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Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2016)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 7 July 2017 (UK)
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A small financial institution called Abacus becomes the only company criminally indicted in the wake of the United States' 2008 mortgage crisis.

Director:

Steve James
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Thomas Sung Thomas Sung ... Himself - Founder, Abacus Federal Savings Bank
Hwei Lin Sung Hwei Lin Sung ... Herself - Thomas Sung's Wife
Cyrus Vance Jr. Cyrus Vance Jr. ... Himself - District Attorney, New York County
Matt Taibbi ... Himself - Journalist & Author, The Divide
Jill Sung Jill Sung ... Herself - Abacus President & CEO
Vera Sung Vera Sung ... Herself - Abacus Director
Heather Sung Heather Sung ... Herself - Physician
Chanterelle Sung Chanterelle Sung ... Herself - Former Assistant DA
Linda Hall Linda Hall ... Herself - Title Closer
David Lindorff David Lindorff ... Himself - Investigative Journalist
Jiayang Fan Jiayang Fan ... Himself - Staff Writer, The New Yorker
Polly Greenberg Polly Greenberg ... Herself - Chief, Major Economic Crimes Bureay NY DA's Office
Yiu Wah Wong Yiu Wah Wong ... Himself - Abacus Chief Credit Officer
Kevin Puvalowski Kevin Puvalowski ... Himself - Attorney for Abacus
Sam Talkin Sam Talkin ... Himself - Attorney for Mr. Wong
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Storyline

After the 2008 financial crisis that nearly destroyed the world economy, none of the American financial institutions faced prosecutions for their shady dealings that contributed to this debacle, except one. Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a small Chinese-American bank that catered to the neglected market of their community, was indicted on fraud charges and loan falsifications. As the bank disputed these accusations, many in the mainstream news media noticed that far larger competitors appeared to have committed similar misdeeds without legal consequence; likely because they were "too big to fail." This film explores the history of Abacus and its legal battle for survival against this hypocritical, and likely racist, application of the law that seemed to determined to punish them as a scapegoat for crimes that much larger felons deserve to face. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 July 2017 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Abacus. El banco que pagó la crisis See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,528, 19 May 2017, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$104,621, 14 July 2017
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Steve James' first Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, following notable omissions like "Hoop Dreams" and "Life, Itself". See more »

Quotes

Himself - Founder, Abacus Federal Savings Bank: Abacus, you know, is the Chinese calculator. China Regards abacus as a national treasure. So we say we'll name the bank Abacus.
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User Reviews

 
Excellent film about witch hunt by Manhattan D.A.'s office
17 October 2016 | by sfviewer123See all my reviews

Very well-done documentary about small (2,651st largest bank in the U.S. at the time) family bank in Chinatown New York prosecuted for financial crimes after 2008, has interviews with all the major players (bank employees/owners, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, audio from witnesses, etc.)

Absolutely head-scratching as to why the D.A. thought this was a good place to satisfy public outrage over the Great Recession (politics and racism are hinted at but not fully explored). (I do wish this angle has been pursued in more depth.)

Basic plot: low-level employees are fleecing home buyers into giving them cash fees and then falsifying their loan applications so they get approved by higher-ups, the government decides this is evidence of a systematic conspiracy and tries to go after the bank itself (this despite it having an extremely low default rate, which makes it strange that Fannie Mae is named the defendant in the case because overall it got much more money from this bank proportionally than from thousands of others, particularly the giant ones who not only didn't get prosecuted but actually got bailouts (courtesy of you and me)).

Also shows incredible scenes such as the bank employees shackled together in a chain gang and paraded into the courthouse in front of news cameras (which by all accounts is an unheard-of practice nowadays); the Manhattan D.A. (Cyrus Vance Jr.) and one of his underlings ("Polly Greenberg" iirc) are both masterful in denying any kind of prejudicial motivation in selecting and prosecuting Abacus (the case took five years and cost taxpayers ten million USD and resulted in *zero* convictions).

Anyone need anymore evidence that giant corporations run this country? Anyone?


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