In this exhaustive study of the credit card industry, Geisst (Undue Influence) delivers a scathing critique of the routine practices that led to the current consumer debt crisis. He details the origins of credit cards, a path pioneered by merchants bent on making loyal customers, including Sears Roebuck, which established a consumer credit business in 1911, followed by General Motors and Ford opening finance divisions to facilitate car purchases. The banks followed their profitable example, creating finance subsidiaries through their parent holding companies. The book highlights the sweeping financial deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s, the backdrop of the rise in credit card offers, adjustable rate mortgages and, ultimately, the current poor state of consumer financial affairs. Given the crippling debt load that many Americans now carry, this important discussion of the troubling marriage of consumer credit and mortgage lending is long overdue. (Aug.)
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