Volume 46, Issue 6: November/December 2012

Thieves of Bay Street

  • Thieves of Bay Street: How Banks, Brokerages and the Wealthy Steal Billions from Canadians

    Bruce Livesey

    Random House Canada, 2012.

Chalk it up as a point of Canadian smugness: that undiluted avarice sloshing around the American financial sector circa 2008 proved to be caustic stuff, valiantly sniffed out and tempered on this side of the border by our sober breed of bankers and brokers and by a vigilant (if plodding) regulatory network. And why not? The plaudits have been rolling in steadily for sure-footed Canada since the early days of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Longtime muckraker Bruce Livesey sets out to debunk this apparent fiction, and a career probing business scams and industry corruption gives him the pedigree for the job. Thieves of Bay Street is a book in which victims and villains loom large: sympathetic portraits of defrauded pensioners sit cheek-and-jowl with tales of rapacious speculators kneecapping hardy Canadian companies. Perhaps even more striking than the moral bankruptcy of the profiled financiers is the staggering ineffectuality of Canadian regulators and law enforcement to respond. Even if the occasional sob story comes off feeling a bit caricatured, the book succeeds in avoiding a descent into histrionics.

And if Livesey stops short of linking his indictment of the financial sector to larger structural features of capitalism, he offers up enough grist — Conrad Black, Nortel, Stelco, a laundry list of Big Bank shenanigans — to let his readers make the leap.