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Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World    by Adam Lebor order for
Tower of Basel
by Adam Lebor
Order:  USA  Can
PublicAffairs, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

They meet five times a year and the financial titans who sit around the table in Basel, Switzerland, hold the fate of millions of people in their hands.

The central bankers of this select group include the heads of the US Federal Reserve, the Bunderbank of Germany, and the Bank of England. They are attending the Global Economy Meetings at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

The average person has never heard of the BIS or knows very little about it, yet this organization controls monetary policy in the developed world. Their decisions can affect everything from how much money you have in your pockets and bank accounts to how much that money is worth and how safe it will be.

In Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World, Adam LeBor takes his reader inside the closed and secretive world of the oldest global financial institution that was formed over seventy years ago.

The long and complicated history of this organization includes some pivotal behind the scenes moves in many of the major events of the past century. During World War II the bank was a channel for secret contacts between the Allies and the Axis and it accepted looted Nazi gold. More recently the BIS created and launched the euro.

Although there have been major changes since the time it was launched, the original ideas behind the BIS creation was to manage German reparations payments from World War I, facilitate cooperation between central banks and act as a bank for central banks.

Perhaps the simplest way of describing it is that the BIS is the bank of the world's largest and most influential central banks. Today about 5,000 central bankers travel to Switzerland to attend the BIS closed meetings. The bank is protected by international treaties and Swiss law does not apply inside the building. It pays no taxes, has only 140 customers and its considerable assets can never be seized.

Based on access to numerous former and current central banks, the BIS's former general manager, its former economic advisor Paul Volcker, and Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, Adam LeBor sheds light on the shadowy world many of those in the banking community would rather you not be aware of.

Given how interconnected the financial dealings of major countries are today and how a blip in China, Brazil, Germany or Russia can affect American markets, this is a book that should be read by anyone who is concerned about the American economy and where it might be headed.

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