Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives

ISBN: 0273704745
ISBN 13: 9780273704744
By: Satyajit Das

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About this book

Warren Buffett once memorably described derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction". Read this sensational and controversial account of the often dazzling business of derivatives trading, and see if you agree.No money is ever really made in financial markets. Markets merely transfer wealth. As to how to make money? Well, it is basically theft, misrepresentation, lies, cheating, deception or force. It is impossible to make the staggering amounts made in derivatives in good years honestly.Traders, Guns & Money is a wry and wickedly comic exposé of the culture, games, and pure deceptions played out every day in trading rooms around the world, usually with other people's money. Whether you move in the financial world yourself, know people who do, or have money invested in stocks, shares or derivatives, this is a fascinating read guaranteed to make you think.

Reader's Thoughts


Grandioso libro en el que un trader de volatilidad de tipos cuenta un montón de historias interesantes sobre el negocio, mezcladas con divertidas opiniones y en general repartiendo estopa a todo lo que se menea. Un compañero a quien se lo presté me dijo que era "demasiado real". Un grandísimo libro.


An accesible and wryly funny book on derivatives and their historical uses such as hedging risk, making bets, avoiding regulations of forbidding investors from certain types of investments, avoiding taxes, hiding losses / creating paper profits,etc.


Excellent book about the world of high finance. Shows how it's full of con artists and salesmen and people willing to do anything for a piece of the (huge) pie out there in the financial world. Definitely recommend this along with Frank Partnoy's book.


I picked this up from the library after hearing Satyajit Das on Planet Money. It was so refreshing to hear someone who has worked in derivatives trading since literally my birth (March 1977) say that there's no way to make money in it without theft and deception. Das's book is now seen as somewhat prophetic, apparently, as it was published in 2006 right before the economy went to hell. Looking forward to yet another expose of what is outright crime in financial markets.


After reading a book that makes me feel like an idiot for 1) what I don’t know, and 2) the assumptions I regularly make while speaking, I will break down my sentences and thoughts to rather small building blocks. -derivatives are hard. -this book does a fantastic job at walking someone through the complexities of the financial oubliettes that have caved in subsurface, if you bring your own spelunking tools. -it was a trial for me to get through since i really have no statistics or finance in my background, but very much worth it.

Getout Ofmybookcorner

I thought this book was a little like learning Spanish while on a space hopper. While you did feel that you were taking things in, you couldn't help but think it jumped around too much, and the loss of cohesion made it more difficult to really digest some of the themes.Did we really needed to be reminded about the noodle company every five minutes? It just made me really hungry..


This book gets very technical and it is obvious that the author adapted his style to be similar to Nassim Taleb. If you can put up with it, Das gets into several very good explanations about the many types of derivatives used to bend tax-laws, redirect risk, and confuse investors.

Adam Bertram

An enlightening read from an intellectual aspect...the author does an admirable job translating the obscure, and often obtuse, world of financial derivatives into layman's terms. Although I found some of the characters is this book to be charming, I kept waiting for more. The lack of a solution, or attempt to rationalize the issues presented by this book, left me wanting more. I don't recommend this book for anyone who is not fascinated by trading and the financial markets. There were a disturbing number of grammatical errors, especially towards the latter half of the book. In the end, I was happy to be done with it.


Very complex, textbook-type descriptions of derivatives in the financial world. I read this following the completion of "The Trillion Dollar Meltdown". It's far too complex for someone (like me) who is not involved in the financial industry. Interesting stuff, however.

Argin Gerigorian

Firstly, I hope I’m spelling “Tolle Lege” correctly. Haven’t bothered to check.Anyways this week’s book comes from Satyajit Das entitled “Traders, Guns and Money…”. This book mainly deals with the knowns and unknowns of financial derivatives. What’s that? I’m glad you asked!Financial derivatives are an instrument (like a contact) which derive their value from another thing. Confused? Me too.About a year ago I was introduced to a man named Kyle Bass who is a hedge fund owner (Hayman Capital) and a growing figure in the financial world. The topics he talked about in interviews and conferences were fascinating to listen to. So I was encouraged to buy a book on derivatives to understand some of the jargon he and other hedge fund owners were throwing around.Thats where this books came in. Dat, however, didn’t do the job for me… not because he was a sloppy writer or ignorant, but because I am a sloppy reader and dumb! I’m fairly new to the derivative world and Dat’s writing method didn’t cut it for me. He mainly wrote about his interaction with other people in banking, corporate, etc. in a comical way and didn’t explain what a derivative actually is and go into the specifics (neither was the book intended to do that).But I did learn many things from the book so its not all that bad, in fact I’m planning on going back to it later after I’ve gained some more knowledge to the derivative world.For example I learned that derivatives can be both good and bad. Good in that it produces wealth and an abundance of it. Bad when it falls into the wrong hands. Dat gives ample examples of that (Enron, P & G, etc).Also this got me thinking that derivative trading was one of, if not, the main cause to the housing bubble. The author puts it succinctly when he says “credit was derivatized”.All in all the book was an okay read even if I didn’t retain all the information given.3.5/5 stars for Dat!Enjoy!


Well having some interest in derivatives, I choose to read this book. So I picked up a copy n just started reading this book and as a first word, it has really captured by attention. The prologue is magnificently written and makes you want to read more. So far so good, will be updating as I read more.**a little advise for those who don't know what derivatives are, this book might not interest you**


It's not as memorable as other books that use the "three nouns, one of which is 'guns'" structure for their titles. However, it's an enjoyably cynical introduction to the dangers of derivatives, which is prophetic since it was published in 2006. This features the best explanation of Black-Scholes that I've ever read, and it's in-text translations of bankerese are amazing.


I take back what I said earlier, which is that Traders, Guns and Money is rather disappointing for such a critically acclaimed book. I still stand by what I said about the book's tone -- from the punchy three-word title you could recognise it for the way it reads, sort of a stand up comic routine on the derivative markets. The first half wasn't especially compelling, as the castigation of financial professionals is so generalised. You have to be offensive to be funny, I guess. Once you get past that, the second half rocks -- perhaps because I don't take any personal offense, not being involved in derivatives. It's a great insider's view of how and why derivatives evolved, with great and simple (and cynical) explanations of why various structures were created (generally, to evade taxes, get around trading regulations, and other ways to give investors more yield and earn banks more fees). The anecdotes and narrative read like a late-night drink confessional -- probably exaggerated but sounding true enough in essence, and deeply educational. As mentioned previously, it doesn't claim to be a rigorous, comprehensive risk management textbook (which Das has written) so it won't be that sort of educational if that's what you're looking for.But through anecdotes it gives a sharp sense of the culture of the people involved, something you could never find even in very good textbooks.


This book gives you a realistic picture of the lucrative world of derivatives trading, you know, the enigmatic 'financial stuff' wall street types do to make staggering amounts of money. I'm pro-capitalism mind you, but this rather cynical book paints a not-so-glamorous picture. Three stars just cause it was a bit dry and I thought longer than necessary. And perhaps a bit too cynical, I think there are at least a few positive things to say about the contributions derivatives make to the functioning of the world economy.


Provides a very comprehensive, tongue-in-cheek survey of the financial industry and thus provides a useful roadmap of where we have been and how we got here. Das' style tends to be a bit stocatto and the latter half of the book was a much slower read especially once Das gets into structured products. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who doesn't already have a decent grasp of derivatives.

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