The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World's Oil Market

Leah McGrath Goodman, Author
Leah McGrath Goodman, Morrow, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-176627-5
Reviewed on: 12/20/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
Book - 978-0-06-207974-9
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-06-204232-3
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-06-176628-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-204714-4
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What should be a quasi-public utility—the market exchange where oil and gas are traded—is actually a madhouse of vice, vendettas, and corrupt crypto-capitalism, according to this breathless account of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Finance journalist Goodman traces NYMEX's transformation since the 1960s from an obscure market specializing in potato futures to a colossus with a stranglehold on the sale of the world's energy. Goodman explores the lurid culture of NYMEX traders, scruffy hustlers who shriek and swear and pummel each other over deals, and bring guns, drugs, and hookers right into the trading pit. It's an entertaining scene, but Goodman's account is hobbled by the strictures of the business epic, which require her to devote inordinate space to NYMEX's boardroom politics and the posturing of its chairmen. This is one of the year's most colorful business histories, but the larger importance of NYMEX remains elusive; the author paints it sometimes as a force for price transparency and stability, sometimes as a dangerously ill-regulated cesspool of speculative scams and occult market manipulations that are more insinuated than demonstrated. Photos. (Mar.)
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