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Diana Henriques

  • Wizard of Lies
  • Black Monday financial author and journalist

Diana B. Henriques, an award-winning financial journalist associated with The New York Times for more than 25 years, is the author of A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History, released in September 2017. She is also the author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, a New York Times bestseller, and three other books on business history.

Ms. Henriques wrote The Wizard of Lies based on her lead reporting of the Bernie Madoff scandal for The Times, in addition to extensive additional research and interviews she conducted with Madoff in prison. HBO adapted The Wizard of Lies into a 2017 movie of the same name, starring Robert De Niro as Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife, with Ms. Henriques playing herself to recreate her prison encounters with Madoff.

Her latest book, A First-Class Catastrophe, investigates the mistakes, mutations, and misdeeds that led to the historic Black Monday market crash in October 1987. The critically acclaimed account brings those harrowing days to life and excavates their overlooked but still relevant warnings for today’s investors and policymakers.

Over her intrepid career as an investigative journalist, Ms. Henriques has covered, and uncovered, some of the greatest scandals of U.S. financial history, starting with the Abscam political corruption probe of the 1970s and continuing through the Enron bankruptcy in 2002. In 2005 she was a Pulitzer finalist for a series of articles exposing the financial exploitation of young soldiers by insurance and investment companies, work that also won her a George Polk Award and Harvard’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. She became a Pulitzer finalist again as a member of The New York Times team covering the U.S. financial crisis of 2008.

In her speeches around the country, Diana Henriques shares crucial lessons from her deep research on the Madoff scandal, the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, and the stock market crash of 1987. In terms accessible to a general audience, she connects the dots to show the pitfalls that have repeatedly caused the U.S. marketplace to stumble. She offers insight into how Wall Street can improve its ability to recognize risks and avoid future crises, and how Main Street can deepen its understanding of the strange new world of finance that confronts investors today.

Her speaking topics include

  1. The Limits of Trust: The Bernie Madoff scandal in 2008 cast new light on an age-old challenge for investors, financial professionals, and regulators. Too often, our psychological and procedural defenses are set up to detect threats from the outside—burglars, hackers, corporate espionage attacks, fraudulent robo-callers, strangers in our midst. But how do we defend ourselves from the trusted criminal—the admired and respected high-achiever who wins our trust, and then betrays us? A better understanding of how Madoff's fraud worked can inform a smarter approach to this hazard for all investors and for everyone trying to keep investors safe from such predators.
  2. The “Black Monday” Market of Today: The 1987 stock market crash, still the worst single day in Wall Street history, exposed the extraordinary changes that permanently reshaped the financial landscape in the early 1980s. These were a) the birth of financial derivatives in Chicago, b) the burgeoning size and herd-like instincts of pension funds and other new arrivals in the equity and derivative markets, c) the escalating use of high-speed computers to both deliver market orders and design market strategies, and d) the growing fragmentation of the formal market regulatory machinery. But despite the near-death experiences of Black Monday, when the Dow fell a paralyzing 22.6 percent in one day, little was learned and little was done to address those new elements of risk—as subsequent crises, including the 2008 meltdown, have shown. As a result, we are just as vulnerable today to the dangers we faced in 1987.
  3. The Criminal With a Thousand Faces: Ponzi schemes, which exploit our deeply human (and profoundly essential!) instinct to trust one another, are a perennial threat to investors. One data website estimates that, since 2002, a new Ponzi scheme has surfaced every five days! A review of the colorful history of this crime shows that much of what we think we know about Ponzi schemes is obsolete in the post-Madoff era. Diana cuts through the swashbuckling fables and movie-plot cultural baggage that surrounds these con men, and provide some practical ways to deter the Ponzi schemers in our midst.
  4. Why Financial History Matters: Even among fans of popular history, far too little attention is paid to the financial side of history. And yet there is no way to fully understand our political history without “following the money.” And “the money” was in the marketplace! As an amateur financial historian, she introduces general audiences to the colorful characters, hair-raising adventures, and eternal relevance of America's financial history. In doing so, she makes the case for making it a bigger part of our national conversation. This draws on research for all her books, including “Fidelity's World,” a history of the American mutual fund industry, and “The White Sharks of Wall Street,” an account of the “original corporate raiders” of the 1950s.

Keywords: Wall Street, financial bubble, investigate financial journalist, stock market, global economy, future trends

Book Diana Henriques