The heads of Wall Street's biggest investment banks were summoned to an evening meeting by the US Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, to discuss the plight of another - Lehman Brothers. After... See full summary »
A close look behind the scenes, between late March and mid-October, 2008: we follow Richard Fuld's benighted attempt to save Lehman Brothers; conversations among Hank Paulson (the Secretary of the Treasury), Ben Bernanke (chair of the Federal Reserve), and Tim Geithner (president of the New York Fed) as they seek a private solution for Lehman's; and, back-channel negotiations among Paulson, Warren Buffet, investment bankers, a British regulator, and members of Congress as almost all work to save the U.S. economy. By the end, with the no-strings bailout arranged, modest confidence restored on Wall Street, and a meltdown averted, Paulson wonders if banks will lend. Written by
Unfortunately the filmmakers felt the need to create a "hero" of the piece -- unlike the source book, which simply tells what happened. They chose Henry Paulson (William Hurt), ex-Goldman Sachs CEO turned Treasury Secretary. But the real-life Paulson is no hero.
The film makes a point that Paulson sold all his Goldman stock before becoming Treasury Sec, but fails to point out that he was excused from all taxes on the sale, which saved him upwards of $50 million.
The film also whitewashes Paulson's $150 billion AIG bailout, claiming that AIG owed money to almost everybody in the world. In fact, AIG's largest creditor was, that's right, Goldman Sachs. Paulson failed to negotiate a hard-nosed payout of AIG's obligations, such as offering creditors 50c on the dollar, which the creditors would have had no choice but to accept. This would have saved US taxpayers a cool $75 billion. But it would have hurt Paulson's pals at Goldman.
My point being, Paulson was thoroughly compromised, and managed to feather his own nest and that of his old pals. What next? A stirring depiction of Dick Cheney's altruistic hiring of Halliburton in Iraq? This shortcoming aside, the film clips along nicely, and it's fun to see so many name actors portraying the Wall Street titans. James Woods is a perfect Dick Fuld.
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