In the first episode of Meltdown, we hear about four men who brought down the global economy: a billionaire mortgage-seller who fooled millions; a high-rolling banker with a fatal weakness; a ferocious Wall Street predator; and the power behind the throne.
The crash of September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history, pushing more than 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many countries to the edge of insolvency. Wall Street turned back the clock to 1929.
But how did it all go so wrong?
Lack of government regulation; easy lending in the US housing market meant anyone could qualify for a home loan with no government regulations in place.
Also, London was competing with New York as the banking capital of the world. Gordon Brown, the British finance minister at the time, introduced ‘light touch regulation’ – giving bankers a free hand in the marketplace.
All this, and with key players making the wrong financial decisions, saw the world’s biggest financial collapse.
A global financial tsunami
Meltdown examines how an epidemic of fear caused banks to stop lending, triggered protests and led to industrial action.
In the second episode of Meltdown, we look at how the financial tsunami swept the world. We hear about a renegade executive who nearly destroyed the global financial system and the US treasury secretary who bailed out his friends.
Henry ‘Hank’ Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and later an economic advisor to the US government; refused to bail out global financial services firm – the Lehman Brothers. Paulson said it was not the role of government to save private businesses.
Lehman’s failure had repercussions around the world. Millions of people lost their life savings. Pension plans were decimated.
Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister at the time and a close friend of Paulson’s, publicly described Paulson’s decision on Lehman “horrendous”.
Markets from London and Paris to Shanghai fell. An epidemic of fear caused the world’s major banks to stop lending, ending the year in protests and industrial action.
Paying the price
As the toll of the financial crisis continues to mount, many are looking for its true causes – and finding a crime.
The third episode of Meltdown looks at how the victims of the 2008 financial crash fight back. A protesting singer in Iceland brings down the government; in France a union leader oversees the kidnapping of his bosses; and thousands of families are made homeless in California.
Hordur Torfason, an Icelandic singer, leads the way in holding protests over the country’s economy, calling for the resignation of the government and new elections.
Geir Haarde, the prime minister of Iceland, was surrounded and pelted by the protestors. Haarde soon resigned and the country’s government collapsed.
In France, workers fought back to claim their rights. The Continental Tire factory announced its plant would close by 2010, meaning job losses for its 1,120 employees. Workers occupied offices and trashed the place in protest. Protests spread right across France and Europe.
As the grim toll of the financial crisis continues to mount around the world, many governments are looking for the true causes of the meltdown. In many cases, what they are discovering amounts to a crime.