Tower of Basel by Adam LeBor
The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World

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In the last third of the book, Mr. Lebor’s argument wobbles...He wanders off to discourse on European integration, and the European Central Bank.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

Tower of Basel is the first investigative history of the world’s most secretive global financial institution. Based on extensive archival research in Switzerland, Britain, and the United States, and in-depth interviews with key decision-makers—including Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve; Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England; and former senior Bank for International Settlements managers and officials—Tower of Basel tells the inside story of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS): the central bankers’ own bank.

Created by the governors of the Bank of England and the Reichsbank in 1930, and protected by an international treaty, the BIS and its assets are legally beyond the reach of any government or jurisdiction. The bank is untouchable. Swiss authorities have no jurisdiction over the bank or its premises. The BIS has just 140 customers but made tax-free profits of $1.17 billion in 2011–2012.

Since its creation, the bank has been at the heart of global events but has often gone unnoticed. Under Thomas McKittrick, the bank’s American president from 1940–1946, the BIS was open for business throughout the Second World War. The BIS accepted looted Nazi gold, conducted foreign exchange deals for the Reichsbank, and was used by both the Allies and the Axis powers as a secret contact point to keep the channels of international finance open.

After 1945 the BIS—still behind the scenes—for decades provided the necessary technical and administrative support for the trans-European currency project, from the first attempts to harmonize exchange rates in the late 1940s to the launch of the Euro in 2002. It now stands at the center of efforts to build a new global financial and regulatory architecture, once again proving that it has the power to shape the financial rules of our world. Yet despite its pivotal role in the financial and political history of the last century and during the economic current crisis, the BIS has remained largely unknown—until now.
 

About Adam LeBor

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Adam LeBor is an author, journalist, and literary critic based in Budapest. He writes for The Economist, The Times (London), Monocle, and numerous other publications, and also reviews books for the New York Times. He has been a foreign correspondent since 1991, covering the collapse of communism and the Yugoslav wars, and has worked in more than thirty countries. He is the author of seven critically acclaimed nonfiction books, including the ground-breaking Hitler's Secret Bankers, and two novels. His books have been published in twelve languages.
 
Published May 28, 2013 by PublicAffairs. 362 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Tower of Basel
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michael Hirsh on Jul 19 2013

...there are good reasons to tell the full story of the bank, and LeBor, a journalist based in Budapest, does a creditable job in this well-researched account.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Delves Broughton on Jun 24 2013

So today the Greek unemployed burn their furniture to stay warm while the commercial banks rally, the central bankers impose austerity and the feasts in Basel go on. It's a very ugly picture, and Mr. LeBor has painted it well.

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Kirkus

Above average
on May 13 2013

The author closes with recommendations for how the bank could better serve the world...Wonkish at times, but a real eye-opener.

Read Full Review of Tower of Basel: The Shadowy H... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Robert Teitelman on May 24 2013

In the last third of the book, Mr. Lebor’s argument wobbles...He wanders off to discourse on European integration, and the European Central Bank.

Read Full Review of Tower of Basel: The Shadowy H... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

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Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

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