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William D. Cohan

New York Times-bestselling author and one of America’s most respected financial journalists

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  • About William D. Cohan

    Following the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street’s reputation remains in tatters. Many people, regardless of their knowledge of how Wall Street works, think that its bankers, traders and executives—the people who provide capital to those who need it around the globe — are greedy, money-obsessed crooks who aim to steal the world’s riches for themselves. While Cohan himself has long been critical of the bad behavior on Wall Street in the years leading up to the financial crisis, his books also illuminate the importance and necessity of Wall Street, calling it “a beautiful machine,” and adding that Wall Street “is the the left ventricle of capitalism, the brilliantly designed engine that powers innovation, job growth, and wealth creation and that has become the most sustained way by which billions of people the world over have been lifted out of poverty and given a chance at a better, more economically fulfilling life.” Cohan reminds audiences of the importance of Wall Street’s role in providing capital and financial advise to companies and individuals who need it and want it, and warns of the dire consequences if that essential role is undermined and somehow thwarted.

    Cohan himself is a veteran of Wall Street, with over 17 years of experience as an investment banker for various firms, including Lazard Frères & Co, Merrill Lynch, and JPMorgan Chase. He is the author of five books, including The Last Tycoons, House of Cards, Money and Power, and The Price of Silence. His first book, The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co., won the 2007 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award, and his second book, House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street, was a national bestseller. In his upcoming book, Four Friends, Cohan brings  all of his brilliant reportorial skills to a subject much closer to home: four high school friends of his who died young. The group of friends, which included John F. Kennedy Jr. among them, attended Andover, the most elite of American boarding schools, before spinning out into very different orbits.

    William D. Cohan grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts and is a graduate of Phillips Academy, Duke University, Columbia University School of Journalism and the Columbia University School of Business.  He is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair, a regular contributor to The Hive, and he contributes regularly to The Financial Times, The New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Atlantic, The Nation, Fortune, PoliticoBarron’s and Institutional Investor. He previously was a columnist for the DealBook section of The New York Times, and was an opinion columnist for The New York Times and BloombergViewHe  has appeared on Bloomberg TV (where he was formerly a contributing editor), CNN, MSNBC, BBC-TV and is an  non-staff on-air contributor to CNBC. He has also made appearances on The Daily Show, The NewsHour, The Tavis Smiley Show, and CBS This Morning as well as on numerous NPR, BBC and Bloomberg radio programs. He currently lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.

     

  • Speaking Topics

    Changing the Wall Street Stigma

    Many people say that they “don’t like Wall Street” because they’ve heard others say it, or think of it as a bunch of bankers looking to get rich quick. These stigmas were only exacerbated by 2008 financial crisis. Although Cohan has never been an unreserved advocate for Wall Street, he wants people to understand that bankers are not out to get the American people—in fact, Wall Street is necessary in order for American capitalism to continue.

    Truthful Reporting, Done Correctly

    Cohan wrote The Price of Silence because he himself wanted to learn the entire story behind the Duke Lacrosse Case, and did not trust others to deliver a truthful, unbiased account. Similarly, much of his reporting relies on factual evidence rather than opinion. In this talk, Cohan takes audiences behind the scenes of his reporting and emphasizes the crucial role of ethics in journalism.

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  • Praise for William D. Cohan

    Praise for Four Friends

    Deeply moving, Four Friends explores the idea of fate and shattered promise with intelligence and heart. It will haunt you and make you think.

    Susan Orlean, New York Times-bestselling author of The Library Book

    I read this book captivated throughout, and often moved. In Cohan's elegant telling, it's more than four tragic endings. This is a contemplation of the twisting course of any life; how early hopes age; and how few of us become quite what was expected. An excellent book.

    Tom Rachman, New York Times bestselling author of The Imperfectionists and The Italian Teacher

    Four Friends is a wrenching, beautifully woven story about fate, friendship and the shattered dreams of once-golden privileged men. I couldn’t put it down."

    Jonathan Alter, New York Times-bestselling author of The Center Holds

    Combining a friend's heart-felt sense of loss with the meticulous precision of a seasoned reporter, William Cohan has created a fascinating, often harrowing examination of what happens when promise succumbs to tragedy. A book that continues to resonate long after you've finished the last page.

    Nathaniel Philbrick, National Book Award-winning author of In the Heart of the Sea and In the Hurricane's Eye 

    William Cohan has written a beautiful and heartbreaking book about friendship and privilege, in a corner of American life that suddenly feels very far away.

    Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times-bestselling author of The Tipping Point and Blink

    Praise for Why Wall Street Matters

    [Cohan is] one of our most able financial journalists.

    Los Angeles Times

    A former Wall Street man and a talented writer, [Cohan] has the rare gift not only of understanding the fiendishly complicated goings-on, but also of being able to explain them in terms the lay reader can grasp.

    The Observer (London)

    Praise for Money and Power

    [The] definitive account of the most profitable and influential investment bank of the modern era.

    The New York Times Book Review

    The best analysis yet of Goldman’s increasingly tangled web of conflicts. . . . The writing is crisp and the research meticulous.

    The Economist

    [A] revelatory account of the rise and rise of Goldman Sachs. . . . A vast trove of material.

    Financial Times

    Well done and absorbing. Cohan’s grasp of the . . . recent inside politics of the firm is sure and convincing.

    The Washington Post

    The frankest, most detailed, most human assessment of the bank to date. Cohan portrays a firm that has grown so large and hungry that it’s no longer long-term greedy but short-term vicious. And that’s the wonder—and horror—of Goldman Sachs.

    BusinessWeek

    Brings the bank’s sometimes ‘schizophrenic’ behavior to vivid life. . . . Cohan evinces an eye for telling images and an ear for deadpan quotations. . . . [and] puts his skepticism to good use.

    Bloomberg News  

    [Cohan is] one of our most able financial journalists.

    Los Angeles Times  

    A former Wall Street man and a talented writer, [Cohan] has the rare gift not only of understanding the fiendishly complicated goings-on, but also of being able to explain them in terms the lay reader can grasp.

    The Observer (London)  

    Cohan writes with an insider’s knowledge of the workings of Wall Street, a reporter’s investigative instincts and a natural storyteller’s narrative command.

    The New York Times

    Praise for House of Cards

    Cohan’s epic account chronicles a watershed moment in Wall Street history.

    The Boston Globe

    Masterfully reported. . . . [Cohan] does a brilliant job of sketching in the eccentric, vulgar, greedy, profane and coarse individuals who ignored all these warnings to their own profit and the ruin of so many others.

    Los Angeles Times

    A masterly reconstruction of Bear Stearns’ implosion—a tumultuous episode in Wall Street history that still reverberates throughout our economy today. . . . First drafts of history don’t get much better than this.

    Bloomberg News

    This book is so rich, so flavorful, so instructive, and so fully and compelling cast that a reviewer hardly knows where to begin.

    The New York Observer

    Cohan vividly documents the mix of arrogance, greed, recklessness, and pettiness that took down the 86-year-old brokerage house and then the entire economy. It’s a page-turner . . . offering both a seemingly comprehensive understanding of the business and wide access to insiders. . . . Hard to put down.

    BusinessWeek

    [A]n authoritative, blow-by-blow account of the collapse of Bear Stearns.

    The Washington Post

    Cohen’s autopsy uncovers all the symptoms of a walking disaster.

    Newsweek

    A riveting blow-by-blow account.

    The Economist

    Praise for The Last Tycoons

    Cohan’s portrayal of the firm’s dominant partners—whose gargantuan appetites and mercurial habits provide the unifying force behind the book’s operatic melodramas— makes this an epic . . . In fact, The Last Tycoons bears a striking resemblance to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon.

    New York Times Book Review

    Breezy and highly readable . . . For those of us who enjoy high-level gossip (most people) and an inside look at the machinations, triumphs, failures, and foibles of some of Wall Street’s and America’s most exalted personages, Cohan’s book is entertaining and seductively engrossing.

    Chicago Tribune

    Cohan’s thoroughness—he interviewed over 100 current and former bankers and assorted bigwigs—unearths a trove of colourful titbits, many quite racy . . . Illuminating are Mr. Cohan’s descriptions of the scheming, politicking, and general dysfunction that was Lazard.

    Economist

    Cohan not only knows where the bodies are buried but got a guided tour of the graveyard.

    Financial Times

    [The Last Tycoons] has sent a jolt through Lazard and the rest of Wall Street.

    Wall Street Journal

    Praise for The Price of Silence

    Meticulous…evenhanded…Mr. Cohan captures brilliantly the theater of the absurd that is played out on campuses every year over one controversy or another… Our tour guide in this chamber of horrors, Mr. Cohan, is remarkably dispassionate as he sets forth the fallout from the initial charges: the lacrosse season canceled, three of the team's players indicted, a community in upheaval as a bitter debate over race, sex and class raged, fueled by (often intemperate) media attention.

    The Wall Street Journal

    At once a masterwork of reporting and a devastating critique of a university that has lost its way…what Cohan has done, to superb effect, is to bring a forensic level of reporting to the event, so that we are forced to throw out its long-accepted narrative and look at it with new eyes.… Every parent planning to send a child to an “elite” college dominated by an overly powerful athletic program should buy this book. For those with children thinking of Duke, it is required reading.

    The New York Times Book Review

    Exhaustive, surprisingly gripping…The Price of Silence proves its worthiness…When the story broke, it had plenty of salacious aspects…but the story turned out to be far more complex, a drama made rich by the characters’ apparent refusal to play their assigned roles…remarkable…Cohan has added a lot of new details to the narrative…extremely impressive…Ultimately, Mr. Cohan’s account is valuable for what the case says about wealth and our legal system.

    The New York Times

    Fascinating...What Cohan’s extraordinary 600-page tome shows is that there is a yawning gap between the lofty rhetoric and grubby reality of American elite universities... It is around the issue of sports that the tangled questions of power, money, racism and culture crystallize particularly clearly…as anthropologists know, every society has power networks and rituals that enable groups to coalesce. But another truism of anthropology is that rituals are most effective in upholding power structures – however distasteful – when nobody talks about them at all, be that on Wall Street or university campuses. In that sense, then, the good news about the 2006 scandal was that it spurred debate about standards.

    Financial Times

    The Price of Silence is the definitive account of what happened up to and after Crystal Gail Mangum made her accusation. Its 600-page length might at first seem more appropriate to a presidential biography or a history of one of the world wars, but The Price of Silence earns its heft, and unlike most biographies and histories, it rarely loosens its grip on its reader’s attention.

    Salon

    In his new book The Price of Silence, William D. Cohan presents the first authoritative account of what happened on the evening of March 13, 2006 and the chaos that followed. Cohan’s clear-eyed reporting tracks how administrators, lawyers, police, media personalities, Mangum, and the exonerated players reacted to the spotlight and the shadows it cast. In the book, Cohan speaks with a number of important figures who had never before spoken publicly about the scandal, including both Mike Nifong and former Duke University Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Steel.

    Men’s Journal

    Top-notch investigative journalism defines this examination of ‘one of the most improbable legal sagas in American history’. . . meticulous . . . not just an edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama and a cautionary tale, but also an illuminating fable about the power of status, talent, authority, and belief. Throughout, Cohan’s spare prose and objective tone cast his subjects in a humane light, even when their behavior is stunning . . . the definitive account of the case.

    Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

    Cohan seemingly leaves no stone unturned in covering all aspects of the case... undeniably gripping drama... A comprehensive, illuminating and highly readable study of a notorious episode in the annals of the American justice system.

    Kirkus, STARRED review

    The relationship between sports and the academic side of college life has long been troubled…Cohan explores the social dynamics that clouded every aspect of the case…Cohan explores the usual disconnects that occur in high-profile crime cases between what is reported in the press, chronicled in official records, and perceived as public opinion and what really happened. A gripping account of a sensational case.

    Booklist, STARRED review

    [Cohan] is sharp about following the money…[he] receives extra points for fairness.

    Newsday
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