Inside Job is an enthralling documentary about how the reckless actions
of Wall Street lead to the near collapse of the financial sector and
subsequently the deepest recession since the 1930s. This is the second
film by director Charles Ferguson, the first being No End in Sight an
equally engaging indictment of the Bush Administration's handling of
the occupation of Iraq.
Ferguson focuses on the Wall Street culture and the blatant arrogance of a half dozen men as the main causes of the financial turmoil. Inside Job begins in Iceland where the deregulation of the financial system in the 1990s lead to three banks accumulating assets almost ten times the small country's gross domestic product.
It becomes clear by the midpoint of the film that Iceland is a micro example of what has become a global problem. Runaway banks have been accumulating assets through toxic loans and other manoeuvres while paying themselves lavish bonuses.
Inside Job is easily one of the most frustrating documentaries ever made. And that is undoubtedly Ferguson's intention. The film is critical of Wall Street executives, credit agencies and especially regulatory agencies for the crisis.
Inside Job includes interviews from IMF head Dominique Strauss-Khan, congressmen Barney Frank, former New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer and many others. Ferguson traces the evolution of the banks from a small, largely local service to an out of control industry. He does not hold back criticizing every administration since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Ferguson argues that despite what most people think, there were many people warning of an impending crisis in global financial markets. Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan and Timothy Geithner ignored various signs of impending doom. Not to mention former treasury secretary and incidentally former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson.
Inside Job makes the argument that the federal regulators are as responsible for the breakdown of the system as are the executives of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. More frustrating still is the revolving door between Wall Street and government agencies.
As the banks became more deregulated, the more speculation became a problem. Derivatives, and credit default swaps, complicated trading schemes that most people do not understand is what caused the collapse of Lehman Brothers sending shockwaves through financial centres all over the world.
Credit agencies like Moody's and Standard and Poor gave firms like Bear Stearns, Lehman brothers, and Morgan Stanley A grade credit ratings within weeks before they nearly collapsed. And also having one of their executives standing up in front of a congressional committee and telling congressmen that their ratings are just merely 'opinion'.
It becomes clear that this is not a problem that emerged from the housing boom early in president George W. Bush's second term. Rather this was a systematic breakdown driven by a neoliberal ideology supported by Ivey league economic schools across the United States.
Inside Job is simply a story of bankers more interested in collecting bonuses and making more money than providing what should be an essential service. What makes it even more frustrating is that many of the key figures behind the crisis are currently on Barak Obama's staff. The film leaves us with a bitter pill to swallow.
As Ferguson notes, Wall Street has returned to normal with no federal prosecutions against any of the guilty. And one of the most poignant scenes in the film comes from Robert Gnaizda, the former head of the Greenlining Institute, a consumer lobbyist group who laughingly dismisses recent legislation to regulate banks with a simple 'Hah'.
Inside Job helps explain many of the complex terms such as derivatives and insurance backed securities that confuse those not immersed in the banking community. It is essential viewing for any citizen concerned about our broken system.
Action / Crime / Documentary
Action / Crime / Documentary
The subject of Inside Job is the global financial crisis of 2008. It features research and extensive interviews with financiers, politicians, journalists, and academics. The film follows a narrative that is split into five parts.The film focuses on changes in the financial industry in the decade leading up to the crisis, the political movement toward deregulation, and how the development of complex trading such as the derivatives market allowed for large increases in risk taking that circumvented older regulations that were intended to control systemic risk. In describing the crisis as it unfolded, the film also looks at conflicts of interest in the financial sector, many of which it suggests are not properly disclosed. The film suggests that these conflicts of interest affected credit rating agencies as well as academics who receive funding as consultants but do not disclose this information in their academic writing, and that these conflicts played a role in obscuring and exacerbating the crisis.A major theme is the pressure from the financial industry on the political process to avoid regulation, and the ways that it is exerted. One conflict discussed is the prevalence of the revolving door, whereby financial regulators can be hired within the financial sector upon leaving government and make millions.Within the derivatives market, the film contends that the high risks that began with subprime lending were transferred from investors to other investors who, due to questionable rating practices, falsely believed that the investments were safe. Thus, lenders were pushed to sign up mortgages without regard to risk, or even favoring higher interest rate loans, since, once these mortgages were packaged together, the risk was disguised. According to the film, the resulting products would often have AAA ratings, equal to U.S. government bonds. The products could then be used even by investors such as retirement funds who are required to limit themselves to the safest investments.Another point is the high pay in the financial industry, and how it has grown in recent decades out of proportion to the rest of the economy. Even at the banks that failed, the film shows how bank executives were making hundreds of millions of dollars in the period immediately up to the crisis, all of which was kept, again suggesting that the risk/benefit balance has been broken.One topic which few others have addressed is the role of academia in the crisis. Ferguson notes, for example, that Harvard University economist, and former head of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, Martin Feldstein, was a director of the insurance company AIG and former board member of the investment bank J.P. Morgan & Co..Ferguson also notes that many of the leading professors and leading faculty members of the economics and business school establishments often derive large proportions of their incomes from either engaging as consultants, or speaking engagements. For example, current dean of the Columbia Business School, Glenn Hubbard received a large percentage of his annual income from either acting as a consultant or through speaking engagements. Hubbard was also affiliated with KKR and BlackRock Financial. Hubbard as well as current chair of Harvard's department of economics, John Y. Campbell, deny the existence of any conflict of interest between academia and the banking sector.The film ends by contending that despite recent financial regulations, the underlying system has not changed; rather the remaining banks are only bigger, while all the incentives remain the same, and not a single top executive has been prosecuted for their role in the global financial meltdown.
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