves into the culture of speculation that dominated the financial markets during this period. It highlights how investors, both individual and institutional, engaged in speculative behavior, often driven by the hope of making quick profits.

  2. Stock Market Boom The book examines the prolonged bull market that characterized the late 20th century, particularly the 1980s and 1990s. It explores the factors that fueled the market’s remarkable rise, including deregulation, technological advancements, and increased access to investment opportunities.

  3. Irrational Exuberance A central theme in the book is the concept of “irrational exuberance,” popularized by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. It refers to periods when asset prices, particularly stocks, rise to unsustainable levels driven by excessive optimism and speculative fervor.

  4. The Dot-Com Bubble “Bull!” delves into the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, a period marked by the rapid rise and subsequent crash of internet-related stocks. The book explores the factors that led to the bubble and its eventual burst.

  5. Corporate Scandals The book discusses the corporate scandals of the early 2000s, including Enron, WorldCom, and others. It highlights how these scandals eroded investor trust and had far-reaching consequences for financial markets and corporate governance.

  6. Behavioral Finance Mahar introduces readers to the principles of behavioral finance, which explores how psychological biases and cognitive errors can influence investment decisions. She discusses how these biases contributed to market bubbles and crashes.

  7. Regulatory Responses “Bull!” examines the regulatory responses to the excesses and misconduct in the financial markets. It discusses the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other reforms aimed at improving transparency and corporate governance.

  8. The Role of Financial Media The book also looks at the role of financial media, including television networks like CNBC, in shaping investor sentiment and market behavior. It explores how media coverage can contribute to market volatility.

  9. Lessons for Investors Throughout the book, Mahar provides lessons and insights for investors. She emphasizes the importance of due diligence, diversification, and a long-term investment perspective in navigating volatile markets.

  10. Economic and Political Context “Bull!” places the events of this period within the broader economic and political context. It discusses how government policies, interest rates, and global events influenced market dynamics.

  11. Market Psychology The book delves into the psychology of market participants, examining the emotions, biases, and groupthink that can drive market cycles.

  12. The Bust and Aftermath “Bull!” covers the aftermath of the dot-com crash and the bursting of the stock market bubble. It explores the economic consequences and the challenges faced by investors and policymakers in the years that followed.

Bull!” offers readers a historical perspective on the volatility and excesses of financial markets during a significant period in economic history. It serves as a cautionary tale about the risks of speculative investing and the importance of understanding market dynamics and investor behavior.

Target Audience

The book “Bull!” by Maggie Mahar is targeted at a diverse audience interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the stock market boom and subsequent crash of the late 1990s. It is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Finance Professionals and Investors The book provides a comprehensive analysis of the financial industry’s role in the speculative frenzy of the bull market. Professionals in the finance industry will find Mahar’s research and insights invaluable in navigating and understanding the risks associated with market speculation.

  • Regulators and Policy Makers Mahar’s meticulous investigation sheds light on the dangerous practices and conflicts of interest within the financial industry, making “Bull!” essential reading for regulators and policy makers. It highlights the importance of implementing effective regulations and oversight to protect investors and maintain market integrity.

  • General Readers Interested in Finance History “Bull!” offers a captivating narrative that brings the complexities of the stock market and financial world to life. Readers with a general interest in finance history will find the book engaging and eye-opening, as it provides a unique perspective on the events leading up to the dot-com crash.

  • Students and Scholars of Economics and Finance The book’s well-researched analysis and detailed examples make it a valuable resource for students and scholars studying the economics and finance of the late 1990s. Mahar’s examination of the actions and consequences of market speculation contributes to a broader understanding of financial bubbles and their implications.

In conclusion, “Bull!” is recommended reading as it offers a comprehensive and accessible exploration of the stock market boom and crash of the late 1990s. With its insights, lessons, and warnings, the book provides valuable knowledge for finance professionals, regulators, general readers interested in finance history, and students and scholars of economics and finance.