Frontline: Season 27, Episode 13

The Warning (20 Oct. 2009)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary
8.4
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Frontline offers a detailed look at the roots of the 2008 economic crisis by investigating why government officials refused to regulate emerging derivatives markets that later ruined the financial system.

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Peter Berkrot ...
(voice)
Brooksley Born ...
Herself - CFTC Chair, 1996-1998
Nancy Duff Campbell ...
Herself - Washington Attorney
Adam Davidson ...
Himself - Planet Money, NPR
Gary Gensler ...
Himself - Assistant Secretary, Treasury, 1997-1999
...
Himself - CFTC Director, 1997-1999
Kelley Holland ...
Herself - BusinessWeek, 1992-1999
Henry Kaufman ...
Himself - Director, Lehman Brothers, 1995-2008
Will Le Bow ...
(voice)
Jim Leach ...
Himself - Representative from Iowa, 1977-2007
Arthur Levitt ...
Himself - SEC Chairman, 1993-2001
Roger Lowenstein ...
Himself - Author, 'When Genius Failed'
...
Narrator
Joe Nocera ...
Himself - The New York Times
Timothy L. O'Brien ...
Himself - The New York Times
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Frontline offers a detailed look at the roots of the 2008 economic crisis by investigating why government officials refused to regulate emerging derivatives markets that later ruined the financial system.

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Release Date:

20 October 2009 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

 
How warnings are shouted down by the bad guys
14 June 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is an extremely important and impressive PBS documentary, issued as a DVD from their 'Frontline' series, calling attention to the heroic efforts of Mrs. Brooksley Born to warn of the impending 2008 financial crisis. Born had befriended Hilary Clinton when they were both prominent female lawyers, and when Bill Clinton was elected President, Hilary recommended Born's appointment as Attorney General. This was opposed and did not happen, but Born was given the consolation prize of appointment as head of the CFTC, a Washington regulatory agency, a position which she held from 1996 until her protest resignation in 1998. The CFTC is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It does not have a lot of clout and when Born, as its Chairman, warned of the lack of regulation of derivatives trading and was rebuffed and ignored, she resigned because her warnings had been dismissed and she was left in a position where she was powerless to prevent the catastrophe which she foresaw, and which eventually happened ten years later. Although she is very measured and careful in what she says in her interviews in this film, attempting to avoid criticisms of individuals, it is clear that she was up against an Establishment which was determined to prevent regulation of derivatives trading, despite the fact that the amount of value traded annually reached into so many trillions of dollars that apparently it dwarfed the American GDP in size. The derivatives are known as 'OTC derivatives', the 'OTC' standing for 'over the counter'. What that means is that you can buy or sell them 'over the counter' as it were, with no rules, no law, not even laws against fraud, and no record of the transaction except between the parties themselves. Born attempted to inform Congress and the White House that it was not merely that there was no regulation in place for this financial industry, but that no information about it was being supplied to the Government either. The economy was being threatened by a gigantic area of business concerning which no data whatever was available to the Government, so that it was impossible to know what was going on. No one listened, and she was forced out. The 'usual suspects' shouted her down, and her attempts to save the American and international financial systems from catastrophe or collapse was stymied. This film is a depressing illustration of how impossible it has become for honest people to function in the governments of today, which have all become hopelessly corrupted. The power of Big Money is everywhere, and it is now the only power there is. The inevitable decline of what remains of 'Western civilisation' is the product of the greed which has devoured the souls of all its leaders. People like Mrs. Born are eaten for breakfast, and she was. But as a failed heroine, they don't come much better than Brookesley Born.


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