on 18 March 2011
I've seen this film twice now and can't recommend it highly enough. It covers much of the same ground as Whoops!, but with much greater focus on America in general; and the way that investment banks, the government, and academia are cosily interlocked in particular.
The opening six minutes - a potted history of Iceland's deregulation and subsequent near-collapse - should be required viewing for anyone arguing that the UK (or anywhere else) is "over-regulated", as some of our political leaders have been doing at the time of writing.
The film makes no attempt to present a balanced view (though I've yet to come across any counter-argument from any other source either). The interviews are either with people heavily supportive of the film's basic premise, who are just allowed to talk; or (heavily edited) sessions with some of the key supporters of the banks who get asked some very awkward questions and have to squirm whilst the camera keeps rolling. It's fun to watch their discomfiture and hard to feel any sympathy when you find out just how rich these people are, and remain. There are also highlights of some of the Congressional hearings that followed the 2008 crisis, one of which neatly sums up the (continuing) problem: that the banks are very sorry for what they have done and promise not to do it again - just the same kind of response you'd expect from a bank *robber* if they were caught.
The explanation of the cause(s) of the crisis - whilst helped a bit by some fancy graphics - is neither as lucid nor as entertaining as Whoops!, but the central argument of the film is very powerful and in places breathtaking. (When I saw this at the cinema there were gasps from the audience at several points). This is particularly true of the end when it is made clear that, despite the branding, things haven't changed (and aren't likely to) under the Obama administration.
on 11 March 2011
I knew most of this detail already and was only surprised not to see friends being interviewed. Larry Summers who makes an appearance in The Social Network as President of Harvard was the influential mentor of Ed Balls, MP. The film was beautifully constructed. It was well-structured and provided modules of insight to comprehend what was really quite simple - but journalists and apologists pretend is "complex".
When you buy something you do not expect to have to unscrew the fascia plate to find if the insides are what the outside says they are. You do when you deal with financial products. Manufacturing synthetic government bonds for pension funds by using mortgages is great until you need increasing supply to soak up that liquidity slushing around from Chinese trade surpluses. So a whole group of new companies set up to seduce the unwary into houses on easy mortgages just to generate the bonds to trade - the poor suckers lose their homes and savings and dreams when the teaser-mortgages adjust to market interest rates, but the bond trader is in the money.
A few snake oil salesmen from Moody or Fitch to chant incantations over the offering and declare it AAA or golden enough for widows and orphans to insure their future, and a friendly insurance company evading US regulators in London builds a casino business around risk-insurance CDS. Soon the great Goldman Machine finds it can buy CDS insurance against any eventuality and make money by selling junk to suckers, dumping junk in the market, and turning to AIG for insurance cover. This great aircraft insurer doesn't need to make reserves for risk because it is all UNREGULATED. And, if it goes bust there are politicians on payroll to use taxpayer funds to bail out the mess.
The US Treasury was looted by a crowd of gangsters whose scale made Al Capone look like the street hood he was. This was systematic fraud and corruption which has destroyed the myth of Western democracy. Having accused Asians of Crony Capitalism in 1990s, we now see the US and European versions ourselves in full naked glory. It is so blatant, the Oligarchs have shown how they take the savings (tax subsidised) and pension funds of the labour force and use them in high-stakes games of roulette.
This film is a must-see, and should be watched twice...in silence to appreciate the full beauty of the scam.
on 14 February 2011
Just seen Inside Job on Emirates flight to London. It was compelling viewing both on all aspects of global meltdown of 2008 covered succinctly as also o where the world in now. It is shocking to hear bankers admit they have been guilty of over-the-topgreed and need to be regulated. More shocking is revelation of how the study of Economics at major US academic centres like Harvard/ Berkeley / Columbia are being corrupted to meet the diktats of powerful banking industry. The nexus between politics / financial industry/ and academics in de-regulating the not very ethical world of money has been laid bare
There were strong warnings sounded all through the last decade by honest professionals
that were over-ridden and un-heeded - especially one like Raghuram Rajan in his paper of 2005 asking - Is the
financial industry making the world riskier? The likes of Alan Greenspan and Larry Summars need to have their
heads examined as do University Professors who stare blank at conflicts of interest in taking money for writing
things in support of actions that have damaged institutions and the world-wide economy. No one can not help us when
we repeat the same mistakes and head into more risks and crisis
This is a must-see for all serious central bankers and finance ministry officials of countries
I loved the Inside Job, so much, that I watched it twice in the matter of days (yes, it is far more watchable than it should be, taking into account that this is a serious documentary about a serious matter, it grabs like a good thriller!).
If you weren't livid about all the mischief and scheming going on on Wall Street that led to our present financial crisis, Charles Ferguson's "Inside Job" makes sure to open our eyes (not only to the greed, but to the horrendous things that are going on in the financial world - economics as a science is literally being re-written to suit the current needs of people in the money). "Inside Job" is a chain of interviews with some of the world's leading financial "experts" (I have to put the inverted marks here, sorry - watch the film and you will know why) and the beautiful cinematography.
Ferguson skillfully re-tells the widely known fact - the financial industry of the US, namely, Wall Street, are doing what they want for years, decades (if not centuries), buying off everything to aide their climb up the monetary ladder (from lawyers and economists to politicians in Washington).
We all know how the financial crisis of 2008 ended - with millions of people losing their savings, their jobs, their homes. We know that vast majority of bankers and financiers responsible for the collapse did not face any charges. The system is broken and corrupt and the film does not offer any solutions (I mean, one of the solutions, the accountability and legislation, is talked about, and yet we still have to see it implemented, and after all, the two centuries of history of Wall Street and trading, it's all about finding loopholes in the laws and going around them). And so, the film is just a documentary, a recap of the recent history. And yet there's a weird indulgence in watching the immoral financiers and economists caught on camera, struggling for well-rehearsed answers.
Matt Damon's narration is bonus.
Simply put, it is very worth watching and it is extremely watchable!
on 18 September 2012
My blood curdles with uncontrollable rage when I watch this very well researched and exceptionally informative documentary on the root causes of the global financial crisis, that destroyed millions of lives and brought nation after nation to economic ruin, and which continues to do even more so five years after it all started.
Researched, written, directed and produced by Charles Ferguson, the much respected academic, author and award winning filmmaker (`No End in Sight' | 2007), this absorbing film stands above the rest of such attempts to unravel the mystery of how such a financial catastrophe could come about, by simply proving that there is no mystery to it and that it actually was state sponsored, daylight robbery.
In fact, that is the most appealing quality of this film for me, having had enough of economic experts and news correspondents patronising us by asserting that the global derivative market, that triggered this tragedy in the first place, is very hard to comprehend for us laymen! My answer to these so called experts is very simple: whether a commercial product has a sound-bite name given by some self-important, financial or marketing guru, if its is a con, we the general public are intelligent enough to smell the fraud a mile away.
The problem we have had and are still having is that our governments and financial authorities are all in it together, just making millions for themselves, and in the process, letting the fat cats make trillions by betting on our meagre livelihoods. It wasn't us, the premium paying public who betted our lifesavings on the derivative casino; it was the hedge fund managers, bankers, insurance companies and our financial institutions, who were supposed to know what they were doing and who were by law supposed to look after that little pension pot on which our future depends!
As Ferguson remarks in his interview for the `Making of Inside Job', it was the biggest, bank heist in our economic history. And as retorted by a US senator in a public hearing on the crisis, those who rob banks usually go to jail, while those who robbed all of us trillions of dollars laugh all the way to their offshore banks and continue to enjoy their cocaine fuelled, hedonistic and luxury lifestyles, unchallenged and unabated by our so called leaders.
Like Gillian Tett says in her interview for this film, we no longer know what and who to believe. That, in my opinion is the worst outcome of this crisis. When the public loses faith in their leaders, in their institutions and in their services, apathy replaces fraternity, elections become farcical, as has been the case in Britain for some years now, and democracies therefore fail. That is the likely European and US scenario, but as poverty bites deeper, the so called `Arab Spring' might spread right across the globe, and it is about time too!
I strongly recommend this great film to everyone who cares about the future of our children and grand children. As Matt Damon beautifully narrates at the end of this movie:
"They will tell us that we need them, and what they do is too complicated for us to understand. They will tell us it wont happen again. They will spend billions fighting reform.
It wont be easy.
But, some things are worth fighting for!"
This revealing documentary should be included in all Economics classes. It is essential viewing to form a balanced opinion on the origins of the subprime crisis.
Matt Damon does a great job with the convincing narration. It lends the movie an added gravitas. The fact that he has invested time with this production should compel your attention. What he has to say is worth listening to.
It is an old saying that the biggest crooks are the ones in the suits. Viewers can keep this old saying in mind when they watch this excellent film. There is a reason the film is called "Inside Job".
Lucky Luciano once visited Wall Street and commented "I'm in the wrong racket!"
At the end of the day it is the ordinary people who suffer the economic fallout. This consequence never seems to bother the guys at the top. They just walk away from the rubble clutching their bags stashed with millions of dollars.
To these guys, "Morality" is something that is running in the 3.45 at Santa Anita.
Watch this documentary and gasp.
on 28 December 2011
This is, without doubt, a film YOU should see. This chronologically demystyfies why YOUR TAXES will pay the1% to walk away, scot-free from the disaster they caused. You will not get back any of the billions they took in commission but at least you will understand the scam and how it worked and who profited. Then you can decide what, if anything, you can do about it. This could be who you vote for or protests you could make. If you watch it and you find i am wrong, come back and tell me in comments. As suggested by another reviewer watch the deleted scenes.
on 27 February 2014
The movie does a good job with the narrative of the collapse. In doing so, it takes care to define things like credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations -- concepts that help us understand both the ingenuity with which financial organizations took on more and more debt as leverage in an unregulated environment AND how they, in what look like ethically dubious ways, insured themselves (but not their customers) against failure. The point is also made that the people who still had regulatory authority (the Fed, the SEC) stood by and did nothing at a time when at least some other economists (in the IMF, for example) were raising warning flags. The title gets at the extent to which government in the US is infiltrated with Wall Street alumni and with academic economists equally beholden to Wall Street.
The film is non-partisan -- from Reagan to Obama, there are failures to deal responsibly or to force accountability. The very people who caused the crisis walk away with millions while regular folks lose their jobs and their homes.
Does the film give the "insiders" a chance to make their case? Yes. Glenn Hubbard most notably is interviewed, but in justifying current practice and his own part in the whole deregulation story, he refuses to judge the people in charge of financial institutions at the time of the crisis, but he offers no analysis that would give intellectual or moral underpinning to the positions he holds. He comes off very badly -- belligerent, evasive, and disingenuous -- as do a couple of others who agreed to be interviewed. Refusing to be interviewed were (among others) Summers, Paulson, Geithner, and Greenspan. All of them come off badly.
The saddest part for me was the idea that economics in the academy is basically up for sale. Harvard and Columbia look very bad. Members of their economics faculties are making large sums on corporate boards or as consultants, and they are failing to declare their financial interests in their published work. It is painful to watch the Chair of Economics at Harvard fail to answer this question: "If your doctor were recommending a drug, you would want to know if he was being paid by the company producing it. Why shouldn't economists who consult, sit on boards, and give advice have an obligation to reveal THEIR financial interests?" He had no answer.
on 20 June 2012
I suppose we are all aware of what bankers have done to the economies of the Western world. Anyone who has read a newspaper over the last few years will have an opinion on this maligned profession.
So isn't making a documentary about how the banking industry caused the housing and financial market collapses and how overpaid banking executives were like shooting fish in a barrel? I suppose it is but Charles Ferguson makes a very good job of it by setting out in a fairly simple way how the collapses occurred and also how the roots of it go back to Wall Street's stealthy takeover of the top positions in the policy making arms of the US government such as the Treasury and the Fed.
Nearly all the people with power in these departments had backgrounds in Wall Street and once they were in position to make government decisions they didn't hesitate to favour the organisations that, presumably they had received handsome payoffs from, when they left to do the state some service. They were Inside Men, ostensibly acting on behalf of the state but the results of their actions leaves the viewer to the almost inevitable conclusion that their main concern seemed to be how the regulations governing the industry could be framed to allow these corporations as much freedom as possible to make as much money as possible.
Enough about bankers though. A twist(can a documentary have a twist?) in this documentary was what we see when Ferguson turns over a few rocks in the academic world of the big US colleges. He makes it clear that high ranking academics in a lot of the most prestigous colleges in the US were on the payroll and sometime the boards of companies like AIG, the biggest insurance company in the US before it went bust. At the same time the writings of these academcis was being used to justify some of the light touch regulation requested by the same companies and put in place, in many cases, by former employees of these companies.
Some academics did not look happy to be answering questions on their links to Wall Street.
A superb documentary that will probably make your blood boil.
on 27 October 2011
A gripping film for anybody interested in a clear, concise account of the financial meltdown of 2008. The film depends heavily on interviews with influential people at the time, such as Christine Lagarde, Dominque Strauss Kahn, George Soros and Taghuram Rajan of the IMF whose paper called "Has Financial Development made the world riskier" was ignored by Larry Summers. A lesser known lawyer, Gnaizda, also participates in many of the interviews as do many others. These interviews make the film all the more convincing.
Iceland features at the outset of the film, a beautiful country with a population of 300,000 and which had everything going for it with little sovereign debt outstanding and just three major banks namely Landesbank, Kaupthing and Glitnir. The greed of both the politicians and bankers was incredible. The banks operated way beyond the capacity of their central bank to bail them out and the politicians also gambled the country's assets yielding a chunk of valuable terrain to an American conglomerate, Alcoa whose ambitions to create a vast aluminium smelting business would destroy a beautiful unspoilt wilderness. Shockingly, distinguished economists such as Frederick Mishkin and Richard Portes were paid to write articles favouring the banks and the state of the country before the meltdown.
Sub prime mortgage backed CDOs were very much at the root of the meltdown and are well described. They were a popular investment with attractive yields and high credit ratings. Residential mortage backed securities were bundled together, some good loans and some no so good though offering a higher rate as compensation for their quality. The CDOs were complicated to price. Whilst the banks had computer models to value them, investors balked at the idea of their own analysis and having to read prospectuses that ran to 300 pages. Instead they blindly followed rating agencies such as Moodies, Fitch and S&P. The investors failed to recognize that the rating agencies themselves were driven to achieve significant profits. In 2007 a Fortune journalist, Allen Sloan, actually won a prize for his story about the House of Junk written in late 2007 about more than half a trillion mortage securities issued in 2006.
The Credit Default Swap (CDS) was a tool which enabled investors to bet on subprime RBMS and CDOs without owning anything, ie institutions were able to bet that the home borrowers would default. One the one hand, Goldman Sachs was selling the CD0s and on the other hand, they were actively betting against the product that they had sold via the CDS market. They were making millions in the process.
The film investigates Greenspan's life and describes all the financial liberalisations that occurred during his tenure. A financial system that was once highly regulated became massively de-regulated as a result of his actions.
Some memorable interviews include one with a psychotherapist specializing in greed and sexual disorders of bankers, hedge fund operators etc and another with a lady of the night who quoted dizzy numbers of highly paid bankers who availed of her group's services. The pursuit of wealth became a drug for the bankers and they wanted everything - fast cars, illicit sex, drugs, boats and all that Long Island and the Hamptons had to offer.
Conflicts of interest among politicians and bankers were rife. Obama pledged reforms yet so many of the senior people that he appointed were closely connected to the meltdown. In other words, the government and the financial world are still way too closely related. The list of those with conflicts is endless and to name a few, Ben Bernancke, William Dudley, Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Gary Gensler, Mark Patterson, Louis Sachs, Laura Tyson, Martin Feldstein and Hank Paulson.
This is an instructive film and one of the best that I have watched this year.