Review: Adams and Frantz’s Full Service Bank: How BCCI Stole Billions Around the World

Full Service Bank (How Bcci Stole Billions Around the World)

James Ring Adams, Douglas Frantz

If you know me, you know I have a deep and abiding love for books on business scandals. This shit fascinates me – the complexity of some of the fraud, the stupidity and greed of many of the people involved. I really can’t get enough of it.

BCCI is one of the biggest banking scandals in history. For a taste of the scope of the thing, it involved Clark Clifford, one of the great Washington fixers of all time, the terrorist Abu Nidal, and Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the guy who brought you the UAE and a couple of billions dollars in lost money. There are law firms and accountants still working to retrieve some of this money today, more than decade after the bank collapsed.

Most business and banking scandals are really just complicated variants of simple scheme or mistake. Long Term Capital Management borrowed more than they could afford. ADM was involved in price fixing, and BCCI was basically a pyramid scheme.* Admittedly a huge and complex pyramid scheme, but a pyramid scheme all the same. I am constantly amazed that people think they can get away with things like this, but I guess one should never underestimate the greed and stupidity of the average person.

Tracking who did what to whom when is a complicated job in this scandal, and Adam and Frantz do a good job of keeping it all clear. This book doesn’t have the great writing of, say Eichenwald’s book on Enron, but it does a keep all the facts straight. It isn’t for the novice business scandal reader, but the connoisseur will enjoy its international complexity and the taking down of a bunch of really important people.

*Enron is the exception here. You could say Enron was the result of shady accounting but that is really oversimplifying Enron’s use of a pretty fucking insane set accounting tools and debt restructuring instruments.

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