Checking the Banks

The Nuts and Bolts of Banking
for People Who Want to Fix It

It was the best of financial systems, it was the worst of financial systems. The global network of banks, brokers, funds, dealers, servicers, and all the rest is a marvel of the 21st century, for better and—frequently—worse. With a nation still reeling from the aftermath of the worst financial crisis in a generation, there has never been a more important time to understand how the system works... and why it doesn't.

Checking the Banks is an easy-to-read primer on how a bank, and the banking system, works. Complex ideas, like bank capital, leverage, risk-weighting, and repo transactions are explained in clear, understandable language.

This is a book for:

  • People who want to understand banks,
  • Activists determined to change them,
  • Reformers seeking to build alternatives.

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"This is a marvelous book! Well-written; even enjoyable to read---about local banking! Packed with information of importance, not only for the expert, but for anyone, activist or public official, who wants to get serious about building a new financial infrastructure from our increasingly challenged economy. Put it on top of your reading pile!"

Gar Alperovitz, author of What Then Must We Do?, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of political economy at the University of Maryland, co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative.

"The banks are broken. Let's fix them — ourselves. (article)

Providence Phoenix, 1/16/14

"Tom's unwavering commitment to increasing the number of democratic touchpoints in public finance is invaluable and serves as a guiding light for anyone trying to increase and extend the measure of justice in our economic and banking system. In spite of these complex topics, Tom's approachable style and layered wit will provide many "laugh out loud" moments, oftentimes while alone in the car, once you finally fully understand his jokes. The book will be an excellent reference manual, and is fun to read, to boot. It's pitch perfect, IMHO."

Marc Armstrong, Executive Director, Public Banking Institute

"A clear, accessible, practical, grounded, and authoritative introduction to how banks account for their use of your money. Whether you want to hold Wall Street banks accountable for their crimes or create a local financial institution to provide honest financial services for your community, Checking the Banks is a great place to start."

David Korten, author, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, board chair, YES! Magazine, and co-chair, New Economy Working Group.

"New branches of the nation's leading banks are sprouting at every major intersection today, as ubiquitous as Starbucks. But whether you're wealthy or poor, banks today have little to offer other than possibly convenience at at steep retail price. Now's the time to change the way our financial system works. Checking the Banks offers a way forward that doesn't go through gridlocked Washington. Plus it's a great read---how can you go wrong?"

Edward ("Ted") Siedle, former SEC Attorney, owner of Benchmark Financial Services, forensic investigator of the money management industry, and writer for the Forbes web site.

"Shedding the labyrinths of misdirecting conceptual names, such as efficiency ratios that bespeak inefficiency, Tom has put forth a concise primer on how banks work, how regulators play their role in assuring bank safety, and where innovations and innovators can find opportunities to simplify a banking system in need of millennial shift from byzantine to simple, from camouflaged to transparent, from unsafe to impacts aware. Bravo Tom for this digestible read in a subject so often kept indigestible."

Bruce Cahan, President of Urban Logic, Ashoka Fellow, Visiting Scholar Stanford University