Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 245

Den of Thieves is an accessible but thorough analysis of the rampant greed and amoral behavior that James B. Stewart believes pervades Wall Street professions. Stewart conducts this analysis by developing a multitude of rich characters, tracing their motives and behaviors to specific root failures and anxieties, which often originate in childhood. For example, the eccentric expert in arbitrage, Ivan F. Boesky, fixates on modeling his life after an illusory ideal of an elite lifestyle which he dreamed up while growing up in a humble Detroit family.

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Each of these stories takes place within a larger plot arc wherein the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the branch of the Justice Department that investigates financial crime, launches investigations into the suspect deals and relationships occurring on Wall Street. The investigators soon learn that this trail is not hard to follow, having been laid out more or less blatantly by clueless or greed-blinded bankers and traders. A justice cascade ensues, which humiliates the characters and leads straight to the men at the top who orchestrated regimes of faulty loans and other greedy financial actions. Stewart, however, humanizes the Wall Street members, showing how some of them stumbled into lives of deceit or were guilty by association. Conversely, he depicts the SEC officials as somewhat war-mongering, over-leveraging their legal power to satisfy a deep moral vindictiveness. The cumulative impression of Den of Thieves is a much less clear-cut moral universe than news media and popular culture depict.

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