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The Liar's Ball: The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World's Toughest Tycoons by Vicky Ward

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Chapter 8 The Money Hunters and the Salesman from Indianapolis

Their whole world fell apart when we litigated against them. We sued their kids. We sued their grandkids. We were very, very aggressive. And through it all, I have to say, Tomisue—maybe she just didn't understand what we were doing—but she was so friggin’ nice . . . it was amazing.

—Reed S. Oslan

The partnership of Steve Hilbert and Donald Trump came to an abrupt end in June 2000. Hilbert was forced out of Conseco after the company's stock tanked. It fell from a high of $58 in 1997 to below $5 in 2000. This was largely because of Wall Street's violent reaction to Hilbert's $7.6 billion 1998 acquisition of Green Tree Financial, a mobile home financing company that most analysts viewed as hanging by a thread because of unorthodox accounting methods. It booked its profits at the same time it sold its securities, thus not allowing for incorrect assumptions; for example, there was overly optimistic speculation on how soon some borrowers would pay off their loans.

But it would emerge, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), that Conseco also had most unusual accounting practices by which its results were “grossly inflated” and that improper “top side adjustments” were made to the books.

Conseco borrowed more than $1 billion to fund the purchase of failing Green Tree, for which it paid stock; and as Conseco's stock price plummeted, it was reported that Hilbert—and 10 other Conseco executives and board ...

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