You would think that by now journalists would have plumbed every possible angle of the secretive world of global finance. Not quite, as this riveting tome by The New York Times’ David Enrich shows. In his telling, German financial giant Deutsche Bank is a deeply dysfunctional institution, one that rarely turns down credit to a flimflam artist or declines an opportunity to run afoul of banking regulations. Enrich details a century-plus of bad loans, shady dealings and a relationship with a US president that’s rife with conflicts of interest. Derivatives and refinancing aren’t usually the stuff of page-turners, but Enrich digs up the most suspenseful material and keeps you engrossed all the while.
In its century and a half of existence, Deutsche Bank has made misstep after misstep.
Founded in 1870, Deutsche Bank has had a hand in many financial dealings. In the 1930s, it was a crucial financier of the Third Reich. In the 2000s, Deutsche was involved in a who’s-who of scandals – including international money laundering schemes and the plot to rig the London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR). Several top executives have died by suicide, and the bank’s losses have mounted as its stock price languished.
Deutsche Bank also proved the rare lender willing to do business with Donald Trump. Over the years, Trump borrowed $2 billion from the bank through various transactions. He had failed to repay loans often enough that different arms of the bank had dumped him as a client. However, Trump often found a way to keep the money flowing. In 2016, for instance, he borrowed a large sum from Deutsche’s private bank, a unit that hadn’t banned him for past transgressions.
Early in its history, the bank showed an appetite for lending to outlandish entrepreneurs.
In the 1880s, Deutsche Bank helped raise $20 million for the Northern Pacific...