Book Review: Ugly Americans

“Ugly Americans” by Ben Mezrich does not go into details in how hedge funds made millions in Asian markets. You won’t learn anything new from reading this book. It is a thriller and you should read it for fun. Regardless, this book is a fresh mixture of Liar’s Poker, Wall Street, and Monkey Business. The book follows John Malcolm, a Princeton graduate, as he goes around the world to work in Osaka as Nikkei trader for Dean Carney of Kidder Peabody. After an accounting screw up by another superstar trader at Kidder Peabody, Malcolm goes to work for Nick Leeson at Bearings. As a trader for Leeson, Malcolm executes and places some of the trades that almost bring down the entire firm when a massive earthquake hits Japan and the Nikkei collapses. After being laid off from his second job in a fairly short amount of time, Malcolm goes to work for Dean Carney’s new hedge fund. Here he is one of main traders searching for his own arbitrage opportunities, starting off trading Nikkei futures. As this point in the book, it becomes more of an action book, with Japanese gangsters chasing after the traders, high speed motorcycle cases and crashes, along with Malcolm’s pursuit of the daughter of a Japanese mobster. In the end, Malcolm finds a large enough arbitrage opportunity to leave once and for all, and set up his own fund with his wife and friend. “Ugly Americans” is a thoroughly fun read for anyone.

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