This book is my attempt to provide a living history—replete with personal anecdotes—of some of the most significant elements of an era in which the character of our financial system changed. And not for the better. We must understand what went wrong in finance in order to take the necessary steps toward building a better system. Only if we serve “individual and institutional investors in the most economical, efficient, and honest way possible”—a phrase from my 1951 Princeton senior thesis—can we again honor the standard of fiduciary duty that once largely prevailed among the trustees of Other People’s Money.
Readers of my earlier books—nine in number—will hardly be unfamiliar with many of the themes that I sound in this tenth book. Indeed, I’ve deliberately reiterated not only some of the themes from earlier books, but even a few of the earlier passages. For readers of my earlier books, I reasoned that if I said it well then, why say it less well now? For new readers, there’s no way to tell this story without doing so. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the material in The Clash of the Cultures breaks totally new ground—with additional data, up-to-date information about the continued deterioration in financial industry standards, and an author who has become rather more assertive and less fearful of candor.
I take this opportunity to thank the three members of my staff for their skill, their support, their patience, and their unflappability. Emily Snyder, who has ...