The Solomon Scandals
The D.C. newspaper novel, the media,the Washington area, tech and other surrealism: David Rothman at large
Free Upton Sinclair classic tells how Wall Street manipulators can cheat the rest of us
Categories: Media, Politicians

image image Sy Solomon’s specialty is ripping off the taxpayers—through shoddy construction practices in an IRS-occupied building and other projects.

If, however, you want a nice overview of a whole litany of white-collar crimes, why not download a free copy of an American classic called The Money Changers?

Upton Sinclair’s novel from the early 20th century gives us the whole works or close to it—for example, stock market manipulation, insider trading and related pump-and-dump schemes, use of friends and relatives to provide corporate services, monopolies and ruthless crimes against rivals, lethal corner-cutting in the areas of worker safety and defense contracting, corruption of newspapers. Always, always, Sinclair writes of people, not just of sins as abstractions, and in fact a swindled socialite kills herself in the next-to-last chapter.

The Money Changers should be required reading in schools of business, law, journalism and accounting; and accrediting agencies should immediately drop schools that don’t heed the just-given advice. You can download free copies from Google Book Search, Manybooks.net and Project Gutenberg.

Thanks to the SEC in the U.S. and similar agencies in other countries, financial chicanery may not be as common as it was in 1908 when Sinclair published his novel. But it does go on, as shown by the Madoff scandals, which actually involved a pyramid scheme. No doubt similar crimes were happening in the Sinclair era as well. The glory of The Money Changers is that it takes us everywhere, from a New York hotel room of colluding financiers to a Mississippi steel mill where a worker dies caught up in machinery. Sinclair’s moralizing at times can be a little heavy handed, but the plotting and realism compelled me to read on. Here is a snippet of dialogue from a journalist:

“…We had the greatest scoop that a newspaper ever had in this country–if only the Express were a newspaper. But Hodges isn’t publishing the news, you see; he’s serving his masters, whoever they are. I knew that it meant trouble when he bought into the Express. He used to be managing editor of the Gazette, you know; and he made his fortune selling the policy of that paper—its financial news is edited to this very hour in the offices of Wyman’s bankers, and I can prove it to anybody who wants me to. That’s the sort of proposition a man’s up against; and what’s the use of gathering the news?”

Something to think about, no—when the AP and friends war against new media rivals? The more players, the more chance of manipulation being exposed: both the financial kind and the media kind. While media manipulation nowadays tends not to be as direct as described above, it isn’t as if more subtle forms have died out.

Related: The Brass Check, about newspapers, and of course Sinclair’s most famous book, The Jungle, his expose of the meat packers.

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