The Big Short

by

Michael Lewis

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Steve Eisman Character Analysis

Steve Eisman is a former corporate lawyer who quit his job to join his parents’ financial firm, Oppenheimer securities. He quickly makes a name for himself as an analyst by proving that he isn’t afraid to offer opinions that go against the grain. Eventually, he becomes manager of a fund called FrontPoint Partners, where he works with Vincent Daniel, Danny Moses, and Porter Collins. Despite Eisman’s initial skepticism toward Greg Lippman (who works closely with the quant Eugene Xu), he ultimately ends up working with Lippman to short the subprime mortgage market. Though he was a Republican when he was younger, the contrarian Eisman actually becomes more left wing after starting on Wall Street. His views are also shaped by the tragic, accidental death of his one-year-old son, which leads him to become more of a pessimist. Throughout the events leading up to the financial crisis, Eisman is a sharp critic of the incentives in the economy that encourage big Wall Street firms to take advantage of lower-class Americans—particularly the subprime mortgage market. One of Eisman’s most memorable quirks is that he doesn’t golf according to the usual etiquette—he’ll pick up his ball and throw it to a better position without even acknowledging what he’s done. By the end, Eisman is proven right and makes so much money off his short positions that he has to reevaluate his life: he is no longer the outsider and the underdog that he always identified as in the past, and so he has to carry himself differently.

Steve Eisman Quotes in The Big Short

The The Big Short quotes below are all either spoken by Steve Eisman or refer to Steve Eisman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W.W. Norton edition of The Big Short published in 2010.
Prologue Quotes

The willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grown-ups remains a mystery to me to this day.

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), John Gutfreund , Steve Eisman, Ben Hockett
Page Number: xiii
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

By the time Household’s CEO, Bill Aldinger, collected his $100 million, Eisman was on his way to becoming the financial market’s first socialist. “When you’re a conservative Republican, you never think people are making money by ripping other people off,” he said. His mind was now fully open to the possibility. “I now realized there was an entire industry, called consumer finance, that basically existed to rip people off.”

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), Steve Eisman (speaker), Michael Lewis, Valerie Feigen
Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Most people didn’t understand how what amounted to a two-decade boom in the bond market had overwhelmed everything else. Eisman certainly hadn’t. Now he did. He needed to learn everything he could about the fixed income world. He had plans for the bond market. What he didn’t know was that the bond market also had plans for him. It was about to create an Eisman-shaped hole.

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), Steve Eisman
Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

The least controversial thing to be said about Lippmann was that he was controversial. He wasn’t just a good bond trader, he was a great bond trader. He wasn’t cruel. He wasn’t even rude, at least not intentionally He simply evoked extreme feelings in others. A trader who worked near him for years referred to him as “the asshole known as Greg Lippmann.” When asked why, he said, “He took everything too far.”

Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

The argument stopper was Lippmann’s one-man quantitative support team. His name was Eugene Xu, but to those who’d heard Lippmann’s pitch, he was generally spoken of as “Lippmann’s Chinese quant.” Xu was an analyst employed by Deutsche Bank, but Lippmann gave everyone the idea he kept him tied up to his Bloomberg terminal like a pet. A real Chinese guy—not even Chinese American—who apparently spoke no English, just numbers’ China had this national math competition, Lippmann told people, in which Eugene had finished second. In all of China. Eugene Xu was responsible for every piece of hard data in Lippmann’s presentation. Once Eugene was introduced into the equation, no one bothered Lippmann about his math or his data. As Lippmann put it, “How can a guy who can’t speak English lie?”

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), Greg Lippmann (speaker), Steve Eisman, Vincent Daniel, Daniel Moses , Eugene Xu
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

In his search for stock market investors he might terrify with his Doomsday scenario, Lippmann had made a lucky strike: He had stumbled onto a stock market investor who held an even darker view of the subprime mortgage market than he did. Eisman knew more about that market, its characters, and its depravities than anyone Lippmann had ever spoken with. If anyone would make a dramatic bet against subprime, he thought, it was Eisman—and so he was puzzled when Eisman didn’t do it. He was even more puzzled when, several months later, Eisman’s new head trader, Danny Moses, and his research guy, Vinny Daniels, asked him to come back in to explain it all over again.

Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Even as late as the summer of 2006, as home prices began to fall, it took a certain kind of person to see the ugly facts and react to them—to discern, in the profile of the beautiful young lady, the face of an old witch.

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), Steve Eisman, Greg Lippmann
Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

He’d graduated from the University of Rhode Island, earned a business degree at Babson College, and spent most of his career working sleepy jobs at sleepy life insurance companies—but all that was in the past. He was newly, obviously rich. “He had this smirk, like, I know better,” said Danny. Danny didn’t know Wing Chau, but when he heard that he was the end buyer of subprime CDOs, he knew exactly who he was: the sucker. “The truth is that I didn’t really want to talk to him,” said Danny, “because I didn’t want to scare him.”

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), Daniel Moses (speaker), Steve Eisman, Vincent Daniel, Greg Lippmann, Wing Chau
Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

The trouble, as ever, was finding Wall Street firms willing to deal with them. Their one source of supply, Bear Stearns, suddenly seemed more interested in shooting than in trading with them. Every other firm treated them as a joke. Cornhole Capital. But here, in Las Vegas, luck found them.

Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Now the metaphor was two men in a boat, tied together by a rope, fighting to the death. One man kills the other, hurls his inert body over the side-only to discover himself being yanked over the side. “Being short in 2007 and making money from it was fun, because we were short bad guys,” said Steve Eisman. “In 2008 it was the entire financial system that was at risk. We were still short. But you don’t want the system to crash. It’s sort of like the flood’s about to happen and you’re Noah. You’re on the ark. Yeah, you’re okay. But you are not happy looking out at the flood. That’s not a happy moment for Noah.”

Related Characters: Michael Lewis (speaker), Steve Eisman (speaker)
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

It wasn’t Eisman who upset the tone in the room, but some kid in the back. He looked to be in his early twenties, and he was, like everyone else, punching on his BlackBerry the whole time Miller and Eisman spoke. “Mr. Miller,” he said. “From the time you started talking, Bear Stearns stock has fallen more than twenty points. Would you buy more now?”

Miller looked stunned. “He clearly had no idea what had happened,” said Vinny. “He just said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’d buy more here.’”

After that, the men in the room rushed for the exits, apparently to sell their shares in Bear Stearns. By the time Alan Greenspan arrived to speak, there was hardly anyone who cared to hear what he had to say. The audience was gone. By Monday, Bear Stearns was of course gone, too, sold to J.P. Morgan for $2 a share.”

Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

But the biggest lag of all was right here, on the streets. How long would it take before the people walking back and forth in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral figured out what had just happened to them?

Related Symbols: Bonds
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:
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Steve Eisman Character Timeline in The Big Short

The timeline below shows where the character Steve Eisman appears in The Big Short. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
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...that her career—as well as her whole worldview—was largely established by a man named Steve Eisman. This was Lewis’s first time hearing of him. (full context)
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...in the middle of the list is John Paulson, and at the top is Steve Eisman. (full context)
Chapter 1
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Steve Eisman got into finance in the early 90s, shortly after Lewis got out. He gets his... (full context)
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Early in his career, Eisman has to analyze Aames Financial, a company that extends loans to low-income Americans through a... (full context)
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The second company Eisman analyzes is the Lomas Financial Corporation, which has just come out of bankruptcy. Despite pressure... (full context)
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Eisman becomes a polarizing figure on Wall Street, beloved by those who “get” him but hated... (full context)
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Lewis concludes that Eisman was a “curious character” entering Wall Street at the start of a “curious phase.” Much... (full context)
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In the 1990s, Steve Eisman is one of the few people looking into the consequences of these risky loans; one... (full context)
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By the mid-1990s, Jacobs and Eisman both believe in the potential of subprime mortgage bonds to help alleviate income inequality, but... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Vincent Daniel grew up in Queens without the same advantages that Eisman had. After learning that the real money is in Manhattan, he gets a job at... (full context)
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...they’re making money or not. Frustrated with his job, Vinny applies for a job at Eisman’s company, Oppenheimer. The initial interviews go well, but when Vinny gets a call from Eisman... (full context)
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Vinny later finds out that Eisman never called back because he’d just learned that his firstborn infant son, Max, had died.... (full context)
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Vinny doesn’t know Eisman’s whole story when he starts work—he just knows that Eisman seems different from their previous... (full context)
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Vinny teaches himself about mortgage-backed securities and finds that Eisman’s intuition is right: there’s something rotten in the subprime mortgage industry. Companies are disclosing massive... (full context)
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...six months to sort through all the data about subprime mortgage loans. He reports to Eisman that the whole thing is basically a Ponzi scheme, with companies making more and more... (full context)
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Eisman’s report creates a “shitstorm,” according to Vinny, and this is exactly what Eisman wants. His... (full context)
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Eisman emerges as a leading skeptic on Wall Street. He leaves his job for a new... (full context)
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Eisman finds hundreds of complaints from borrowers who discover that they have been lied to by... (full context)
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Eisman is shocked by the scale of Household’s fraud. He starts becoming more political and notices... (full context)
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Eisman started as a Republican, but his experiences in finance, such as watching the CEO of... (full context)
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In spring of 2004, Eisman begins to despair that he’ll never raise any money. He takes an unconventional type of... (full context)
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Eisman’s unusual style attracts a certain type of person. Vinny comes to FrontPoint Partners right away.... (full context)
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By 2005, Eisman and his employees begin to feel that Wall Street doesn’t understand what’s going on—the subprime... (full context)
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Eisman, who already has a lot of experience with subprime mortgage markets, realizes the whole market... (full context)
Chapter 3
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In February 2006, Greg Lippmann shows up in the conference room of Steve Eisman’s hedge fund, where Vincent Daniel is also present. They treat Lippmann with suspicion, but Lippmann... (full context)
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Though Vinny remains suspicious, surprisingly, Eisman seems very interested. He asks questions but ultimately has no problem betting against subprime mortgages. (full context)
Chapter 4
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Lippmann’s initial attempts to sell credit defaults are unsuccessful, but ultimately, he meets Steve Eisman. At first, Eisman doesn’t take the bet. Later, Danny Moses (Eisman’s new head trader) and... (full context)
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Finally, Eisman makes a deal with Lippmann. He, Danny, and Vinny remain skeptical of the deal, so... (full context)
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Eisman and his team don’t know the full details of what Wall Street investment banks are... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Eisman is not alone in investing in investing in credit default swaps. Lippmann pitched them around... (full context)
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...to speed, they end up doing something slightly different than what Mike Burry and Steve Eisman do. Instead of betting against the worst tranches of bonds (triple-B-minus), they bet against a... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Eisman doesn’t golf the way most other people on Wall Street do. He doesn’t wear a... (full context)
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After golf, Eisman, Vinny and Danny go to a dinner hosted by Deutsche Bank—an idea suggested to them... (full context)
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Eisman ends up at a table with an investor named Wing Chau, who is a CDO... (full context)
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Eisman keeps asking Wing Chau to repeat statements, as he learns more about how a CDO... (full context)
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Wing Chau tells Eisman, “I love guys like you who short my market. Without you I don’t have anything... (full context)
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The dinner seems to go well, but immediately afterwards, Eisman grabs Lippmann, points to Chau and says, “whatever that guy is buying, I want to... (full context)
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Eisman and his team are also at the Venetian hotel. They have no interest in the... (full context)
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Monitoring Eisman proves futile, however. He sees himself as a champion for underdogs. As his wife, Valerie... (full context)
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Eventually, Eisman calms down and sets out to learn more. He figures that the ratings agencies, which... (full context)
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After leaving Las Vegas, Eisman, Danny, and Vinny increase their subprime short position from $300 million to $550 million, overwhelming... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Meanwhile, Eisman is feeling limited by the fact that his hedge fund is part of Morgan Stanley... (full context)
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...June, the subprime mortgage bond market is finally in decline and will stay that way. Eisman and his team are finally making money. They take out new short positions on the... (full context)
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...losses from the subprime mortgage market should be no more than $100 billion. Shortly after, Eisman hosts a conference call that attracts the interest of some industry insiders. Eisman tells them... (full context)
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Steve Eisman reads Jim Grant’s essay and feels that his own theories have been confirmed. He suddenly... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The same day that Eisman reads Grant’s article, Mike Burry is also forwarded a copy of the article from Scion... (full context)
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...the catastrophe coming and made a profit: it includes Greg Lippmann, but it leaves out Eisman, Danny, Charlie, Jamie, Ben, and Vinny, as well as Burry. Burry is frustrated that his... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Eisman, however, still sees his short position as part of a moral crusade against big Wall... (full context)
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On the day Eisman is set to speak, there are rumors that Bear Stearns is in trouble. Bill Miller... (full context)
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At the very moment Eisman is speaking, Bear Stearns stock begins falling rapidly. Eisman doesn’t realize what’s happening, but his... (full context)
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In a Q&A after the Eisman’s speech, Miller says Bear Stearns probably won’t fail, since banks usually only fail when caught... (full context)
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At the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with his partners Vinny and Danny, Eisman considers how he wants to be, now that he is no longer an underdog (something... (full context)
Epilogue
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At about the same time that Eisman, Danny, and Vinny are at St. Patrick’s, Lewis goes to lunch with his old boss,... (full context)
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Eisman also looks at the problems that occurred after the bailout. He thinks the problem is... (full context)