The definitive account of the crash of 1987, a cautionary tale of how the U.S. financial system nearly collapsed ... Monday, October 19, 1987, was by far the worst day in Wall Street history. The market fell 22.6 percent--almost twice as bad as the worst day of 1929--equal to a loss of nearly 5,000 points today. But Black Monday was more than just a one-day market crash; it was seven years in the making and threatened the entire U.S. financial system. Drawing on superlative archival research and dozens of original interviews, the award-winning financial journalist Diana B. Henriques weaves a tale of ignored warnings, market delusions, and destructive decisions, a drama that stretches from New York and Washington to Chicago and California. Among the central characters are pension fund managers, bank presidents, government regulators, exchange executives, and a pair of university professors whose bright idea for reducing risk backfires with devastating consequences. As the story hurtles toward a terrible reckoning, the players struggle to avoid a national panic, and unexpected heroes step in to avert total disaster. For thirty years, investors, bankers, and regulators have failed to heed the lessons of Black Monday. But with uncanny precision, all the key fault lines of the devastating crisis of 2008--breakneck automation, poorly understood financial products fueled by vast amounts of borrowed money, fragmented regulation, gigantic herdlike investors--were first exposed as hazards in 1987. A First-Class Catastrophe offers a new way of looking not only at the past but at our financial future as well.