The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America

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Berenson, Alex

With fresh insight, wit, and a broad historical perspective, Berenson puts the accounting fraud of the past three years in context, describing how decades of lax standards and shady practices contributed to our current economic troubles. Along the way, the market lost track of what companies are really supposed to do—build profitable businesses with sustainable futures.

Accountants, analysts, money managers, and individual investors played along, while the Securities and Exchange Commission found itself overwhelmed and underequipped to cope with the earnings game. As long as investors remain too focused on the number, companies will find ways to manipulate it. Alex Berenson gives anyone who has ever invested in—or worked for—a public company the tools necessary to see beyond the cult of the number, understand accounting and its limits, and recognize patterns that can lead to fraud.

After two decades of stock market hype, The Number offers a welcome dose of truth about the way Wall Street and corporate America really work. Others ask how the SEC failed to spot corporate fraud and errors of the accounting firms on such a scale when reviewing the annual reports. Encourages big picture, long term thinking.

Jan 25, Bryan rated it really liked it. This is a terrifying look into how big profits and large bonuses have corrupted some of the leaders of major corporations in America. Everyone who does some investing should read chapter seven on stock options. It is really a fascinating look into the world of quarterly earnings and profit reports.

The Number

That does not really sound possible. An interesting review of how corporations use and misuse accounting to compete for your investment dollars. Wish I could have rated the book higher, however, the conclusions seemed to just live with the facts some companies will misrepresent their true business profitability and that you as an investor, caveat emptor.


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Feb 13, John Canfield rated it it was amazing Shelves: finance. Does an amazing job detailing the history of the stock market. Highlights some of the major flaws in stock options and the reporting of corporate earnings. Perhaps more importantly, though, it also touches upon the human condition, how stock market crashes persist, and why history is doomed to repeat itself.

Oct 15, Matt rated it liked it. Breezy, pretty easy understand look at the history of accounting in business and how it has contributed to wider economic issues. Very rooted in the post-Internet bubble, but pre-financial meltdown time it was written. Aug 20, Olean Public Library rated it liked it. Jul 10, Gia rated it really liked it. A little too flippant about some legitimate debates in accounting. But overall a great read, asking good questions and illuminating some tricky issues.


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  4. Aug 06, Laura rated it really liked it Shelves: business. An introductory history of Wall Street and the screwups that led to corporate scandals. I found it enlightening even as I felt out of my depth on various accounting issues.

    Alex Berenson | The Leonard Lopate Show | WNYC

    A worthwhile read. Jan 29, David rated it really liked it. If Mark Cuban recommends it, it can't be bad. Feb 18, Steven Foote rated it it was ok.

    This is a pretty well written book, but Berenson is arrogant and cynical about everything. Everyone was ignorant and did everything wrong, except Berenson, who saw it all coming. Jun 18, Wellington rated it liked it.


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    4. This is a sad book as it tells the story of Wall Street corruption. I learned most from the stories of how the Big 8 Account firms became the Big 6, the Big 5, and embarrassingly the Big 4. Jun 19, Haider Hussain rated it it was amazing. Excellent read! This investigative effort tells us how the investors' unparraleled love for quarterly EPS corrupted the largest listed companies.

      Sep 29, Michael rated it liked it. What is "The Number?