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I read substantial amounts of the literature recommended to me on this topic. Thanks again, guys. However, I have come to the conclusion that it is going to take me a while to get my arms around financial institutions, regardless of Bill Mann's claim that they are among the easiest companies to understand.

What might help is if anyone has a reference of a description of a financial institution that has run into troubles and an analysis of what caused those troubles. For example, I have learned a few things (I think) from the Fool's analysis of Lucent's troubles.--CassBielski
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