Myth by David Mallach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
When the Bernie Madoff scandal broke in the news, I wondered how someone could get away for so long with a Ponzi scheme without anyone catching on to what he was up to. The answer seemed to be that when people are realizing gains on their investments, they don't question why they're getting richer. They just accept it as their due. But then came the realization that people who trusted Bernie Madoff with their retirement funds and many other sources of revenue were completely wiped out. THEN people wanted answers, and it wasn't much of a stretch to say they wanted Madoff's head on a silver platter. That's when I wondered if all those investors bore no responsibility at all for what happened to their money. All was peachy when they increased their nest eggs, but now that all was in jeopardy and people lost every cent they'd saved, NOW they wanted blood. Enter David Mallach, author of Myth, a wonderfully informative book in the form of a story about one such couple who wanted to invest their money into vehicles that would support them financially during their retirement years.
The story begins with Henry and Norma Thompson who have brought a case against their financial advisor, Valerie Brown. Along with their respective attorneys, the Thompsons and Ms Brown are in an arbitration meeting that will decide what is to be done about the $400,000 they lost since handing over management of their money to Brown. There are 3 members on the panel deciding the outcome of this case. The Thompson's attorney, Lucien Marat, believes he has built a rock solid case against both Valerie Brown, and also against her employer, American National Finance. He believes he can recover all the money lost for the Thompsons as well as hefty punitive damages. The rest of the book details how Marat prepared to do that.
This could have been the kind of book that makes people's eyes glaze over as they explain they don't understand how the investment business works. I've heard others say that they just can't process the information; it's all too complicated for anyone not directly tied to the investment process. Obviously none of those people tried reading David Mallach because not only can he explain what we need to know in terms easy to follow, but he provides examples of his points especially concerning what people should be looking for and what they can expect to get from financial advisors. The Thompson's case is not an unusual one, and it appears that Valerie Brown did serve them as well as she was able. But it wasn't good enough to keep the Thompsons from losing a substantial amount of money. Money that did not have to be lost if the correct strategy had been used in planning the future of the investments the Thompsons intended on making. I was fascinated with this story because of the way in which it was written and because Mallach himself has worked in this field and has a tried and true record to back up what he says.
I highly recommend Myth to anyone interested in how financial planning should work. It also is a well written, easy to understand look at the investment culture and how it does or does not operate to serve its clients best interests. For that reason, I think this novel is not only a good read; it's an important book as well.
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