Life and work
Ahamed has worked at the World Bank in Washington D.C., where he headed the bank's investment division, and at the New York-based partnership of Fischer, Francis Trees and Watts, a fixed-income business and subsidiary of BNP Paribas, where he served as Chief Investment Officer and from 2001-2004 as Chief Executive. From October 2007 he has been a director of Aspen Insurance Holdings and in addition advises several hedge funds, including Rock Creek Group and The Rohatyn Group. He is a member of Board of Trustees at the Brookings Institution and is involved with the New America Foundation.
He was born in Kenya, to where his grandfather had migrated from Gujarat, via Zanzibar, in the late 19th century. He was educated at Rugby School in England, at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at Harvard University.
Lords of Finance
Ahamed is the author of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (2009). The book was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for History, the 2010 Spear's Book Award (Financial History Book of the Year), the 2010 Arthur Ross Book Award Gold Medal, the 2009 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. For 2009 it was recognized as one of Time magazine's "Best Books of the Year", New York Times "Best Books of the Year" and Amazon.com's "Best Books of the Year". It was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. It is published by Penguin Books (USA) Inc. ISBN 978-1-59420-182-0.
The book narrates the events preceding the Black Tuesday stock market crash of 1929 and the disastrous response of the world's major central banks. It follows the life and actions of the then chiefs of the central banks: Benjamin Strong Jr. of the New York Federal Reserve, Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Émile Moreau of the Banque de France, and Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank. John Maynard Keynes, a British eccentric and well-known economist of the time appears on many occasions in the book in a role opposing the central bankers. The main theme of the book is the role played by the central bankers' insistence to adhere to the gold standard "even in the face of total catastrophe".
When Lords of Finance was published, well into the 2007–2012 global financial crisis, Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman quipped "... that someone will be able to write a sequel ... and call it Lords of Finance: The Next Generation", a commentator in 2012 remembered. The commentator, Darrell Delamaide, went on to say the "target of Krugman’s barb was Jean-Claude Trichet, then president of the European Central Bank. But[, Delamaide continued, Trichet's] ... successor, Mario Draghi, has proven equally clueless in his public statements and actions. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, an avowed admirer of Ahamed’s book, has nonetheless been relatively timid in recent months [early-mid 2012], keeping his distance from the European crisis and failing to make a convincing case for the Fed’s inaction in following its own mandate to promote employment in the U.S. [Affirming Krugman's early judgment, Delamaide concluded, h]istory is not likely to be any kinder to Bernanke and his cohorts than to the European policy makers who collectively have not been equal to the task.
In June 2012, Ahamed himself drew a similar parallel in a Financial Times column, saying that "during the past few months, as the crisis in Europe has spiralled out of control", he had "begun to fear that the world might in fact be repeating some of th[e] same errors" as those made in the 1920s and '30s. While the 21st-century central bankers and banks were starkly different than their 19th-century predecessors, Ahamed said that "as they experiment with unconventional monetary tools to get the global economy moving, ironically they may find their years of training less useful than their instincts. ... [S]ome of the same intractable factors that their predecessors of the 1930s had to contend with will overwhelm them once again", today's bankers fear. France, Ahamed pointed out, was the strongest economy and financial system in 1930s Europe, while Germany was reeling. And like Germany seemingly in 2012, France in the '30s could not find a way to use its strength to help its neighbor. Ahamed in June 2012 concluded with a question: "If, over the next few months, a financial accident takes place in Europe, as is likely, is there any European institution willing and able to act as fast and with such vigour [as the 2008, Lehman-bankruptcy-era US Fed and Treasury] to prevent a disaster?"
- Nocera, Joe. "Flying Blind", New York Times, 13 February 2009.
- “Liaquat Ahamed Pulitzer Prize Biography”, The 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners. Retrieved 2012-04-05
- “Liaquat Ahamed Profile”, Forbes.com. Retrieved 2012-04-05
- “Lunch with BS: Liaquat Ahamed”, Business Standard, 19 May 2009. Retrieved 2012-04-05
- “India, China should wish the rest of the world also grows”, The Economic Times, 17 January 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-05
- Trinity Members Online
- “The Situation Cast & Crew IMDB”, Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-04-05
- The 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners
- Krugman, Paul "What's Our Gold Standard", New York Times, 27 March 2009.
- Delamaide, Darrell (July 24, 2012). "Euro crisis brings world to brink of depression". MarketWatch. Retrieved 2012-07-24. Krugman's imagined title was most likely a wordplay on the US television series' name, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Ahamed, Liaquat, "Europe’s bankers have forgotten the lessons of the Depression", Financial Times, June 22, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-24.