Bethany McLean’s Weekend Reading List: Warnings Unheeded, Stock Selling, and the Chinese Cover-Up

Bethany McLean
Bethany McLean is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, a columnist for Yahoo Finance, and a contributor to CNBC. Her 2001 Fortune piece, “Is Enron Overpriced?,” was one of the first skeptical articles about the company. After Enron collapsed into bankruptcy, she co-authored (with Peter Elkind) The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron. A documentary based on the book was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006. She is also the author of All the Devils Are Here (with Joe Nocera), Shaky Ground, and Saudi America. Along with Luigi Zingales, she co-hosts the Podcast Capitalisn't.

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Global case numbers reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation report.

 

I had an utterly irrational sliver of hope that I would be able to write a non-coronavirus focused reading list today. Funny, isn’t it, how even pessimists can find their inner optimists in times like these? 

 

I’m going to make this week’s list longer than usual, because one very small blessing is more reading time.

 

After this passes, and it will, because everything does, somehow or another, there will be plenty of blame to go around.

 

While partisans of all stripes will want to make it a simple story, it will not be a simple story. Read these three pieces in conjunction:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and this: 

 

 

 On some levels, I find this last one the most appalling. It’s no different than Ken Lay selling stock as Enron collapsed—except Ken Lay wasn’t supposed to be a public servant. 

 

As I wrote last week, we’re just beginning to sense the inklings of how profoundly this could reshape the world. H/T @ritholtz for this:

 

 

And for a broader take:

 

 

From an economic perspective, if the 2008 crisis was the transmission of financial risk into the real economy, this is looking like the opposite: The crisis will begin with the real economy and be transmitted back into the financial sector. And it comes at a particularly dangerous time because the tinder was piled ever higher and just waiting for a match, as these two pieces show:

 

 

 and:

 

 

 

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