Study Guide

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Epilogue

By Michael Lewis


Everything is Correlated

  • At the same time that this scene happens, Lewis (our author) is meeting with his former boss from Salomon Brother, John Gutfreund, who had got into big trouble during the '80s. Lewis had written about Gutfreund in Liar's Poker.
  • The meeting starts out pleasantly enough, but Gutfreund makes it clear that he blames Liar's Poker for the failure of his career. Awkward.
  • So why is any of this relevant? Well, Lewis thinks that the subprime crisis can be traced back to Gutfreund's decision to make Salomon Brothers "Wall Street's first public corporation" (e.12).
  • When Wall Street firms were dealing with their internal funds, they were forced to take a long-term view of the market. Now that they're dealing with other people's money, however, they care less about the long-term impact of their trades.
  • After the subprime crisis, the U.S. government bails out a bunch of Wall Street companies, such as Bear Stearns, AIG, Washington Mutual, and Wachovia. Gee whiz.
  • Federal involvement is amplified once the government starts TARP, or the Troubled Asset Relief Program, in September 2008, which basically gives free money to banks.
  • In 2009, the U.S. government takes things up a notch by straight up buying bad subprime mortgage bonds. Seriously, guys?
  • All of this means one thing: no one has learned a single lesson from the subprime disaster. Even worse: there's a good chance something similar will happen in the near future.
  • Back at dinner, Gutfreund flat-out says that he blames Lewis's book for the failure of his career. Lewis doesn't respond, but instead munches on some deviled eggs and ruminates how "a simple egg could be made so complicated, and yet so appealing" (e.29).
  • It's a metaphor, people. Think about it.