The stack of unread books in my office has been getting higher and higher in recent months so I took the long holiday weekend to trim it down a bit. “Confidence Game” by Christine Richard takes readers through hedge fund manager Bill Ackman’s multi-year attempt to blow the whistle on one of the largest bond insurance companies in the world, MBIA, which for years went to great lengths to hype its business model and support its ever-rising stock price. In doing so the company continually mislead investors and played a large role in the credit crisis.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it does go into extreme detail about MBIA’s business model (insuring debt securities so that they could be given AAA ratings and sold easily to investors) and therefore might not appeal to a wide array of readers. However, if you follow Bill Ackman and his hedge fund (Pershing Square Capital Management) and are at all curious about what makes the guy tick and how much work he does on his investments, I think you will find the story very interesting.
You may know that Ackman current crusade is against Herbalife, the large mult-level marketer of diet supplements. Many other hedge fund managers have mocked Ackman’s assertion that HLF is a pyramid scheme, and so far have fared well taking the other side of his short bet against the company. After reading this book, it made me wonder if maybe Ackman has done more work on HLF than many believe. The guy spent as much time digging into MBIA as is humanly possible and was proven right. I’m not saying that means anything about Herbalife (I don’t know the company well at all), but I just found Ackman’s rigor impressive.
If you would enjoy learning more about one of today’s most talked about hedge fund managers, or want to read about a company that has been written about in far less detail than many when it comes to the recent financial crisis (by now I think the Countrywide and AIG stories have been covered enough), I can confidently recommend “Confidence Game.”